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Bulk of Monterey's Wine Grapes Thriving Despite Soberanes Wild Fire

How the Monterey Bay is Protecting Monterey's Wine Grapes
August 03, 2016

Press Release - Monterey Bay’s deep submarine canyon is a key factor in saving one of Monterey County’s most popular crops, wine grapes, from the impact of the largest fire in the country. The Soberanes Fire has been tragically burning its way through the Big Sur Wilderness, consuming over 45,000 acres and 57 homes. How is this fire impacting the 46,000 acres of wine grapes grown in Monterey County? Thankfully, the Monterey Bay’s Blue Grand Canyon™ is helping to protect over 99% of the County’s grapes grown in the Salinas Valley.

Strong winds created by the deepest submarine canyon on the Pacific Coast of the Americas are funneled through the Salinas Valley between the Gabilan and Santa Lucia mountain ranges. These daily winds push out any smoke that has drifted over the mountains from the wildfire.

“We can set our watch by the wind in the summer”, shared Katie Ryan, Grower Relations Representative, Central Coast at Jackson Family Wines. “The ocean air from the deep submarine canyon is the Salinas Valley’s natural air conditioning system allowing for slow, gentle ripening and the longest growing season in California.”

The coastal winds ensure that grapes of the American Viticulture Areas (AVA’s) in the Salinas Valley never have prolonged exposure to smoke. These AVA’s include (from north to south) Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey, Arroyo Seco, Chalone, San Bernabe, San Lucas, San Antonio Valley, and Hames Valley.

“Our vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands has experienced minimal exposure to smoke and when it has been exposed, it’s only been for short time periods,” said Scott Caraccioli, Vice President of Caraccioli Cellars. “We’re about 10 to 14 days out from harvest for our bubbles. I’m excited for what 2016 brings, it looks to be a great vintage.”

Carmel Valley AVA
The Carmel Valley AVA is more proximally located to the fire, with some vineyards as close as 3 miles from the active fire. This AVA produces less than 1% of the entire Monterey County crop. Typically, in a fire with this proximity and amount of exposure to smoke, there may be concerns about smoke taint, where smoke from the air is absorbed into the grape skins. The good news is that many of the grapes deep in Carmel Valley have yet to go through veraison, the stage of ripening where the grape changes colors, which is the time when the crop is most susceptible to smoke taint.

It is still unknown as to whether the Carmel Valley AVA will feel the impact of smoke taint on their crops. With new advances in wine technology, growers are confident that they can test for smoke taint and be sure that their crop remains of the top quality. There are also special preparation processes in crush and winemaking that will lessen the impact of potential smoke taint.

Open for Business
All 60 of Monterey County tasting rooms are open for business – in the vineyards along the River Road Wine Trail in the Salinas Valley and in the quaint towns of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey, and Carmel Valley.

Wineries Helping
Many wineries and tasting rooms have rallied to help fundraising efforts for volunteer fire fighters and those affected by the fire. The wine community is coming together for a large fundraiser on August 28th at Folktale Winery in Carmel.

Further information on the fire, tasting rooms, and fundraising events can be found through Montereywines.org.


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