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Napa Quake Notes at Midnight

By Charles Olken

It’s been a busy day here in the Bay Area—and a long one. By now, you know that it started at 3:20 this morning, and in one sense, it was all over but the shouting thirty seconds later. But, for so many of us in the wine business, it is still early days. And as I sit here and pen a few thoughts at midnight—knowing that there will be so much more news in the days ahead, the day refuses to leave my mind, refuses to leave me alone.

I am not sure how much more we know now than we knew almost 24 hours ago. My wife and I took early stock and found that our house here near San Francisco seemed unscathed. More on that later as a late afternoon inspection revealed cracks at corners of the foundation.

We have a daughter who has a house in Sonoma town. Early on, I assured my family across the country that they were much further away from the quake than Napa. Not true, and so tomorrow, we will venture up to within five miles of the epicenter and clean up the broken bottles, stemware, shelving that has come down.

Our task, uniting shovels, wetvacs, mops and brooms is nothing by comparison to what so many others have had to deal with. And that is what is bugging me. I have this compulsion to know what is going on. We have seen a few pictures from Silver Oak, Bouchaine, Mathiasson but precious little else. What of Larson Family in Carneros just a couple of miles from the epicenter. We celebrated here recent marriage there.

And more to the point, what of damage that goes beyond bottles and barrels and broken tanks. Wine is wine, but buildings are the home of wine. The local TV showed a picture of Trefethen’s crippled historic winery with its walls bulging out and tilted in. But the commentators barely knew it was a winery let alone that it was Trefethen.

In the days to come, everyone is going to have a story. They will be personal at first, and then they will slowly shift to the real news. What has happened to the wineries? Who will have to make major changes to their plans for crush just at a time when the grapes are getting ready to be picked. Napa is not California. There will be a harvest, and even wineries in Napa will find a way—we hope for all of them, but that is far from certain and thus the longing for news and the anguish we feel for folks whose anguish is far more real than our own.

This blog is not really about current news. The Spectator, the Twittosphere, FaceBook will bear better witness than we can because we can only rely on the reporting of others. We must necessarily pass by wineries on our way to Sonoma tomorrow, and we certainly will look at those along our route.

Tonight, there are a few known facts, but mostly there is speculation borne of the knowledge that the harm done extends beyond a few wineries. The damage is done. The story remains to be told. Keep our friends, your friends in your thoughts. It may be all that we can do, but it is what we must do.


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