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First Quake Comments

By Charles Olken

The Napa quake reporting is naturally focused on people, infrastructure and public buildings.

But, we know from past earthquakes that they are extremely unfriendly to wineries. Buildings are large and are often frames around open spaces. Tanks contain immense weight and when the ground moves violently, the liquid initially stays in one place thus causing, in past quakes, broken supports, broken containers and the like. Barrel stacks are notoriously unstable. And case goods and wine bottles in racks tend to fly about.

There are already reports of some damage, and those reports are going to grow in scope and seriousness. Just minutes ago, the local TV channel (Channel 5) showed a winery building that had buckled. The announcers did not know which winery it was, but to my eyes, it is Trefethen and its historic building set along Highway 29 north of Napa and just before Yountville. It is one of the most beautiful structures in wine country, and only time will tell if and how it will salvageable.

There are some 800 wineries in the area affected by the quake. Those in Carneros are practically within spitting distance of the epicenter, and even if they are not structurally damaged, and we all certainly hope that this is case, they are going to have been affected in one way or another.

Clearly, wineries are not the highest priority for reporting in this situation, but it is almost certain that the news ranging from lost inventory to damaged buildings is yet to be told. Keep a good thought for the folks whose good works have and will keep us in good wine—even as we all worry first about the people injured and those who have lost their homes.


The B. R. Cohn winery in the Sonoma Valley north of Sonoma Town reports that it has lost half of its inventory.

This is a story that will be repeated in various ways across the region.


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