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Update: Wildfires in California

Published:  17 October, 2017

Less than ten of the approximately 1,200 wineries in the most impacted regions – Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino, have been destroyed or heavily damaged by the wildfires in northern California, according to the latest update.

In a statement released this morning, the Wine Institute of California also confirmed five vineyard properties totalling 200 acres in the Potter Valley area of Mendocino had been reported damaged.

However, with wineries only expected to gain access to their properties this week, for the first time since the fires began over a week ago, the situation “remained fluid”, it added.

Acting in some instances as firebreaks, the institute said it had been reported that vineyards had not been burning and were helping to saver structures near or surrounded by vineyards, although it confirmed some had been damaged in areas where the speed and intensity of the fires were greatest.

The fires are believed to have destroyed or damaged a 5,700 structures – mainly homes and many belonging to people who work in the California wine industry, but loss and damage to wineries and vineyards had not been widespread, said the institute, with many wineries and vineyards in impacted regions operating despite the “challenging conditions” to finish harvest and fermentations, it added.

With “steady progress” being made to bring the fires under control, evacuations are now being lifted and controlled access is being allowed in some areas, with power widely restored yesterday (Monday).

It was “premature” to discuss the issue of smoke taint on grapes remaining on the vines, said the institute, adding vineyard owners would access the quality when they had finished picking.

It’s hoped cooler weather and rain forecasted this week will help put out the fires, which has so far cost more than 40 lives, completely.

California accounts for 85% of US wine production, with Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino making up around 12% of overall wine production combined.