Okanagan wineries sue utility
The Canadian Press - May 28, 2024 - Business Buzz

Photo: The Canadian Press

PORTLAND, Ore. — Dozens of Oregon wineries and vineyards have sued PacifiCorp over the deadly 2020 wildfires that ravaged the state, alleging that the utility’s decision to not turn off power during the Labor Day windstorm contributed to blazes whose smoke and soot damaged their grapes and reduced their harvest and sales.

In the latest lawsuit to hit the utility over the fires, some 30 wineries and vineyards in the Willamette Valley accused PacifiCorp of negligence and requested over $100 million in damages. The suit was filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court last week.

In an emailed statement, PacifiCorp said it is “committed to settling all reasonable claims for damages as provided under Oregon law.”

“The safety of our customers and communities remains our top priority,” the statement said.

The wine producers named as plaintiffs in the suit are located in the Willamette Valley, home to two-thirds of Oregon wineries and vineyards, and the oldest wine region in the state, according to the Oregon Wine Board.

In their complaint, the wine producers say the fires “produced harmful smoke particles that landed on and infused themselves into the grapes.”

Vineyards couldn’t sell their grapes to winemakers, and wineries have been unable to sell their wines, resulting in lost revenue and damaged reputations, the complaint says.

“Grapes and grape juice that are infused with smoke can carry the smoke compounds and smoke taste through the entire wine production, bottling process, and sale to the consumers,” the complaint said.

Despite paying “extraordinary costs” to try to cleanse the soot and smoke from their 2020 vintages, such efforts largely failed, according to the complaint.

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