As of this writing, the King Fire has burned more than 90,000 acres. Some 2,800 people have been evacuated. Tragically, many have lost their homes.
We are the lucky ones at David Girard Vineyards since we are some 20 miles from the fire as the smoke flies. However, the smoke has been coming our way. It has come down the South Fork of the American River from the El Dorado National Forest and been settling in our area, particularly in the morning hours.
The question might be asked: Will the smoke have any potential effect on this year's harvest? The answer is that it will unlikely have any effect.
“Smoke taint” is real and does happen occasionally. In order for smoke taint to be sufficiently identifiable from that of normal smokiness from barrel aging and other natural factors, the smoke has to hang in the area for a long time.
In 2008 wineries in Sonoma’s Anderson Valley experienced some smoke taint due to fires there early in the growing season. Over weeks, the Anderson Valley remained dense with soot. The Australians also have had experience with smoke taint from massive brush fires as have the British Columbians in 2003.
In our case, the smoke has come and gone in accordance with changes in wind direction rather than consistently hanging in the air. , some viticulturists believe that for there to be a problem, smoke needs to be heavy and come when the fruit is starting to ripen.We were already harvesting when the smoke came our way.
So, we are thankful, hopeful, and reasonably confident that wines in our area will not provide any reminders of the King Fire in the future. Once again, as was the case in 2012 and 2013, 2014 looks to be an outstanding vintage.