WINTERS (CBS13) – The County Fire has burned more than 72,000 acres just east of Lake Berryessa.
Thick smoke from the flames continues to blanket much of the Sacramento Valley, leaving farmers to worry about their crops.
“Our vineyard is right at the base of the hills,” said Chris Turkovich, owner of Turkovich Family Wines.
Just two miles from the fire lines, the vineyard is at the mercy of Mother Nature.
“As long as the vineyard doesn’t actually burn, the next critical issue is the smoke,” he told CBS13.
Turkovich and his family have been making wine in Winters for the last 11 years. And the heart of this year’s batch is now cloaked in a smoky haze.
The good news for farmers, at this point in the season, many grapes have a thick skin, which can protect them from absorbing too much of the smoke.
But Turkovich says the life of the grapes will ultimately come down to timing.
“It’s not a big issue if the smoke clears out quickly,” he said. “It’s the long-term exposure—the grapes will actually absorb some of that smoke. And that’s a big problem. That’ll ruin wine.”
And what about the other crops in need of smoke-free skies before harvest?
“We’ve got sunflowers, we do a lot of tomatoes as well as some orchard crops like prunes and walnuts,” he explained.
Turkovich says his tomatoes are fine right now but he’s keeping an eye out for ash that can smother fragile fruits. The Sacramento County Farm Bureau says it has gotten reports of ash on crops in Sacramento, but expects the Delta Breeze to quickly carry it away.
“At this point, I’d just like the fire to be out and the smoke to clear out and not have to worry about it,” Turkovich said.
But he and his fellow farmers will have to wait to find out just how much smoke damage their grapes sustained.
“We ultimately won’t really know what we’re dealing with until September when it’s in the winery and in the tanks,” Turkovich said.
Winemakers concerned about their grapes should check their crops and properties for fallen ash. They say the safest way to get rid of it is to gently spray the crops with water.