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Americanhooch

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I really hope no one on here is suffering from these fires. The smoke is pretty bad here in SF. If you do need help, let me know.

To my question: I'll have a couple hundred pounds of Sonoma cab sauv in a few weeks. With the insanity of the smoke lately, I'm worried about smoke taint. Nothing yet apparently, but never count 2020 out for bringing disappointment.

What's an effective way to minimize it if the juice is smokey? I could probably make a cab sauv rose and reduce time on the skins, but that seems a little off the mark.
 

Snafflebit

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Unfortunately, I keep hearing there will be a lot of rosé made this year to deal with the smoke taint. There is not much else to fix it. Maybe make a quick ferment test batch to taste for it, but how practical is that?

Prepare for the tidal wave of 2020 Rosé
 
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stickman

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The grapes I had from Sonoma in 2017 also came with potential smoke taint. Similar recommendations for a short maceration were being suggested at the time, but with the cost of the fruit, I couldn't convince myself to press early and the wine turned out great. I see some of the revised 2020 smoke taint protocols from labs now suggesting not to press early, basically saying that the smoke is mostly extracted in 3 days, so pressing early doesn't provide much benefit. Seems like the current theory is that masking the smoke with fruit driven yeast, use of light press fractions, and short lees contact, might be more beneficial.
 

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Ajmassa

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The grapes I had from Sonoma in 2017 also came with potential smoke taint. Similar recommendations for a short maceration were being suggested at the time, but with the cost of the fruit, I couldn't convince myself to press early and the wine turned out great. I see some of the revised 2020 smoke taint protocols from labs now suggesting not to press early, basically saying that the smoke is mostly extracted in 3 days, so pressing early doesn't provide much benefit. Seems like the current theory is that masking the smoke with fruit driven yeast, use of light press fractions, and short lees contact, might be more beneficial.
Thanks for sharing this. do we know specifically what grape growing regions have been affected so far? Timing is brutal!. Not to sound selfish, but this is a winemaking forum. Obviously this is terrible for all local residents and their economy to endure. health crisis, civil unrest, power outages, record heat wave, raging fires, ridiculous gender-reveal stunts causing even more, orange skies & smoke filled counties etc etc— certainly hasn’t been easy this year for the West coast.

This has been a lingering concern of mine and now it just seems to be getting worse. I hope this doesn’t lead to earlier than ideal harvesting as a preventative measure. Vineyards/wineries are left with some difficult decisions to make.

hopefully I won’t need address this but if I do then this troubleshooting file will be extremely helpful. Maybe I should pick up some fruit driven yeast to have just in case.
 
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AaronSC

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Is there a way to know (other than tasting the wine) that your grapes are affected? Sounds like only a lab can determine this. I'm picking up 800 lbs of grapes tomorrow in Amador county (about a mile from my house, actually). There are no fires in Amador county, but the smoke is everywhere.

I'm planning to whole cluster press Viognier, so I don't think this will be affected. The other is Tempranillo, which will need to ferment on the skins for a bout 5-8 days. I guess I will need to cross the fingers...

-Aaron
 

Ajmassa

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Is there a way to know (other than tasting the wine) that your grapes are affected? Sounds like only a lab can determine this. I'm picking up 800 lbs of grapes tomorrow in Amador county (about a mile from my house, actually). There are no fires in Amador county, but the smoke is everywhere.

I'm planning to whole cluster press Viognier, so I don't think this will be affected. The other is Tempranillo, which will need to ferment on the skins for a bout 5-8 days. I guess I will need to cross the fingers...

-Aaron
one article reads as if the sky is falling and 2020 wines are completely ruined. Catastrophic effects in all areas up the coast worse than 2017 when many had already harvested before the fires began
Panic article
But then another article says the opposite. And that it takes a lot for smoke to damage the fruit and that the smoke lingers higher in the atmosphere above ground level. Says that harvesting early in a panic is the worst thing to do. And the media should NOT paint the picture of utter destruction to the 2020 vintage.
Comforting article
Im cautiously optimistic. Tomorrow when you crush that Tempernillo and Viognier and give a proper taste/smell test please let us know your thoughts.
 

Ajmassa

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From Sept. 8th

“Only one lab in California right now, ETS, tests grapes and nascent wines for smoke taint. With every part of the state worrying about smoke, ETS is receiving hundreds of samples a day and has fallen weeks behind. Its website said Monday that, for current clients, "Grape berry samples received early today are projected to be reportable by 17 October, and wine samples received early today are projected to be reportable by 28 September." Anyone who isn't already a client of ETS is told: "We anticipate that we will be able to start processing these samples not sooner than November." November!“
Full Article Here

Is there a way to know (other than tasting the wine) that your grapes are affected? Sounds like only a lab can determine this.
 

NorCal

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I'm selling 55 tons grapes for the community here in the Sierra Foothills and some winemakers I sell to are not concerned, others won't take the grapes unless there is an agreement that they are refunded if there is smoke taint present. Some say they can tell right when they get their grapes. I've asked how and they said they stick their hands in the grapes, pull them out and if it smells like "beef jerky" then you know it has it bad. Others say you won't know if until the second day of fermentation. This year is super bad and very widespread in the grape growing region. I still have two ferments to do over the next 3 weeks; Cab Franc Sierra Foothills, Cab Sauv out of Amador. I appreciate the article and the guidance looks prudent.

Here is the language in the agreement:

  • Grapes Defects. Seller shall use best efforts to produce Grapes that at the time and place of delivery are whole, sound, merchantable first crop fruit, fully mature, true to type, no sulfur, of good characteristic color, containing less than 3% by weight of defects, including, but not limited to, varietal contamination, decomposition, decay, fungi, fermentation by wild yeast, mold, mildew, rot and infestation, shrivel, raisining, sunburn, smoke taint and otherwise suitable for production of premium wine.

  • Lab Analysis. At Buyer’s expense, Buyer shall use XXXX Winery Laboratory for analysis if any item(s) are questionable. Seller will be notified of any dispute within 48hrs of the fruit arriving at the cooling house. Smoke taint is to be determined by lab analysis at Buyer’s expense (ETS, Enartis) within 4 weeks of delivery and measures and above industry standard sensory levels.
 

Ajmassa

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@NorCal this sounds like a nightmare for everyone- the vineyards, the winemakers; insurance cos., testing labs etc. Even insurance claims are based on outdated code using lab tests of unfermented fruit even though it’s now known the majority of volatile phenols are not detected until a few days into the ferments.—not confirmed in 2017.

“Free VPs are easily detected by lab tests. But bound VPs can only be discovered by fermenting the grapes so that the VPs are released from their chemical bonds. A 2018 study of smoke-affected grapes from Lake County showed that there were three to five times more VPs in fermenting wines than those same grapes showed before fermentations.“

Noteworthy items regarding smoke taint:
  • * Saliva has enzymes that release bound VPs, which is why wines can taste like an ashtray even if they don't smell smoky.
  • * Red wines do better at masking small amounts of VPs because they are more complex. Lghter reds like Pinot Noir and Zinfandel are more likely to show smoke taint than Cabernet Sauvignon, especially as compounds from oak barrels that taste somewhat like smoke are often present in Cab and therefore not obvious to drinkers. Also, higher alcohol can mask smoke taint, while green character from underripe grapes can make it more obvious. "If you're making Cabernet Sauvignon, make the best wine you can".
  • * White and rosé wines are likely to have fewer VPs because they spend less time fermenting on the skins, but any smoke taint they do have will be more obvious. Also, white wines are often bottled within three to nine months of fermentation, which is not enough time for bound VPs to be released. So, if white wines are released early, there is some risk that they will taste smoky.
  • * Ash should be washed off of grapes. Previously, growers were told ash doesn't matter, but "we've heard from winemakers who said they washed ash off the grapes and it made a difference".
  • * Hand-picking into small bins is better so that the grapes are not pressed before they get to the winery. This is expensive and might drive up the cost of some wines.
  • * VPs can be removed from wine in a number of ways – fining with activated charcoal, reverse osmosis, and spinning cones – but all of them also remove other flavor and aroma components. (Nonetheless, expect a lot of large-company wines to use these methods for their 2020 wines.)
  • * About 20 to 25 percent of people are not sensitive to smoke taint and don't observe it. (I see a niche market!)
    Full article
 

Snafflebit

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There were ashes on the vines where I picked. I considered hosing off the vines, but the smoke cover has caused the temperature to drop into the 50's and takes forever to dry. I am just crossing my fingers and fermenting.
 

CoteRotie

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I'm in the same boat. I have some $$$ Cabernet fruit from the Moon Mountain AVA in Sonoma coming this year, and I have no idea if there's smoke taint. Trying to be patient to see how things come out. Would be good to keep this thread going and post information as it comes in.
 

Americanhooch

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Thanks all! Seems like it's a sticky issue. Keeping my fingers crossed for all of us!
 

Ajmassa

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just found out earlier this morning that my grapes will NOT be coming in at all, damaged by smoke. I was more than looking forward to these too since my supplier here on the east coast had Napa Valley grapes available for the first time ever. Would have been a big leap from my typical grapes and was gutshot to learn I won’t get to make that wine now.
Very bummed out about this. But hey that’s life. As of today their sources affected are:
Anderson Valley (Pinot Noir)
Napa Valley Rutherford Bench (Cab Sauv)
Red Hills Lake County (multiple varietals)

the Washington State and Paso Robles fruit they source remains unaffected.

There’s been no talk of “refund” yet, but there will be. They’re currently looking into “last minute alternative options comparable to Rutherford Bench”. I have little to no faith of that happening. I do feel like a jagoff now after getting my hopes up. And since these funds have already been allocated towards grapes I’d like to keep it that way.

Same funds could get me as much as 60gal of Central Valley wine —or as little as 10.5 gal from Brehm’s Sonoma 2019 frozen must , and everything in between.
I’ll be looking into other sources and seeing what’s actually still available.
#EffYou2020
 

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