After spending a few days in Napa, post-earthquake, I can share good news and bad news. The good news first: Harvest is zooming along, grapes are coming in, wine is being made and, from all reports, the quality is amazingly good. In fact, in most of the valley, you’d never know that a major earthquake hit on August 24; it’s business almost as usual (which means that if you have plans for a Napa trip this harvest season, definitely don’t cancel them).
The good news by no means extends to everyone, though. In the media, there have been occasional “oh, gee, Napa Valley had an earthquake—did the millionaires break all their wineglasses?” reports. But the truth is that the median per capita income in Napa County is actually a little over $35,000. There are some very rich people in the area, to be sure, but there are many, many more people who are vineyard workers, cellar hands, restaurant waitstaff and all the other jobs that help keep a major wine-producing region (and travel destination) functioning. I spoke to viticulturist and winemaker Steve Matthiasson, whose own house is currently red-tagged and uninhabitable, not to mention jacked up on 10-foot stacks of wooden blocks. “It’s the ‘Oh, Napa has a lot of money’ idea," he said. "But look, one of the guys moving rubble for us whipped out his phone and showed us his place. It’s yellow-tagged; he’s been told he’s going to be evicted. There are definitely people who are going to be homeless. A lot of people are really in trouble.”
To help those people out, Matthiasson—a Food & Wine Winemaker of the Year in 2012—recently launched a “Quake Cuvée,” which is available for preorder until September 15; all after-tax profits go to the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund. “We’ve sold nearly $37,000 worth of it so far, which is great. And we’ll sell as many more bottles as we can.”