"When you farm, you make a deal with God, whatever is handed down, there is no appeal," said Bill Williamson, a grower, and winemaker in Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley.
This is a place where the instruments have extremely discriminating palates.
"We need to know the chemistry of the wine to understand it", explained Eglantine Chauffour, who speaks with a French accent homegrown in Provence. "We look at sugar, juice, alcohol, acidity, PH, color intensity." Every vintage is unique, this year, even more so.
First came the rain, then a late heat wave, and then the North Bay Fires. They hit late in the harvest season, actually burned some vineyards, and left others sitting beneath heavy blankets of smoke.
Lab looked at all kinds of numbers and prescribed remedies. Smoke taint should not be a problem, giving this year's vintage a better backstory than usual. #sonomaCounty #abc7now pic.twitter.com/lk3VogNxYI— Wayne Freedman (@WayneFreedman) November 17, 2017
"We worried about smoke taint. In two or three years it could taste like bacon, or an ashtray, or smokey," said Bill Williamson a winegrower in the Dry Creek Valley, where smoke taint is insidious.
Even an expert cannot taste it until too late in production. But, Vinquiry's instruments could.
Eglantine Chauffour and her team examined countless samples, with better-than-expected results. "The impact of the smoke is not as strong as we expected, but there are ways to deal with it and make it not smoky."
Turns out that science comes before art. Bill and many other growers went to Enartis lab for analysis of ph, acidity, sugar, etc. When fires hit, most grapes here harvested. Only 3% impacted. #abc7now #SonomaStrong pic.twitter.com/JLaG1RrkJJ— Wayne Freedman (@WayneFreedman) November 17, 2017
The methods are tried, true, polysyllabic, and for anyone who isn't a wine snob, their details would probably qualify as too much information.
"So we used a process called 'flash détente', said Williamson.
Maybe, in a few years, he'll impress you with that in his tasting rooms. For now, however, if you're a wine lover, take a deep breath. The 2017 wine season will survive its trial by fire.