Napa, wineries take stock, assess damage after 6.0 Quake

Napa Valley wineries report diverse assessments as a result of last Sunday morning’s magnitude 6.0 earthquake that shook residents from their 3:20 a.m. slumber.

The ‘South Napa earthquake,’ so named by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), was the largest to hit the San Francisco Bay Area since the October 1989 magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta quake that killed 63 people and resulted in over $11 billion in damage.The South Napa quake, which hit about 3 miles northwest of American Canyon, injured at least 200 people with no fatalities. Napa county officials requested $362 million in Federal disaster relief, but economic costs to Napa County may go as high as $1 billion, according to the USGS.  The West Napa Fault thought most likely to have caused the 6.0 magnitude temblor, is “relatively obscure.

The West Napa Fault

Running parallel to the more widely known San Andreas Fault, the West Napa Fault was first mapped in 1949.

A 2008 USGS report by John R. Wesling and Kathryn L. Hanson entitled “Final Technical Report, Mapping of the West Napa Fault Zone for Input in the Northern California Quarternary Fault Database, USGS External Award Number 05HQAG0002,” provides more detail:

“Map Showing Active Traces and Lineaments Associated with the West Napa Fault,” J.R. Wesling and K.L. Hanson (2008)+

Mapping and paleoseismic investigations indicate that the West Napa fault zone is approximately 57 km long and trends northwest from Carquinez Strait to an area directly west of the City of St. Helena. The fault traverses several different types of terrain that influence its expression in the landscape: (a) forested and agricultural land along narrow valleys and hill fronts; (b) agricultural land on low-relief alluvial fans and terraces; (c) low relief bedrock hills and late Quaternary alluvial fans, alluvial terraces, and alluvium along hill fronts; (d) low-relief salt marsh/floodplain that is subject to diurnal tidal fluctuations; and (e) gently sloping marine terraces.

While some of the landscape along the fault remains relatively unmodified, says the report, agricultural activities, locally extensive urban development, and active erosion and alluvial deposits have masked or muted the expression of the fault on some relatively large tracts of land. As a result, the report says, the geomorphic expression of the fault varies along strike depending on the interplay between active tectonic processes, active geomorphic processes, and agricultural and urbanization activities.

In other words, farming and urbanization made it more difficult to precisely study and map the fault. As a result, its rupture potential was largely underestimated. USGS seismologists’ report indicates Napa was also damaged in the 2000 M5.0 Yountville earthquake which also occurred along the West Napa Fault. The 1898 M6.3 Mare Island earthquake also took place in the vicinity of last Sunday’s earthquake.


+ Fault map above and spreadsheet are from Final Technical Report, Mapping of the West Napa Fault Zone for Input in the Northern California Quarternary Fault Database, USGS External Award Number 05HQAG0002. Investigators: John R. Wesling and Kathryn L. Hanson. For more detailed mapping see page 60. You can download a full copy of the 61-page report here: USGS West Napa Fault Report

“Napa” often misunderstood

What exactly one means when one says “Napa” is often misunderstood. Napa Valley is relatively small in actual size. Although it includes 16 American Viticulture Areas (AVAs), at only 5 miles in width by 30 miles in length its 45,000 acres (18,250 hectares) under vine make it only one-eighth the size of the Bordeaux region in France. No doubt surprising to many, Napa produces only 4% of the wine coming out of California. But Napa represents 34% of the California wine industry’s and its economic impacts provides California with over 40,000 jobs and $11 billion annually. Napa also provides a $42.4 billion impact on the United States’ economy.

When looking at many a restaurant list, one notes big producers like Mondavi, Silver Oak, Duckhorn and Beringer. But 77 percent of the Napa Valley vintners are small producers making less than 10,000 cases of wine per year. 63 percent produce less than 5,000 cases. It is the smaller producers who suffer greatly when they lose wine from smashed bottles and broken barrels. Most do not have earthquake insurance because it is simply cost prohibitive. Even if they do have earthquake insurance, it cannot replace a vintage lost. Compare it to an artist with paintings in various stages of completion whose studio catches fire. He is not just losing the economic value from potential sales, but the time, effort and artistic creativity that went into producing each unique piece. Craig Camp, Managing Partner of Cornerstone Cellars puts it in perspective.

"When you lose a vintage you don't just lose the wine from that year you lose the wine you achieved through a lifetime of experience. " - Craig Camp, Cornerstone Cellars

“When you lose a vintage you don’t just lose the wine from that year,” Craig says in his Wine Camp Blog,” “you lose the wine you achieved through a lifetime of experience. For a small producer like us, the wines change each year influenced by the weather and our increased knowledge of each vineyard and the fruit that comes from it. When you make wines that are not manipulated you literally only make that wine once in your life as each year is unique. Not only does the weather change, but you change. So whatever wine we lose will be losing something truly unique. The intersection of nature and humans at one point in time.”

Some Wineries Report Damages, Others Less Affected

Camp and Cornerstone Cellars are still assessing the damage from last week’s quake. After dinner with Craig in late July at the recent Wine Bloggers’ Conference, he spoke in glowing terms about Cornerstone’s 2013 vintage telling us it was going to be one of the best of their Cabernet Sauvignon produced thus far. He said that Napa’s 2013’s growing season had been ideal for developing the complexity of flavors, while still preserving the essential acidity that makes them age-worthy. Last Tuesday evening Craig posted this picture of toppled barrels to friends on Facebook with the caption:

“Somewhere, somewhere in there is our 2013 vintage. It’s going to be awhile before we know how much we lost.”


Like many other smaller artisan wineries, Cornerstone Cellars stores their wines at a leased facility. Everything collapsed in the main barrel storage area at Laird Family Estate (pictured above), a winery and custom crush facility just north of the city of Napa where Cornerstone stores its wine along with another 40 boutique producers. Each barrel, which holds about 25 cases of wine, weighs about 500 pounds and is stacked with others in stainless steel shelves almost to the rafters. Laird spent the past week removing about 2,000 barrels from the collapse. Each barrel must be removed very carefully as to not cause further collapse.

Yountville and the western hills were among the areas hardest hit said Russ Weis, chairman of the Napa Valley Vintners Association and general manager of Silverado Vineyards, as well as Carneros, the winemaking region closest to the quake’s epicenter.

The city of Napa suffered significant damage and left up to 100 homes and buildings uninhabitable, including several historic buildings like the Downtown Napa Post Office and Courthouse. Evan Kilkus, a recent San Francisco State University graduate used a “quadcopter” drone to video the damaged buildings and to show how drones could be used in damage assessment.

Bouchaine Vineyards & Winery owner Tatiana Copeland says they lost all of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah stored in barrels, when one-third of the winery’s barrels tumbled over and smashed after the earthquake. The winery, which primarily produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and other varieties had been experimenting with Cabernet Sauvignon. The Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon were small lot, limited production wines.

The B.R. Cohn Winery in Glen Ellen, California, owned by Doobie Brothers manager Bruce Cohn, said, initially, it has lost as much as 50 percent of its wine.

Update on B.R. Cohn, which is located in Sonoma County:)

“We have a barrel warehouse pretty close to the earthquake epicenter, so we were very concerned about damage,” said Cohn. “As our cleanup has progressed, we’ve seen that the damage and loss of wine is less than we originally thought. The initial report in the hours after the quake was that we might have lost up to half of our 2013 vintage in barrels. As we sift through things, it’s clear that estimate was not accurate, fortunately. It looks more like 10 or 15 percent. We are still assessing the extent of the damage.”

Also suffering damage was Trefethen Family Vineyardshistoric Eshcol Winery building on the northern outskirts of Napa. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the three-story building had survived countless earthquake since is 1886 construction. Used as Trefethen’s visitor center and tasting room, the building is now leaning about 10 feet to the west. The building has been cordoned off and awaits structural engineers to determine if it can be restored.

Cate Conniff, communications manager for Napa Valley Vintners reports that in general, wineries north of Oakville “seem to have much less disruption and damage.”

We have reports from a number of other Napa Valley wineries who escaped serious damage.

Ed and Irene Odjana of Vineyard {511} were away from home when the quake hit. Although their Diamond Mountain vineyard and home is located in Calistoga, 30 miles north of the epicenter, they make their wine at at Jessup Cellars Winery in the city of Napa and their fulfillment house, where they store and ship bottled wine, is located in American Canyon.

“While Jessup Cellars Winery suffered some damage, none of our wine was harmed. Similarly, our fulfillment house was not damaged – all of our wine is intact. We were very fortunate unlike many other wineries that lost wine in both barrels and bottles,” they said.

Jessup Cellars reported damage at their production facility. “We had a water pipe break, lost several barrels of wine, and also had empty barrels scattered about,” says Joel Quigley, Vice President of Marketing Communications at Jessup Cellars and Handwritten Wines. “Considering our winery’s close proximity to the epicenter, we feel blessed.”

Joseph Phelps Vineyards reported that many of their employees suffered lost or damaged property, but thankfully reported no injuries. The Joseph Phelps Vineyards winery and vineyard properties escaped damage. The winery’s Temporary Guest Center and administrative offices in St. Helena remain open for business, and their 2014 harvest continues.

Kelly Fleming Wines, in Calistoga, also reported no damage to wines or winery facilities. Upper valley areas, including Calistoga, experienced little damage from the quake aside from minor power outages.

“Our thoughts are with the rest of our community around Napa Valley who were impacted much more significantly, particularly in the downtown Napa area,” says Kelly Fleming.

Scott and Jana Harvey of Scott Harvey Wines were in Sacramento when the quake hit. They returned home to St Helena to find that although their 17-year old cat was not acting like himself, they noted only minimal damage in their home, and only a few bottles lost in their cellar. “Our wines in the fermenters and barrels are all okay and our case inventory at our warehouse seems also to have escaped breakage,” they report. “Since it was centered on the quake’s epicenter, it’s truly a miracle.”

Revana Family Vineyards in St. Helena also escaped unharmed. “We consider ourselves blessed to be able to report that we emerged unscathed, both in terms of wine as well as the health and the homes of each member of the team,” they reported. The Revana team stated that they were “incredibly mindful of the damage that was sustained by many of our wine family and friends around Napa Valley, and are joining in with the community to reinvest and support those who are in need.”

Napa Valley Vintners Establishes Disaster Relief Fund with $10 Million Donation

Napa Valley Vinters (NVV), the non-profit trade association responsible for promoting and protecting the Napa Valley appellation as the premier winegrowing region, is establishing a community disaster relief fund with a lead pledge of $10 million, encouraging other organizations and individuals to contribute. The NVV will partner with the Napa Valley Community Foundation (NVCF), a public charity with significant experience in responding to community needs, to administer the fund.

NVV lists the goals of the Fund:

– To provide immediate financial support for the local community
– To quickly get resources into the hands of the local families and businesses most in need
– To provide a repository for earthquake-related donations
– To augment government relief efforts that are still uncertain

For Napa County residents: Funding will be available for one-time immediate needs as well as short term assistance for things like temporary housing; basic needs (food, water, etc.); medical care and counseling; and repairs for immediate safety concerns, like replacement windows, debris removal or fallen chimneys.

For local businesses: The Fund will provide assistance to help them get them up and running allowing employees to return to work and local commerce to continue. Area nonprofits can use funds to help them to restore operations and can also apply for general support grants to serve earthquake victims.

Thea Dwelle raised $200 overnight last week from fellow wine bloggers to purchase non-perishable items that filled a barrel at the Napa Valley Food Bank.

You Can Help Too!

We donated, so can you! Napa Valley Vintners offers a number of ways you can help with the earthquake relief effort.

Donate directly to the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund via check, credit card or wire transfer by using this link.

You can make a monetary donation to the Red Cross Napa Chapter. Be sure to designate that your donation is for work in Napa.

Donate to the Napa Valley Food Bank. Drop off food donations at the warehouse location: 1766 Industrial Way, Napa, M-F 7:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. Volunteers are also needed for staffing as well as monetary donations to supplement lost items. Please call 707.253.1628 to volunteer or make a monetary donation.

You can check out the Community Resources page, if you or someone you know has been affected by the Napa Earthquake.

There have been over 70 aftershocks since last Sunday’s South Napa Earthquake. The U.S. Geological Survey says the magnitude-3.2 tremor struck 5 miles south of the city of Napa just before 2 a.m. Sunday. You can monitor earthquakes through the USGS website.

For updates on the 6.0 August 24th quake or community relief efforts, visit the Napa Valley Vintners earthquake web page.

Posted in Best of AWB, Education, Featured, Posts, Travel, Video, Wine News

Amy Corron Power View posts by Amy Corron Power

A licensed attorney, Amy is a wine-lover, foodie, photographer, political junkie and award-winning author who writes about Wine, Food, Beer & Spirits. As Managing Editor & Tasting Director for Another Wine Blog, she travels all over the world's wine regions to share her experiences with her readers and legions of twitter, Instagram and Facebook friends and fans. Amy holds certifications through the International Sommelier Guild, and is also certified, with honors, as a California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS). She is a member of the Guild of Sommeliers, The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas and regularly attends Houston Sommelier Association events. Amy is also a contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books, and was most recently published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Gratitude.
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