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Okanagan winery’s 2021 vintage ruined by wildfire smoke

Smoke contamination caused Blue Mountain Vineyards and Cellars not to bottle last year’s wines
Blue Mountain Vineyards and Cellars in Okanagan Falls has decided not to bottle their 2021 vintage due to smoke taint caused by the Thomas Creek wildfire last summer. (Blue Mountain Chardonnay vines)

At least one winery in South Okanagan had its wines impacted by smoke contamination caused by the Thomas Creek wildfire last summer.

Blue Mountain Vineyards and Cellars in Okanagan Falls has decided not to bottle their 2021 vintage due to smoke taint.

“The winery’s estate vineyards were impacted by smoke contamination. While attempts to mitigate the impact of the contamination were tried the results did not meet the winery’s quality standards. We made the very difficult decision not to bottle the 2021 vintage simply because we were not willing to compromise the reputation, that we have worked tirelessly to establish over the past three decades,” wrote Christie, Matt, Jane and Ian Mavety on Blue Mountain’s website.

The vines themselves were not affected.

There is some inventory from previous Blue Mountain vintages to last for some months, said the winery. However, any decisions regarding the winery and tasting room being open to the public for purchases will be made later this spring.

No other wineries in that region have made similar decisions about their 2021 vintages. The Okanagan Falls, Oliver and Osoyoos wine areas are home to B.C’s largest wine region. Both the Thomas Creek and Nk’Mip wildfires burned in this region for months during the summer of 2021.

Burrowing Owl Estate Winery in Oliver and Adega’s Winery in Osoyoos were evacuated during the start of the Nk’Mip wildfire last July.

READ MORE: Campers, wineries, resort visitors and residents evacuated

Both wildfires in South Okanagan burned for nearly two months in the region, spreading thousands of hectares. Smoke taint is an ongoing concern for the over 100 wineries in the Okanagan region, said the Wine Growers British Columbia.

Smoke doesn’t appear to have impacted Naramata Bench wines as the smoke stayed to the south for most of the wildfire season, according to a few winemakers on the Bench.

But climate change is playing a role in vineyards, according to wineries.

Last June’s heat dome caused the grapes to raisin and created lower yields of grape crops across the Okanagan.

Red wine or any wine where the skin is kept on during the wine-making process is more likely to be left with a smoky or ashy taste. The molecule in the grape skin called glyoxal absorbs the ash or heavy smoke that falls onto the grape berry, said UBC Okanagan Ph.D. student Matt Noestheden during the 2018 fire season.

READ MORE: 2018 wildfires could affect wine

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Monique Tamminga

About the Author: Monique Tamminga

Monique brings 20 years of award-winning journalism experience to the role of editor at the Penticton Western News. Of those years, 17 were spent working as a senior reporter and acting editor with the Langley Advance Times.
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