Wildfires in California have been raging for most of this month, claiming more than 40 lives, burning across over 200,000 acres of land and destroying at least 1500 homes and businesses.
The ‘wine country’ of Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties saw thousands of people evacuated and states of emergency declared. The Wine Institute (WI), which is the voice for California wine, has released and update stating that significant progress has been made in bringing the fires under control and that full containment is expected soon.
The WI said: Of the approximately 1,200 wineries in Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma counties, the regions most impacted, it is reported that fewer than ten have been destroyed or heavily damaged. Some vintners and growers are just returning to their properties, so more information will be forthcoming.
“It’s been reported that, except in areas where the speed and intensity of fires was the greatest, vineyards did not burn due to their high moisture content and helped to save structures near or surrounded by vineyards. In previous fire incidents, vineyards have acted as firebreaks.
“Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma, represent about 12 per cent of overall California winegrape production combined and California accounts for 85 per cent of US wine production.”
In terms of the impact on this year’s harvest the WI added: “Due to heat in late August and early September the majority (90 per cent reported in Napa Valley and Sonoma County, 75 per cent in Mendocino County) of the 2017 harvest was completed prior to the start of the fires. Remaining on the vines are primarily late-ripening red grapes, mostly thick-skinned Cabernet Sauvignon.
“Smoke or heat from the fires did not impact fermenting wine or wine that had already been bottled. Wine inventories from previous vintages were generally unharmed.
“The 2017 growing season presented vintners in Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma with grapes of outstanding quality. They are optimistic about the 2017 vintage and expect it to be excellent.”
And while it is still too early to fully understand the economic impact on the region, the WI said: “Fires destroyed or damaged a reported 6000 structures — mainly homes, and many belonged to people who work in the California wine industry. Major loss and damage to wineries and vineyards, however, was not widespread.
“Some wineries and vineyards in these regions continued to operate despite the challenging conditions and many more are now open for business. These wine communities will emerge stronger and more connected than ever.”
Below is a gallery of satellite images from Nasa highlightingthe devastation of the wildfires.