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A Shake Up in Wine Country

Deciphering the results of Napa Valley’s $300-million earthquake

On August 24 of this year, an earthquake (hardly a 6.0 on the Richter scale) hit Napa, California. The quake—reportedly the strongest that the area’s had in the modern age—not only left more than 1,100 buildings in the destination town at least temporarily uninhabitable, but destroyed an unprecedented amount of the wine that’s made Napa such a popular place to visit in the first place. 

A recent visit to Napa revealed that while the winemaking community is certainly still shaken, it’s nothing if not resilient. In fact, the general sentiment may best be expressed by a message from The Meadowood resort to its neighbors: “Press On, Napa Valley.”

The popular spot on Napa’s Silverado Trail reported no damage to its own ritzy property, set above members-only club The Napa Valley Reserve, but it did welcome locals to an in-house restaurant the morning after the quake for breakfast and lunch—and, one visitor says, “lots of hot coffee.” 

Still, it’ll take more than coffee to clean up the mess left in the earthquake’s wake. It’s been estimated by Napa’s Community Development Department that the total cost for structural damage from the trembler alone could reach $300 million, though figures on losses from wineries and restaurants—two of the region’s major tourist draws—have yet to be calculated. Vintners are, of course, still reeling.

“It’s normally quiet here on Mount Veeder late at night,” says James Caudill, of The Hess Collection. “But when the earthquake hit, it would have been anything but.”

Caudill reports that a pair of 10,000-gallon tanks, both filled with Cabernet, burst and sent 15,000 cases of vino flowing into the garden spanning the front area of their visitor center. He adds: “Barrels bounced off racks into windows in the gift shop, shattering them.”

Napa Valley, which drew roughly 2.94 million visitors in 2012 (generating nearly $1.4 billion in direct county spending), will of course carry on, though some are already wondering whether the fruit being harvested in the midst of the chaos will be commemorated in the coming years with, perhaps, the release of an earthy 2014 “Seismic Syrah.”

The sentiment echoed by many wineries throughout Napa is one of optimism. When DuJour spoke to Tony and Herta Peju, of Peju Province Winery, they were enthusiastic about business and the future. “As for us, we are pressing on,” the pair said. “Harvest is in full swing and our tasting room is open—so please, don’t feel the need to say away.”



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