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Betz Family Winery Announces it Will Not Release a 2020 Vintage

[Washington – June 8, 2021]  Washington’s Betz Family Winery announced today that it would not be releasing a 2020 vintage due to smoke taint caused by last year’s wildfires.  It also announced its sister winery in Oregon, SUNU Wines, would not be releasing a 2020 vintage either. 

“Through rigorous sensory evaluation our team has identified varying levels of smoke taint in our 2020 wines,” said Betz Family’s owners, Steve and Bridgit Griessel.   “We later confirmed that analysis through extensive laboratory testing as well.  While the intensity varied from vineyard to vineyard and barrel to barrel, ultimately all lots showed some impact.”

“As you can imagine, this was an absolutely brutal decision,” the Griessels said.  “Our team has been hopeful since harvest that certain lots might be salvageable, but after countless hours of evaluation, we believed this was our only option.  The idea that we would release any wine that we had reservations about, or that a wine we released might start to develop deepening smoke taint indicators post-bottling, was something we just couldn’t stomach.  In the end, our commitment to quality is paramount and something we cannot compromise.”

2020 was a challenging year for West Coast winemakers as fires raged through California, Oregon, and Washington, blanketing many vineyards with smoke and ash. This created the danger of “smoke taint,” an infrequent but severe hazard for fine wine grapes that can lead to a wide spectrum of sensory effects: ashy/smoky aromas, disrupted/masked flavors, or harsh, austere textures. These flaws can range from barely perceptible to severely off-putting and can stay latent in barrel or bottle for months, sometimes even years, before revealing their full impact. 

Not much is known about the exact mechanisms of smoke taint.  Researchers at both WSU and UC Davis are working hand-in-hand with wineries and growers to learn more about how smoke taint develops, what can be done to protect vineyards that might be exposed to wildfire particulates, and how to mitigate the damage once the exposure has happened. 

Currently, there is no insurance available for damage or loss due to smoke/ash exposure in wine.  Wineries and growers bear the full brunt of the financial impact, a very difficult proposition for small producers, many of whom are currently wrestling with the impact of the 2020 fires.

About Betz Family Winery

Since our first vintage in 1997 we’ve had a single-minded goal of crafting wines with individual purpose and character, and which showcase Washington as a distinguished wine region of the world. 

By carving out specific vineyard blocks and being meticulous in the vineyard and cellar we are able to achieve the quality we aspire to. As importantly over the years, our winery culture has become a way of life in which everyone – our growers, winery team, and customers are family. 

Today, Betz Family Winery is headed by our two families, both committed to be true to our heritage, our family members, and to what Betz winery embodies: wines of dimension and pleasure, wines that allow the character of Washington to shine through. They are a blend of the best elements of the new and the old worlds; full ripe fruit and yet structured for longevity. 

We believe our best wines are yet to come.


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