Napa Valley residents were jolted from sleep at 3:20 a.m. yesterday by a 6.0 magnitude earthquake centered six miles south of the acclaimed wine region. The quake, which was the strongest to hit Northern California since the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, injured more than 200 people, and caused massive damage to buildings and wineries in the region.
Hardest hit were the towns of American Canyon and Napa itself, as well as wineries in the southern part of the valley and the Carneros region. René Schlatter, the CEO and president of Merryvale Vineyards and Starmont Wines, says, “We got a pretty good shake, to say the least. In our barrel rooms at Starmont, which is in Carneros, 80 to 90 percent of the barrels fell off the racks and are just piled up—we have a total of about 8,000 barrels between the three rooms. And we can’t really do anything until a structural engineer comes in, because we don’t know if it’s safe. Some barrels were full, and some were empty; we know we lost some wine, but we don’t know the extent yet.”
Farther up the valley, though, damage was less significant. At Silver Oak Cellars in Oakville, president and CEO David Duncan says, “It was kind of wild, but other than all the bottles that fell, everything was OK. We had three barrels full of wine fall, but we were able to salvage almost everything that was in them.” When he rebuilt the winery after a major fire in 2006, Duncan says, “Everything was about earthquake protection. And that seems to have really paid off. We were definitely slapping each other on the back about that last night.”