Monterey County

Smoke from Soberanes Fire threatens grapes

Vintners worry over Soberanes "smoke taint"

Soberanes Fire could impact Monterey Co. wine industry

CARMEL VALLEY, Calif. - UPDATE 7/29/2016 10:15 PM:

There's a chance Monterey County's wine industry could be impacted by the Soberanes Fire. At the same time a local winery owner, who doesn't know the fate of her own home is trying to help her neighbors.

Monterey County's wine industry is worth more than $100 million. Even though Carmel Valley only produces one percent of the county's wine, the fire could shake things up.

The Soberanes Fire is burning seven to eight miles away from the nearest vineyard in Carmel Valley, but it carries a more immediate threat.

"We have to worry about something called smoke taint, which is when ash and smoke affects the skins of the grapes. And then if it affects the skins of the grapes, it can affect the wine," said Kim Stemler, executive director of Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association.

It's unclear if it will happen but if it does, there are ways in the production line where it can be treated.

"Most of the grapes in Carmel Valley have not gone through veraison," Stemler said. "Veraison is where the grapes change colors. After veraison, they're really susceptible to smoke taint, so since it's still really early, it's a good sign."

Carmel Valley is home to many Cabernet crops, because it's a warmer growing area.
Smoke taint affected grapes during last year's Tassajara Fire and the 2008 Basin Complex Fire.

Lenora Carey, the owner of Big Sur Vineyards, said her grapes are fine, they come from Arroyo Seco and Chalone. It's her home that she's worried about.

"I'm a resident of Palo Colorado Canyon and I know a number of people are out of their house, I mean, we're all evacuated," Carey said. "And I felt it was a good opportunity to help support my community and help the people that are really in need."

Carey and her family were evacuated from her Palo Colorado home Friday might and hasn't been back since. She knows it is damaged, but does not know the extent.

In the meantime, she's helped her neighbors by organizing a fundraiser.

"There's a lot of people who are renters. They don't have insurance to rebuild and they've lost everything that was in their home at the time," Carey said. "So those are the people that would receive funds from the Coastal Property Owners Association, which is based in Big Sur."

On Friday night, Carey hosted a fundraiser that included auctions. Proceeds will go to the CPOA and will be distributed to people in need.

You can learn more about the donation efforts here.


Monterey County grape growers are worried that smoke from the Soberanes Fire could damage their vineyards. Smoke taint affects grapes as they start to change color and ripen. Growers may not know the extent of the damage until the grapes are harvested.

Tonight, KION's Mariana Hicks explains growers' concerns and talks with a Palo Colorado resident who may have lost her home and private vineyard to the flames. Lenora Carey is organizing a fundraiser for others who have lost their homes. To learn more, click here.

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