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Earthquake Rocks The Wine Harvest In Napa Valley

By John Lenart in Food on Aug 25, 2014 7:00PM

The 2014 harvest was going to be remembered as an unusually early one in northern California wine country. That was until at 3:20 a.m. Sunday morning, when a magnitude 6.0 earthquake shook Napa Valley injuring dozens, causing significant damage to buildings, rupturing gas and water lines, and leaving many without power. The epicenter of the earthquake was just nine miles south of Napa. Nearly 100 aftershocks were recorded following the earthquake. California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for southern Napa County.

Napa Valley is home to almost 800 wineries, which produce close to 50 million cases of wine annually. After winemakers squared away their homes they made their way to their wineries. Some wineries reported very little to no loss, while others, like Silver Oak, not only lost barrels of wine but also the winery’s reference library, which contained older vintages of their famed cabernet sauvignon. “They're completely irreplaceable,” says CEO David Duncan. He goes on, “Luckily the barrels didn't burst, so we were able to salvage most of the wine. The collection of bottles is literally priceless. I cleaned that up myself with a shovel.”

Twitter lit up with photos posted by winery employees as they surveyed and cleaned up the devastation.

While damages to the aging wines of the 2013 vintage is still being assessed, there is another, perhaps more immediate, concern for winemakers. Many buildings have lost power and water, both crucial at harvest. Wineries use a lot of water cleaning equipment throughout harvest and without power critical equipment can't be operated. In addition to that harvest is scheduled to begin now at many wineries. Winemakers will have to decide if they will harvest or focus efforts on cleanup.

Given record drought, early harvest, and now an earthquake right when harvest was to begin, the 2014 vintage from Napa will be one to remember.