The pacific northwest is literally on fire. In recent days, high winds have intensified a serious, and now deadly fire spread throughout Oregon and Washington State, and as is the case with California and parts of British Columbia, smoke is now drifting across wine regions. The situation is being described as the apocalypse by many who live in the area, with red and blood orange skies seen from as far as San Francisco.
At the moment, the Oregon situation is the biggest crisis. There are currently 37 active fires raging across the state, which have burned over 670,000 acres. The worst of the fires are in the Rogue Valley AVA in the southern part of the state. Medford, a city of 83,000 people, was evacuated Tuesday night along with many small communities around it. A 25-mile section of Interstate 5 was closed Tuesday night, complicating the problem for people trying to flee.
Smoke began drifting into Willamette Valley on Monday. Willamette Valley is perhaps the United States’ best region for pinot noir, and as unfortunate as it would be, pinot noir seems to be more susceptible to the perception of smoke taint; current theory is that it might be because pinot doesn’t have the sort of toasty flavors we accept from cabernet.
Meanwhile, in Washington, more than 330,000 acres of land has burned in a 24-hour period. Heather Bradshaw, communications director at the Washington State Wine Commission told Wine Searcher that fires have affected “both sides of the Cascade Mountains”. She said that as things stand, wine producers “are not yet concerned about harm to grapes” but stressed that the situation was “ever-changing”.
“It’s just too early for us to make any concrete assumptions or predictions. Of course we are hoping that we’ve seen the worst of it. We do know that we’re expecting hot temperatures this week, which may lead to a fast and condensed harvest in many parts of the Columbia Valley. The quality of the 2020 fruit is exceptional at this point,” she added.
-With files from The Drinks Business