EXCELSIOR, Minn. - Even if wineries survive the fires raging in California, the smoke from the fires could damage the vines and grapes.
John Thull is the Vineyard Manager at the University of Minnesota Research Vineyards in Excelsior. He has friends in California, also in the business of growing vines, now fighting flames.
“It's a huge natural disaster, not only for the wine industry but for everybody else that’s just trying to make a living out in that area,” John says.
Thull says most of the grapes being grown in vineyards there have already been harvested by now, but he says the ones still on the vine could actually absorb that smoky smell.
“The smoke will actually adhere to the fatty, waxy, lipid layers of the skins and the cells so it will actually infuse into the fruit and that aroma and smell of smoke will carry through the wine-making process and eventually come out in the glass,” he says.
He says it's way too early to know how many grapes, if any, will be impacted by this. Too much of that smoke could ruin the wine, but John says hints of it may add a nice twist that some enjoy.
“Sometimes through barrel aging, you get that smoky aroma,” John says. “That's sort of a fad now with whiskey barrels and winemaking, so maybe they could kind of spin that in some sort of a fun direction.”
John says dealing with smoke in the air isn't anything new to vineyards in California.
So, could we actually taste a difference here in Minnesota? Maybe.
“We have a lot of imported wine here from California for sure, so we might be able to see some of it and it might be interesting to find actually,” he says.