Napa wineries rattled by 6.1 earthquake

26th August, 2014 by Lucy Shaw

On the eve of the 2014 harvest, Napa Valley wineries were rocked by a 6.1 magnitude earthquake in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Damaged sustained at Bouchaine Vineyards, tweeted by Juan Carlos Guerrero

Damaged sustained at Bouchaine Vineyards, tweeted by Juan Carlos Guerrero

The worst quake to hit northern California in 25 years, over 200 people had to be treated in hospital for minor injuries, while three people were seriously injured.

The quake caused California governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency at the earthquake’s epicenter in southern Napa, though 80% of the region’s wineries escaped unscathed.

Affecting wineries in Napa, Sonoma, Yountville, St Helena, Calistoga and Oakville, the earthquake, which hit at 3.20am on Sunday morning, caused barrel stacks to collapse, fermentation tanks to rupture and bottles to smash.

Smashed bottles at Silver Oak

Smashed bottles at Silver Oak

Among the wineries hit were Saintsbury, which lost 400 bottles of wine with owner Linda Reiff reporting to be “knee deep with solid broken glass”, and Trefethen Family Vineyards, which sustained structural damage to its visitor centre.

A pair of tanks filled with the 2013 vintage of Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon ruptured, while barrels went flying into windows at the visitor centre of the winery, owned by the Hess Collection.

“About 15,000 cases of lovely Cabernet came pouring out those doors and down the steps, into the garden,” Jim Caudill, director of hospitality at the Hess Collection winery in Napa told The New York Times.

Silver Oak winery meanwhile, saw dozens of barrels topple to the floor and three destroyed, along with the loss of a number of bottles of wine.

“We’re wading through a sea of Cabernet,” Bill Hill, owner of Henry Hill & Company, which lost 20% of its stock in the quake, told NBC News.

Despite the damage, winery owners are relieved that the quake hit in the middle of the night rather than during a working day, which could have proved fatal.

Broken windows at the Hess Collection Winery

Broken windows at the Hess Collection Winery

“I’ve been in this for 40 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Bruce Cohn, owner of B.R. Cohn Winery in Glen Ellen told The New York Times. Cohn lost the contents of a number of barrels in his winery’s 5,000-barrel warehouse.

According to Napa Valley Vintners, which represents 500 wineries in the region, no winery employees were injured by the quake, though 12 wineries remained closed for business on Monday in order to clean up the damage.

Several historic buildings in downtown Napa were damaged by the quake, with reports suggesting that the quake has caused over US$1 billion in damages.

Local wine merchants also suffered the effects of the quake, which caused bottles to fall off shelves and shatter. The Daily Mail reports that Cult 24 wine bar in Napa lost US$50,000 worth of spilt wine.

Napa Valley Vintners is planning a workshop later this week to help those affected by the earthquake with their immediate questions.

“The spirit of collaboration for which the Napa Valley is known is expected to prevail, even for those who did suffer damage. Everyone is working hard to get business back to normal as quickly as possible,” NVV said in a statement.

“Weather throughout the growing season has been ideal and vintners are expecting yet another excellent vintage, the third year in a row in the region. The majority of Napa Valley’s wineries are open for business,” it added.

 “The earthquake will not have an impact on the overall supply of California wines,” the Wine Institute of California confirmed. 

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