Writing a column about the state of harvest on America’s west coast in the face of historic wildfires seems to be an exercise in futility, akin to filing an article about a marathon only halfway through the race. By the time you read these words, the world may look very different.
Of course, the world already looks different.
Last Wednesday 9 September the sun didn’t rise in San Francisco, as smoke from hundreds of wildfires blew into the lower atmosphere around the Bay Area, resulting in an entire day of eerie orange twilight that unnerved most of northern California, as shown in the photo above from Lamborn Vineyards at the top of Napa’s Howell Mountain.
At the time this photo was taken, the 83,000 residents of Medford, Oregon, were huddling in evacuation centres following a rapidly moving wildfire that ripped through more than 3,000 acres (1,200 ha) on Tuesday night, devastating the communities of Medford, Phoenix and Talent, and destroying at least one winery in the Rogue River Valley AVA. Two small fires began and were quickly controlled in Oregon’s Willamette Valley this week, even as two massive fires converged to the south-east of Portland, forcing the evacuation of an estimated 500,000 residents on Thursday night.
The week before, two large fires in Washington’s Colombia Valley wine region were brought under control, but with more than 75,000 acres (30,000 ha) burned, smoke continues to filter to the east towards Walla Walla as wind currents shift.
In all, more than 3.4 million acres (1.4 million ha) so far have burned or are burning throughout California, with fires in (or threatening) the Russian River Valley, Napa, Santa Cruz Mountains, Sonoma Coast, and Santa Lucia Highlands winegrowing areas. The single largest fire in California history is burning in the north-west part of Mendocino County but thankfully has stayed away from the Potter Valley and Redwood Valley viticultural areas.
This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America, and is usually available only to subscribers of her web site. If you’re not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It’s only £8.50 a month or £85 per year ($11/mo or $111 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and maps from the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.