OLIVER —; This year’s grapes were projected to produce one of the best vintages this valley has ever seen. But now there is concern the Testalinden Creek wildfire in Oliver, combined with the thick smoke from the massive Washington wildfires, may have impacted the grapes’ quality.
Road 13’s general manager, Joe Luckhurst, recently sent his grapes to a Vancouver lab to see if his fruit has been contaminated. He says the results came back negative.
“There are certain chemicals that are left behind by the smoke —; that causes what we call smoke taint —; and it’s those chemicals that they’re looking for,” says Luckhurst. “From what we’ve tasted and from tests, it doesn’t look like there’s any smoke taint this year.”
Culmina Family Estate Winery has also done some testing on its grapes.
“We feel like we’ve dodged a bullet, let’s put it that way, it could’ve been much worse,” says co-proprietor Don Triggs.
Triggs says the smoke has mostly lingered at higher elevations and he’s confident his grapes aren’t affected by it.
He says the recent rainfall over the weekend has also helped to wash the ash off.
However, further north along the Golden Mile Bench, Walter Gehringer isn’t as quick to jump to any happy conclusions.
He is Gehringer Brothers Winery’s co-owner and winemaker, and he says the grapes need to be fermented before he would know if they’ve been damaged.
“The reality is smoke will affect wine, and that can’t be removed, if it’s intense enough. Whether we’ve had enough smoke to this date, we won’t know until after we’ve made the wine,” he says.
As harvest gets underway, Gehringer says it would be a shame to find out six weeks later that the smoke has compromised the quality of the wines.
“The potential for harvest is absolutely astronomical, and to lose that now, would be so, so sad.”