The Glass Fire continues to devastate northern California, burning at least 67,000 acres in Napa and Sonoma counties, home to many of our most loved and cherished wineries. Since the fire began in late September, more than 25 wineries have been damaged or destroyed by the fire, not to mention the countless families, homes, businesses and farms.
For those fortunate enough to escape the wildfire's devastating force there are still multiple hurdles to overcome in the coming weeks. The looming smoke continues its damage. Sadly, I wrote about the subject of "smoke taint" just 3 years ago during the 2017 wildfires. Smoke taint has long been a concern of winemakers around the world. The taint occurs when grapes are exposed to smoke. As wildfires burn, they release certain compounds infiltrating the waxy layer of the grape skin. The taint damage is not visible to the naked eye, but must be detected by laboratory testing.
Concerning the 2020 vintage, it will all depend on the smoke levels at each winery. Most wineries in the area have started the testing process. For some wineries, it could be entire vineyards affected and others just a single growing location. Most of Napa and Sonoma vintners are positive and moving forward with the quality of the grapes harvested up to this point.
There are ways winemakers can remove the taint such as using activated charcoal or spinning cone technology. But for most of the wineries I contacted, these tainted grapes will simply be a loss and not used in the forthcoming vintage. Growers, winemakers and owners are meticulously working to ensure your next glass of wine from their winery is just as exceptional as your last.
If you would like to support the rebuilding and relief in Napa and Sonoma counties, in lieu of wine recommendations this week, I'm sharing a list with links for donations. I compiled the list from my conversations with many of my friends and winery owners in the area -- although I have not vetted these myself and this list is not comprehensive. Each organization is assisting in unique ways for the relief efforts.
■ Napa Valley Community Foundation — napavalleycf.org
■ North Valley Community Foundation — nvcf.org/wildfire-relief-recovery-fund
■ United Way of Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, Humboldt and Del Norte Counties — unitedwaywinecountry.org
■ Salvation Army Del Oro Division (Northern California and Northern Nevada) — deloro.salvationarmy.org
■ American Red Cross — redcross.org (Search locations by state using the dropdown menu under "Your Local Red Cross")
■ GoFundMe — gofundme.com (Searching "Glass Fires" will lead you to numerous funds ranging from individual families, wineries and overall recovery of the area.)
Lorri Hambuchen is a member of London's Institute of Wines and Spirits. Email: