Total damage from the 6.0 earthquake that struck Napa at 3:20 a.m. Sunday morning will take a few days to assess. Early reports indicate limited damage to tanks and crush equipment, a good thing with the 2014 harvest about to begin. However, it might be a different story if barrels are damaged and we’ve seen a lot of photographs of piles empty barrels that crashed down. Hopefully damage is limited as it is late in the season to find replacements. Unfortunately, some barrels were full of wine and vintners are estimating how much wine leaked or is gone completely. The extent of damage to wine storage and shipping facilities south of Napa is another unknown.
Many wineries suffered minimal damage; others opened for tourists despite damage. Some will be closed for a couple of days. The worst news is the loss of irreplaceable wine from some of the Napa Valley’s famed estates, such as Silver Oak. Their loss will be measured well in the six figures.
An earthquake’s area of destruction seems to have no rhyme or reason. If you don’t know the Napa Valley, it lies between the Vaca Range in the east and the Mayacamas Range in the west. The quake travelled north from its American Canyon epicenter and wreaked havoc in the city of Napa. Nine miles north, Yountville also had extensive damage, at least to the contents of homes, stores and businesses. St. Helena and Calistoga, as far as we know, was spared. One St. Helena winery reported to us that two tasting room glasses broke! However, on the other side of the Mayacamas, B.R. Cohn Winery in Glen Ellen (Sonoma County) suffered heavy losses. Tom Montgomery, the winemaker, estimates they lost about half their wine.
At Yountville’s Veterans Home, damage was limited to cracked plaster and minor breakage. We can be thankful for that.