How This Season's Wildfires are Devastating California's Wine Industry

The recent wildfires in California's Napa Valley area have been devastating on all fronts. 

The death toll is currently at 21 and 670 people have been reported missing. 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed. 

As of Wednesday, six major fires have been responsible for burning through nearly 88,000 acres. 

This season has been especially damaging due to the unusual number of fires that have ignited at the same time paired with the recent aggressive wind. 

On Wednesday, the wind has reportedly increased significantly, which means the fires will likely continue on their destructive paths. 

Wineries in this area are used to prepping for fires, but that doesn't mean that these establishments are safe from damage. Several are going to feel a significant impact.

Five wineries have been totally burned down or have been significantly burned this season.

Although the majority of grapes have been picked for the season, many of the grapes touched by smoke will have to be thrown out. Depending on the damage at the winery, it may take years for the vineyard to recover. 

“A significant amount of acreage will likely be out of commission for a while,” said Phil Lynch, a spokesman for Brown-Forman Corp., the company that owns Sonoma-Cutrer vineyards and markets Korbel champagne to "Bloomberg." “If it’s only smoke damage, it’s one season. If it’s fire damage, it’ll be three or four seasons.”

Tainted grapes are especially bad for the vintage market or those high-end wines that sell for $60+ a bottle. 

“These wines have to have character and flavor,” said Dan Sumner, an agricultural economist at University of California. “If you’ve got a reputation for making $100 wines that everyone loves, you’re not going to make that vulnerable by slipping in some tainted grapes. That may mean there’s less of this vintage in the market, in which case consumers would notice.”

Lynch said they won't know the extend of the damage until the fires are under control. Economists have predicted that it will cost the industry $100 million for unusable crops.

California is the home of a 58 billion wine industry. 85 percent of U.S. wines are produced in the state and there are over 1,000 wineries in Napa Valley and Sonoma. 

Most winery owners and employees have been evacuated and won't be able to determine damage until the fires have died down.

“We can’t make an accurate assessment of the damage to vineyards and wineries because people have been evacuated and don’t have access to the properties,” said Gladys Horiuchi, a spokeswoman for the Wine Institute of California, to "Bloomberg."

Not to mention, these fires have evidently halted the booming tourism as wine enthusiasts are avoiding taking tours in this area.

Learn more about mother nature's disastrous effect on California's wine industry here.