No doubt operators of vineyards east of the Cascade Range are debating this question, and perhaps those who run Woodinville’s 90-some wineries and tasting rooms are as well:
Will last summer’s wildfires in Central Washington and resulting days of smoky skies there change the taste of wines?
The UW’s atmospheric science guru Cliff Mass -- also a wine enthusiast, poses the question in a recent blog post, which also received some interesting comments.
Mass notes that past studies show atmospheric smoke can change the taste of grapes “causing the wine to become unpleasantly ‘pharmaceutical’, ‘dirty’, ‘ash tray’, ‘medicinal’, ‘camp fire’, or ‘burnt’, and reduces the perception of varietal fruit aroma." The term given to this condition is "smoke taint" and grapes are most vulnerable during the week after the onset of véraison (beginning of ripening of the grape). Unfortunately, the smoke was at its peak during this time.”
Of course, most Woodinvile wineries obtain much of their grape supply from the various AVAs east of the Cascades.
Check out Mass' fascinating and well documented blog post here: http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2013/03/wine-weather-and-smoke.html.