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Wildfire: $512M damage. 2000 tons grapes ruined.

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By Oregon Family Farm Association,

Northwest Interagency Coordination Center data pegs the total cost of the summer wildfire at $512 million a new state record. Oregon had a total of 1,880 fires that burned through 846,411 acres or 1,322 square miles. The popular Oregon Shakespeare festival lost $2 million in cancelled performances and had to lay off 15 staff members.

A California winery canceled contracts to purchase at least 2,000 tons of grapes grown in Southern Oregon because of what it referred to as contamination by “smoke taint” from last summer’s wildfires, according to an Oct. 3 article by George Plaven in The Capital Press.

Copper Cane Wines & Provisions, a Napa Valley winery, notified 15 suppliers of wine grapes in late September that it was canceling its contracts, leaving the growers with $4 million worth of unsold grapes.

“I think most everybody was stunned,” said John Pratt, president of the Rogue Valley Winegrowers Association and owner of Celestina Vineyard in Medford. “It was devastating.”

He said smoke from the fires generally lingered higher in the atmosphere, and testing done by winegrowers found levels of compounds released by burning wood at acceptable levels.

“Everybody feels very strongly that’s just a bogus smokescreen scapegoat reason for rejecting the fruit,” Pratt told the newspaper.
Jim Bernau, founder and CEO of Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner, Ore., which purchases Southern Oregon grapes, said its independent laboratory tests showed the grapes are in good shape.

“This could break the backs of some of those Southern Oregon growers,” Bernau said.

Sam Tannahill, co-founder of A to Z Wineworks in Newberg, said small pockets of smoke taint occurred in the region but in relatively low amounts.
A representative for Copper Cane did not return messages for comment.

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