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In the wake of 2008 fires: Tainted wine and lost habitat

Cooler weather in California is helping firefighters begin to get a handle on fires that have raged in the state for weeks. But concerns over the fires' consequences are sure to continue for months. Two articles over the weekend touched on such issues.

The Wine Spectator magazine raised the spector of 2008 vintage wines being imparted with a smoky character due to the fires.

"There are examples of smokiness from forest fires showing up in wines," the story quoted Roger Boulton, a viticulture and enology professor at UC Davis.

The article, by Augustus Weed, said chemicals in the smoke can coat grapes and be absorbed into the grape skins. The density of the smoke, how long it is in contact with the grapes and how far away the vineyards are from the fires, determines how extensive the effect is.

UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Glenn McGourty was also quoted in the story. He said the main concern to vineyards from the fires is a dwindling supply of water.

The writer paraphrased McGourty as saying water will not be an issue for the majority of the Mendocino wine industry, which gets its water from the Russian River. But in dry regions like Anderson Valley and Redwood Valley, water supplies are low and it could become a problem.

The San Luis Obispo Tribune ran a story about the destruction of wildlife habitat by fire. Writer David Sneed reported that Bill Tietje, a UCCE natural resources advisor, said large, fast-moving fires can confuse and overwhelm even birds and fleet-footed animals. 

Tietje noted that the 1994 fire on Highway 41 was so hot and burned so fast that firefighters observed quail flying into the flames and afterwards found the charred remains of deer and mountain lions.

“In the case of catastrophic wildfire,” Tietje was quoted, “animals may be killed directly or must move into adjacent habitat where their chances of making a living are reduced.”

Posted on Monday, July 14, 2008 at 10:00 AM
Tags: wildfire (131), wildlife (31), wine (27)

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