November 2, 2020|In News, Wondermakers

2020 Winery Update: Through the Smoke

Fires burning in vineyard

2020 has been a tricky year for so many of us for so many different reasons. Big on our radar here at Dhall & Nash has been the devastating California wildfires that have been wreaking havoc on the state, and the Beirut explosion affecting our suppliers.

We’ve cultivated strong relationships with our producers, and thankfully, our wineries have come through the rubble and are beginning to see some light. A few have reached out to us to let us know how they’re faring, read ahead to hear it from the horses’ mouth.

The California Fires

Francis Ford Coppola:

Photo from Francis Ford Coppola Winery

“We are on our second round of fires in our area, the first ones in August that are finally almost out and the most recent ones that started last weekend. It isn’t even October. As wineries and homes are being damaged and destroyed we are grateful as our properties FFCW, FFCW Too!, Inglenook and Domaine de Broglie remain safe and unharmed at the moment. Our firefighters continue to amaze us as well as those that are flying in from other parts of the world to help us with this situation.

Currently, the Glass Fire, Shady Fire and Boysen Fire are all burning with no containment and are surrounding the Napa Valley and have made their way into Sonoma County. Our company has nearly 40 people evacuated from their homes and that changes by the announcements of warning and mandatory so it is being closely monitored. It is a scary situation, but thus far, our wineries are harvesting and operational and we couldn’t be more grateful.

I have found the easiest way to follow the news if you’re interested is to do so on Twitter. #GlassFire and check the latest tab at the top…there are tons of articles out there as well and they are trying to keep up with everything as it continues to transpire.”

Bogle Vineyards:

“The wildfires here in Northern California are once again making international news. While these fires now seem to be a yearly occurrence, the timing this season with the beginning of the 2020 harvest creates concern for both wine producers and wine drinkers alike. 

…Please rest assured that we are far from harm’s way here on Merritt Island in the Sacramento River Delta. With the rich agricultural land here in the Delta clear of vulnerable trees and underbrush, we remain grateful that we are in an area that is not easily affected by fire.

While our estate acres in Clarksburg have stayed safe, we, like nearly every growing region in the state, have been impacted by smoky days. What is clear is that this vintage will need to be assessed carefully, to ensure that our wines continue to overdeliver in quality as they do each and every vintage.

“We’ve really been working hard on this,” says VP of Winemaking Eric Aafedt. “From studies done by the Australian Wine Research Institute to our local UC Davis, we are gathering as much data as we can about how these conditions affect the grapes.”

What we are learning is very encouraging.

“Studies show that the grapes most affected by smoke taint are the ones in closest proximity to fires,” says Chris Smith, Director of Winegrowing. “Our vineyards around the state are far enough from these fires that we expect little impact, although we do have one or two grower partners who are closer and who we will watch closely.”

That’s where the work of Eric and his team comes in. “With smoke, the damage is done mostly in the skins. We need to assess the grapes quickly to ascertain if there is an issue before allowing the juice to ferment on the skins,” says Eric. The winemaking team will be fermenting small samples of each lot of wine grapes even before they are harvested. “Any vineyards which show significant taint issues will not be brought into the winery,” says Chris Smith. “Quality remains our first priority, even if that means leaving a few of our fields unharvested.”

Once at the winery, that focus will continue. “All grape lots harvested this season will be carefully tracked throughout the process: measuring, monitoring and modifying vinification as necessary,” says Eric. Everyone here at Bogle is taking this vintage in stride. “I’m optimistic that we are not going to see negative effects from this kind of haze,” says Eric. “The 2020 Bogle wines will be as enjoyable as always.”

The Beirut Explosion

Chateau Marsyas:

The fires aren’t the only tragedy plaguing our beloved suppliers this year. Another that dominated headlines was the horrifying explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. We have a winery in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon – Chateau Marsyas (which makes some truly glorious drops), who were sadly quite affected by this, as their offices are located less than a kilometre away from the blast. You can read their post first-hand and watch a video on social channels here. Less than two weeks out from this devastating hit, they were in the middle of harvest, and the ‘HQ’ was set up in the hospital room where the owners’ father was recovering. Truly a feat of extraordinary resilience from these wondermakers! Bloomberg wrote a wonderful article on them shortly after the hit, and explain just how we can help – by drinking wine. Cathay Huyghe for Forbes magazine also spoke to Karim & Sandro Saadé – the owners, ‘The grapes don’t wait. We had harvest and at the same time we were at the hospital. We transformed [our father’s] hospital room into an operational room for the harvest.‘ You can read this article, “The Beirut Explosion, Twelve Weeks Later: A Closer Look At Its Continued Impact On Lebanon’s Wine Industry” by clicking here.