Another unfortunate impact of the still growing, 10-day-old Soberanes Fire is that it could end up destroying the 2016 vintage for some Monterey County wines. Smoke from wildfires has been known to do this most notably the 2008 vintage in Mendocino County, following a season of fires in the Lightning Complex blaze leaving residue on grape skins that ends up making every wine in a region taste like an ashtray.
KCBS notes that depending on how long it continues to burn, the Soberanes Fire could similarly impact Monterey wines this year, but it's too soon to tell.
Kim Stemler, Executive Director of the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association, tells the station, "The grapes haven’t gone through veraison yet, and veraison is where grapes turn colors. After veraison, the skins are much more susceptible to smoke taint." For some grapes, that could be happening in the coming weeks, though, and fire officials already said last week that they expect to be containing this blaze, which has now burned over 40,000 acres, for the entire month of August.
Only one vineyard so far, Big Sur Vineyards, has lost grapevines in the fire, with one small estate burned. They nonetheless remain open, and they're hosting a fundraiser this week for local families effected, and for CalFire funding.
Meanwhile evacuation orders went into effect today for the communities of Cachagua and Tassajara, and all guests at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center retreat were evacuated and programming canceled for this week. They remain optimistic that the fire will spare them the Zen Center was previously threatened by fire in 2008 and they note on Facebook that the fire remains 13 miles away. The Cachagua Fire Department is now conducting "back burns" to create a fire line around Tassajara.