Marilyn Venturi is keeping a close eye on her wine grapes at Venturi-Shulze Vineyards as they get closer to harvest.

After an incredible summer growing season, the thick wildfire smoke that’s settled in the Cowichan Valley over the past few days has the potential to create problems.

“[Smoke] prevents the light from hitting the chlorophyll in the grape and the grape leaves, of course, sugars are formed by three simple things, sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide,” Venturi said.

Fortunately so far this year the haze is sitting higher up. And even better, there is no ash settling on the fruit.

“I think last year was way worse even though fires are greater in number this year, the amount of smoke and ash coming over the island is less,” Venturi said.

Down the road at Rocky Creek winery, owner and winemaker Mark Holford has already had to take action to deal with another potential smoky haze hazard.

“With this haze makes it more humid and you actually get more disease pressure so I’m actually more concerned about things like powdered mildew. So when we saw the smoke coming in we actually stepped up our spray program a little bit just to make sure powdered mildew doesn’t come out at the end of the season and bite us,” he said.

And while he had concerns about the potential impacts to tourism, the tasting room is busy. In fact, one couple has chosen to tour the Cowichan Valley due to the heavy smoke in the Okanagan.

While the smoky skies may look ominous, Holford says the wildfires would have to be a lot closer to impact the taste of the grapes.

“You have to have a really thick smoke low to the ground, so it would be like a forest fire within a few kilometres of us,” he said.

But if there’s one place that is being impacted by the smoke it’s labour. With poor air quality and health warnings across Vancouver Island workers are spending fewer hours in the field.

With so much still to do before harvest, Cowichan Valley wineries are hoping for clearer days ahead.

April Lawrence