Smoke Exposure

Smoke Exposure

Last updated: 09/21/2020

UPDATE: Click here to watch recent webinar on Smoke Status in Washington (presented in partnership with WSU and the Washington State Wine Commission) and click here for the webinar Q&A.

A lab with locations in Washington, California, and Oregon is helping with smoke samples! Primary contacts will be Sam and Sergio: inquiries regarding sample receipt/status, results reporting, etc. go directly to Zach at the lab. See contacts below:

Sam Myoda, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President
IEH Laboratories & Consulting Group
15300 Bothell Way NE
Lake Forest Park WA 98155
206-522-5432 | 
Sergio Sanchez, Ph.D.
Sr. Vice President Analytical Services
IEH Laboratories & Consulting Group
15300 Bothell Way NE
Lake Forest Park, WA 98155
206-522-5432 |

Zach Gottschalk
Project Manager
206-632-2715 |


Click here to learn more about IEH Laboratories & Consulting Group services

With all of the wildfires and wind events throughout our state, growers and winemakers are understandably concerned about smoke exposure in our vineyards. Dr. Tom Collins, who heads Washington State University’s smoke exposure research, began collecting data from air particle counters he placed near Yakima Valley and Columbia Valley vineyards on August 24. These are the same sensors he uses to record smoke intensity in his simulation trials. As of Tuesday, Sept. 8, the majority of the counters have recorded low to moderate intensity spikes, mainly during the Sept. 7 windstorm. While there is always some level of risk associated with smoke exposure, the relatively low intensity and short duration of these spikes suggest limited risk in the monitored areas from this event.

Note: This is not a blanket statement that all Washington vineyards are free of smoke exposure. If your vineyard or grapes you purchase have had a significant smoke event, it is important to assess the potential for smoke exposure and impact to fruit and wine quality.

Many factors influence the impact of prolonged smoke exposure in vineyards, including location of fire, freshness of smoke, type of fuel and grape variety. Here are some recommendations, developed in partnership with the West Coast Smoke Exposure Task Force, for growers and wineries who want to assess the potential for smoke exposure:

  1. Collect grape samples for micro (bucket) fermentations, chemical analysis by lab, and to freeze for later analysis if needed.
  2. Begin bucket fermentation (directions here). At the same time, send grape samples to a third party lab for analysis, which is needed for crop insurance.
  3. If sending grape samples for lab analysis, package with dry ice or cold packs to ensure the sample arrives in good condition. Understand that lab results may not come back in time to make a picking decision but are needed for crop insurance purposes.
  4. Conduct sensory evaluation(s) of the micro fermentations. In more heavily affected fruit, it may be possible to detect smoky aromas after the fruit has been crushed but prior to the onset of active fermentation.
  5. Small-lot fermentations should be analyzed both sensorially and by chemical analysis as the data may be taken into account for crop insurance purposes in cases where the grape sample showed no impact but the micro-fermentation sample does.
  6. If sending wine samples for lab analysis, carefully package samples to ensure they arrive at the lab in good condition.
  7. Communicate results from sensory evaluation of bucket fermentations and any chemical analyses with your grower/winemaker counterpart.
  8. Contact crop insurance or other insurance agent as early in the process as practical.

Washington, Oregon, California wine industries collaborate to address smoke exposure

Washington led the charge to create smoke exposure task force in 2019

The Washington wine industry has taken a clear, urgent path toward better understanding the issue of smoke exposure on grapes and consequently on wine. In January 2019, Washington Winegrowers chair Patrick Rawn reached out to his counterparts in California and Oregon to suggest the three states combine efforts on smoke exposure. The task force pulled together growers and vintners from all over the west coast, as well as key researchers, stressing a shared responsibility for the issue. The group came together to understand what we know, what we don't, what more we need to know, and what we need to do to get ahead of the issues surrounding smoke exposure.

Fast forward nearly two years and the Task Force is addressing issues in three sub-committees: Contracts, Crop Insurance and Research. The Task Force and the sub-committees are now populated with more colleagues from industry associations, researchers and those specializing in contracts and crop insurance from up and down the west coast. From Washington, representation comes from Washington State University, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, the Washington State Wine Commission, and Washington Winegrowers.

Washington’s focus on smoke exposure began in 2016, when the Washington State Wine Commission was first in the U.S. to support vineyard smoke simulation trials at Washington State University. To date, the Washington wine industry has directed more than $350,000 towards smoke exposure research, and a collaborative research team of WSU, Oregon State University and University of California was awarded a $50,000 federal planning grant last year from USDA.

Additionally, the Task Force plans to host a smoke exposure conference next spring in Sacramento focused on research, crop insurance and industry practices for handling smoke damage losses. The conference will focus on open dialog and information exchange to bring vintners and growers together to focus on shared problems and solutions regarding smoke exposure.


Smoke Exposure Grape Sampling Protocol for Growers

Click here for grape sampling protocol - this is a resource for growers to properly collect and submit a grape sample to a third-party lab for analysis. It offers useful guidance to growers interested in collecting and testing a grape sample with an independent, accredited third-party lab. These tests are critical to a grower for a crop insurance loss claim.

Click here for micro-fermentation protocol - this is a resource with background information and technical guidance on how to do a micro-ferment for smoke exposed grapes adapted from the method recommended by the Australian Wine Research Institute. The method was evaluated during the 2019 crush at WSU and determined to be accurate and useful.

Click here for step-by-step video on how to do small-scale fermentations

Click here for a list of additional smoke impact analysis providers

More information and tools will come soon, including:

  • Crop insurance as a risk management tool for smoke damage and to provide guidance on the claims process like how to avoid problems.
  • Roadmap to guide growers and vintners on how/when to address issues when smoke events occur to provide signposts that promote effective decision-making in a transparent and predictable manner. (Not intended to be ‘standards’ or suggest contract language but promote informed dialog.)
  • What we know describing research that is applicable to the West Coast and work currently in progress.

Wanted: Samples for Research

A component of a federally-proposed smoke exposure research grant will be to use historical atmospheric data to help create risk models for smoke effects in the vineyard. If the grant is funded, the research team would like to incorporate the 2020 harvest into the model but will need grape/wine samples that may have been impacted by smoke.

These samples will be stored until a time when they can be analyzed in the future. This is not an alternative to having samples analyzed by a commercial lab as results will not be available for months.

Interested in sending samples for this future work?

Click here for collection and shipping information. 


USDA Assistance for Farmers, Communities




Wildfires, Smoke, and Washington Workers

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Questions? Email Vicky.

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