Smoke tainted California grapes get new life as vodka

Source: The Hill | December 6, 2021 | Alejandra O

After wildfires raged across California wine country last year, two companies joined forces to make sure smoke-tinged grapes didn’t go to waste.

After wildfires engulfed parts of California last year, some “smoke-tainted” grapes are being used to make vodka, according to Reuters. 

Fires in California last year burned over 4 million acres with one of the largest fires being the Glass Fire in the northern part of the state, according to Bon Appétit.  The Glass FIre spread through Napa and Sonoma counties, both large winemaking regions, in September and October, the magazine notes. 

And as officials worked to figure out how to contain the blaze, winemakers in the area worried that their crops would be completely ruined for the season. 

One California wine-maker, Nicolas Quille, told Reuters that he remembers the smoke from 2017 fires gave his wine a bit of an “ashtray” smell. So, when the fires broke out near his vineyard in Napa he quickly harvested his malbec and merlot grapes, he told the outlet. 

“It was the wrong decision. It wasn’t that good,” Quille, who is the chief winemaking and operations officer at the Crimson Wine Group, told Reuters.

But instead of throwing out that batch of wine, Crimson Wine Group joined forces with Hanger 1 Vodka to turn the altered grapes into an exclusive new vodka. Hanger 1’s Smoke Point Vodka is distilled from grapes and grain. 

The vodka is the first of its kind to use “smoke-tinged” California malbec and merlot grapes, according to the company’s website. 


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