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MailTribune.com
  • A hazy harvest?

    It's too early to tell whether wine grapes will taste better with smoke
  • Open a bottle of cabernet sauvignon from the Rogue Valley's 2009 vintage. Does it taste like black current, spice and tobacco?
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    • Science of smoke on grapes
      Climatologist Gregory Jones in Southern Oregon University's Department of Environmental Studies has studied wine grapes around the world. He's been monitoring the region's smoky conditions and offe...
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      Science of smoke on grapes
      Climatologist Gregory Jones in Southern Oregon University's Department of Environmental Studies has studied wine grapes around the world. He's been monitoring the region's smoky conditions and offers this timeline:

      Summer 2013: Warm, dry conditions.

      July 26: Dry lightning sparks fires and smoke settles over inter-mountain valleys due to normal summer high pressure and inversions.

      Late July: The Applegate, Illinois and Rogue valleys see more smoke than the Umpqua Valley because of north-to-south air flow.

      Now: Fires in isolated areas are hard to contain when vineyards are most susceptible.

      Fall: October rains may have to snuff out fires.
  • Open a bottle of cabernet sauvignon from the Rogue Valley's 2009 vintage. Does it taste like black current, spice and tobacco?
    If so, those flavors came from the grapes and toasted oak barrels, not from the smoke that hung in the air for a week before harvest.
    Wine and smoke, you see, have a complex relationship.
    Sooty air can change wine, but it takes time. As of now, two weeks after lightning started five major wildfires in southwestern Oregon, the region's grapes haven't been kissed deeply with smoky lips — yet.
    There have been short-term impacts. In vineyards from Ashland to the Applegate, unpredictable conditions are forcing weddings, concerts and fundraisers indoors.
    And vineyard crews are suffering from burning eyes and that logy feeling from exposure to the smoke.
    Last week, vineyard manager Chris Hubert of OVS Results Partners sent workers home under a pall of smoke. They are now back, tucking in grapevines but safely wearing respirators.
    As for longer impact, winemakers and grape growers are searching through the gray air for good news.
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