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Wine Spectator: How Did 2020’s Wildfires Impact California Wine?

March 25, 2021

“We didn’t make any red wines in 2020,” is a refrain echoed by many California winemakers these days. Perhaps no year has seen so many wine regions impacted by so many wildfires. Months after the fires ended, the impact is only just now coming into focus.

What made 2020 so difficult was that it brought multiple blazes. It often felt like the flames and smoke were never-ending. The devastating LNU Complex fires ripped through Napa, Sonoma, Solano, Yolo, and Lake counties in August and September 2020 and severely impacted harvest. In Monterey and Santa Cruz, multiple fires razed land near vineyards. Then, just as the smoldering was ending in late September, the Glass fire ignited, destroying wineries and vineyards in Napa and Sonoma.

The $3.24 billion question is: How many good wines were winemakers able to make in 2020? That dollar figure represents the value of California’s wine grape crop, and we still don’t know the fires’ full economic impact. Smoke impacted some vineyards more than others and was nearly impossible to predict. Some grapes tested negative for the compounds that cause smoke taint, but then some wines made with those grapes tested positive.

Paul Hobbs, who makes wines from vineyards in both Sonoma and Napa, reports that he lost grapes from two key Sonoma Pinot Noir vineyards and more than 100 tons of Napa Cabernet. Still, many of the wines he did make are showing well at the moment. Wine Spectator has a full report.—Aaron Romano

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