Napa Valley Wine Industry Loses Wine But Keeps Its Spirit

Bouchaine Vineyards
Bouchaine Vineyards

On Sunday, a few hours after the Napa Earthquake, Monique Soltani interviewed a South Napa Valley winemaker from Bouchaine Vineyards who says he hasn’t seen anything like this in his 30 plus years on the job. His story is one of many.

On Sunday, a 6.0 Napa Earthquake rocked wine country during the height of the tourist season. Today, many wineries, restaurants and residents are still picking up the pieces. Seeing the devastation first hand brought tears to my eyes. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone impacted.

I had the chance to speak with several winemakers including Marc Mondavi who said Charles Krug and Divining Rod suffered little to no damage. Opus One winemaker, Michael Silacci said they were relatively untouched. Yet Silver Oak Cellars who is just up the road from Opus One in Oakville lost hundreds of irreplaceable bottles of wine. Erin Sullivan from Acme Fine Wines told me they only lost one bottle of wine and Farella Vineyard in Coombsville is doing fine.

Napa EarthquakeAarrot Pott posted a picture on Facebook that reads “Bye bye Blackbird, bye bye” with a picture of his wine barrels toppled over. Trefethen Family Vineyards and Hess Collection’s Mount Veeder facility both suffered damage. They even felt it in Sonoma where B.R. Cohn reports lossing up to 50 percent of its wine.

Seeing and hearing this you can’t help but wonder how can Mother Nature be so selective? I spoke Patsy McGaughy from the Napa Valley Vintners and she said it really was a case by case basis. In general, the wineries in the North Valley like Calistoga and St. Helena weren’t hit as hard as the wineries in the South Valley like  Napa or the Carneros District.

Good news both the Napa Valley Grapegrowers and Napa Valley Vintners tell me there was little to no damage done to the grapevines and harvest 2014 should not be impacted. As far as what impact this will have on the wine loving public?

Here’s the latest information reported by the Napa Valley Vintners on how Sunday’s earthquake impacted the wine industry. At this time, it is too early to provide damage or loss estimates for wine, equipment and facilities, but here are some things that are known:

  • Some NVV member wineries did sustain damage to their barrel storage areas, wine inventory and production equipment over the weekend, but details are not currently available.
  • There were no reports of winery employees being injured by the earthquake.
  • The majority of the wine that is at the wineries right now is from the 2012 and 2013 vintages – the two most abundant vintages ever. While some individual wineries may experience inventory shortages as a result of the earthquake, it is not expected to have a significant impact on Napa Valley wine inventory in general.

Love Wine and Want to Help?

Quake Cuvee:  ALL profits to Napa Community Disaster Relief Wines

Somm Select: On Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 1, SommSelect, will begin featuring Napa and Sonoma County wines for one solid week, donating 100% of the net profits that they receive directly to the American Red Cross of Napa, which is helping the Napa/Sonoma County earthquake victims directly. This effort will run through Sunday, Sept. 7.

Food Drive for the Napa Food Bank

The Napa food bank is very low on food. Need non-perishable foods, especially tomato products, canned fruit, and canned protein — tuna, chicken etc.

Volunteers are also needed for staffing since they expect an influx of people over the next few days. Also monetary donations to supplement lost items

Drop off at: 1766 Industrial Way, Napa, M-F 7:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Downtown Napa August 25, 2014
Downtown Napa
August 25, 2014

The NVV’s immediate priority remains the health and wellbeing of those in the community affected by the earthquake, including the more than 200 treated for injuries at Queen of the Valley Medical Center; more than 200 who were offered aid from the Red Cross; the dozens of buildings and homes that have been “red-tagged” following the incident; and the neighborhoods that are still without water and gas and may be for several more days.

The association is taking several steps to serve as a centralized resource for its 500 members, including sending bulletins with updated information about earthquake resources and adding an Earthquake Relief section to its online Vintners Forum to facilitate winery to winery assistance and support. Napa County officials have asked the NVV to serve as a centralized resource by compiling information about damages and losses experienced by wineries.

Harvest is underway in Napa Valley and everyone is working hard to get business “back to normal” as quickly as possible. 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 earthquake did not impact vineyards or the grapes on the vine and majority of Napa Valley’s wineries are open for business.

UPDATE: AUGUST 26, 2014 Final Assessment of Losses at Bouchaine Vineyards

By: Associate Winemaker Andrew Brooks

Here’s an accounting of what we lost:

2013 Syrah: 8 barrels lost, 480 gallons. One barrel remains.

2013 Cabernet: 10 barrels lost, 600 gallons. 11 barrels remain (two are press wine, which will be eventually integrated into the blend).

Bulk for sale wine lost:
2013 Pinot Noir, Mahoney Las Lomas blocks H, 6: 6 barrels lost, 360 gallons. 5 bbls remain.

2013 Hendricks 777: one barrel lost, 60 gallons. One bbl remains.

Client wine lost:

2013 Gauthier Zinfandel: 6 barrels lost, 360 gallons. 33 barrels remain.

Total gallons lost: 1860.

Additionally, it looks like 73 barrels were damaged beyond repair. There are an additional 40 that we may be able to fix.

In total: there were 250 barrels full of wine or fermenting juice in the cellar, and approximately 1500 total barrels. So we lost 12% of the wine stored in barrel. 5% of the total barrels on-hand were damaged. We lost no wine in tank (12,000 gallons were inside the winery at the time of the quake). No processing equipment was damaged, nor our cooling system, nor any infrastructure. There’s slight damage to a couple tank stands but it doesn’t appear to be catastrophic. There was some broken glass, no significant inventory was lost either from the in-bond storage area (which had more than 1200 cases of finished product belonging to a client) or the tax-paid area or tasting room. Most importantly, nobody was injured during the quake or during the herculean cleanup efforts.

We were very lucky, this could have been much, much worse. On a personal note I’ve got to give special thanks especially to Carlos and Junior for careful, diligent, and quick cleanup of more than 200 barrels which were knocked from their racks. Michael Richmond and Andy were also critical in the recovery effort. We got great help yesterday from a fellow winemaker (Leslie Renaud from Roth) and four of her harvest cellar crew. Jamie did a great job (with Manny’s help) of single-handedly taking care of all the cellar tasks that the other guys were distracted from in the cleanup effort. Tom was indispensable in checking the glycol and cooling system as well as the rest of the facility for leaks. Troy helped us haul barrels, lots of other winery staff chipped in and everyone offered support and lent a hand, handled the media, kept us fed, etc. Vendors, our vineyard management company, neighbors, and friends all called to check in and offered assistance. What an incredible outpouring of support. I’m incredibly grateful to all and I feel very proud of the whole team. Thanks, all. Now, back to harvest! we’re already breaking equipment and having to race around fixing it. pretty normal for this time of year, actually….


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