Ninety percent of the wine produced in the United States comes from the three Pacific Coast states of California, Oregon and Washington. During the month of September, a freak weather condition, described as a once in a generation phenomenon, overwhelmed the West Coast creating or fanning over 100 major forest fires and burning more than five million acres. The result was orange hued, smoke filled skies that seemed tailor made for a Martian dystopia. The full impact of this smoke on the region’s multi-billion-dollar wine industry is not yet known.
The impact of extended smoke exposure varies by varietal, the wine style produced and several other factors. To better understand the impact of the West Coast forest fires on the 2020 vintage Forbes recently spoke with Dr. Elizabeth Tomasino, Associate Professor of Oenology in the Department of Food Science and Technology at Oregon State University. Dr. Tomasino and her colleagues have been working with the Oregon wine industry to determine the impact of the smoke damage and design protocols for measuring and mitigating the damage.