This has been an odd summer. Aside from it being our first proper summer on The Monterey Peninsula and adjusting to “June Gloom”, now officially August and gloomy still, a fire is raging through the nearby hills. A few weeks back, apparently some careless campers failed to extinguish their fire, thereby sparking the Soberanes Fire. The fire began in the Big Sur area and spread northward to The Carmel Highlands having already ravaged 43,000 acres and still burning. Coordinated efforts to quell the fire have been underway, 350 evacuations have happened and still 57 homes have been lost and 1 human life so far. The fallen was operating a bulldozer to fight the fire on what is extremely treacherous terrain. It is a tragic turn in the ongoing devastation and my heart goes out to the family, the rescue community and all impacted.
What it has been like..
Living in the area, we wake up to the scent of wood burning and smoke billowing. We periodically wipe the fallen ash from patio furniture. One look directly into the sun is reminiscent of all those warnings of damage to your vision, as it is a fluorescent orange orb, both ominous and captivatingly beautiful. Relief efforts march on. Benefits and fundraisers are being planned and advertised. The community is circling the wagons, supporting each other, hosting meetings, sharing information and resources. All the while the Soberanes Fire is still there, high above us, dominating us all like a merciless mythological character, wielding the life threatening forces of nature to remind us of our vulnerability.
What is at stake?
And we should still drink the wine. The wineries and tasting rooms are open for business despite the obvious question and concern: what about the vineyards? At this point all but 1% of the vineyards are safe. That 1% is in The Carmel Valley AVA and will be coping with the dangers of“smoke taint” on the crops. The aforementioned affliction is when the smoke from the air is absorbed into the grapes, thereby making them unsuitable for wine. Presently though, vintners are confident that they can test for smoke taint and keep the crops healthy. Good news! We are also geographically positioned in Monterey County to host the strong winds cultivated from the Blue Grand Canyon: the deepest submarine canyon on the Pacific Coast. These zephyr winds cool the grapes from the heat of the day, making it an ideal winemaking region, and also serve to move the smoke off the vines. Nature has provided.
Support our region!
It is now your mission readers, if you choose to accept it, to support this critical region in a time of need. Go out and buy wines from the following AVA’s: Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey, Arroyo Seco, Chalone, San Bernabe, San Lucas, San Antonio Valley, and Hames Valley. If you can, donate to one of the fundraising efforts and/or attend one of the events. Go to the tasting rooms, enjoy the wine and celebrate the region that we love so much!
If you want to read about The Carmel Valley specifically, check-out my recent piece for Wine Tourist Magazine here.
More wines of the region that we have enjoyed. Get some!
Most photos by Gabriel Manzo.