Earthquake Rattles California’s Napa Wine Industry

The early Sunday morning magnitude-6.1 earthquake that struck Northern California’s Napa Valley hit the region’s wine industry particularly hard. Wineries and wine stores spent much of Sunday picking up the pieces from the earthquake, sometimes literally.

The earthquake coincides with the time of year that wineries are getting ready to go to harvest. Many are harvesting mostly grapes for pinot noir and several other white wine grapes.

The morning after the earthquake, many people posted photos on Twitter of piles of wine bottles and barrels, with captions such as “this is crushing.”

Here is another:

The Los Angeles Times reported that one winery chief executive, David Duncan, spent the first part of the day sweeping up after hundreds of bottles of “priceless wine” were ruined when they fell and broke in the earthquake.

“They were very special,” Duncan told the LA Times from his headquarters in Oakville, 12 miles north of Napa the morning after the earthquake. “They’re all blends we make from quite a few vineyards that we keep separate.”

A tweet Duncan sent out earlier in the day had been retweeted almost 5,000 times by 12 noon California time:

For Duncan and others, cellars where they keep wooden barrels fared slightly better as the earthquake damage caused some barrels to leak, but didn’t shatter anything. Duncan said the industry overall won’t suffer hugely from the tremblor, but those in the city of Napa will likely feel it.

“For the wine industry, this earthquake won’t be that disruptive,” Duncan said. “It’s the people in [the city of] Napa that will feel the disruption.”

San Francisco’s KTVU TV had a slightly more ominous assessment, calling it the worst quake to hit the Bay Area in 25 years.

The earthquake couldn’t come at a worse time for Napa Valley wineries that are already facing complications because of drought. California’s three-year long drought has forced Napa wineries to drive to pick up recycled water for their crops, according to the Santa Rosa Democrat.

They have had some luck in the past year, aside from the earthquake, with relatively less harsh conditions. Late winter rains, a forgiving frost season, and moderate summer weather has kept them on track to the end of this summer’s growing season.

Area grocery stores, including big box stores like WalMart, also felt the impact of having such a large selection of wine on their shelves during an earthquake. Stores like Safeway and smaller ventures, which generally don’t earthquake proof their wine aisles, also suffered huge losses in products.