Impacts of wildfires cause a slight setback for local winemaker

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- "We probably would have been starting harvest today (Tuesday) have we had better conditions," said Bret Engelman from Engelmann Cellars.

After days of smoky air from several California wildfires, he is thankful Central Valley skies are starting to clear.

"It impacted us by basically getting us back one week on harvest," he said.

The owner of the northwest Fresno winery says the canopy of leaves usually intended to keep his grapes from becoming sunburnt is serving a different purpose this year.

"So most of the ash that is falling right now, it's falling on the leaves. So hopefully a lot of that will get blown out with the leaves when we collect the grapes," he said. "You can't really get the residue off the grapes because you don't wash them."

He predicts any smokiness you might notice in his wines this year will be extremely subtle.

"I don't think here in the Valley we have had enough impact where it's going to make a huge difference in your wine that next year when you're drinking the chardonnay you're going, 'Oh 2020 man. This one's smokey.'"

He's now focusing on making sure his bins and equipment are free of ash before next week's harvest.

Meantime, some crops just down the road from Engelmann Cellars don't have quite as much protection from smoky impacts.

A grower of peaches on Barstow Ave. says he's not too concerned about the layer of ash on his fruit because they will be processed and cleaned before they are cut and frozen for fruit cups.

However, there's a greater concern for those crops packaged right out on the field.

"We may see some concerns there just because that ash was heavy in some areas. But as of now have not heard of any losses of crop," said Ryan Jacobsen from the Fresno County Farm Bureau.

Jacobsen adds that it's more important than ever to make sure your California grown fruits and vegetables get a good wash once you've brought them home.

"In this particular case, it's also going to help with the ash. So definitely wash your fruits and vegetables and they will be completely safe to consume."
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