Wineries closest to the city of Napa and the earthquake's
epicenter reported the most serious losses after the pre-dawn jolt,
but the extent of damage was still unclear.
At Saintsbury, around a mile (1.6 km) from the epicenter, co-founder
Richard Ward said "we saw a lot of action."
The wine library with samples of Saintsbury vintages since 1981 was
hit hard and about 400 bottles were destroyed, while empty barrels
came crashing down, creating a big mess.
Ward's wife, Linda Reiff, said "this whole thing was knee deep with
solid broken glass."
Harvest at Saintsbury was due to start Monday and Ward said "We'll
probably put that off a couple of days."
The quake that struck at 3:20 a.m. (1020 GMT) was centered 6 miles
(10 km) south of Napa and injured dozens of people, damaged historic
buildings, set some homes on fire and caused extensive power outages
around the picturesque town of Napa.
It was one of the biggest earthquakes to hit the wine region since
it emerged as a formidable competitor to French wines in the 1970s,
marked by two Napa Valley wines winning the historic 1976 Paris
The valley is home today to more than 500 wineries, many of them
famous producers of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and
'HURT A TINY BIT'
At Silver Oak Winery in Oakville, north of Napa, they lost several
hundred bottles of wine, most of them used internally as control
bottles for tastings and blends.
"Those bottles were not for sale publicly, but they held really
important information to us," said Silver Oak spokesman Ian Leggat.
In downtown Napa, a historic city which had in recent years
undergone a big urban renewal to cater to the wine industry and
tourism, the quake hit tasting rooms and restaurants which would
have been busy on Sunday.
Marguerite Capp, owner of the small winery Capp Heritage Vineyards,
was cleaning up her downtown Napa tasting room and said the quake
struck at a bad time.
"We are getting ready for the harvest in two weeks. This is going to
hurt a tiny bit, and then we are going to get on with it. Mother
Nature moves on whether or not we are ready for her,Ē Capp said.
[to top of second column]
These weeks are the busiest time for both the wine and tourism
industries that sustain the bucolic valley located 45 miles (70 km)
north of San Francisco.
Domaine Carneros, a maker of sparkling wine founded by the French
group Taittinger, was open for business and dozens of visitors
milled around the estate chateau even though the property is close
to the epicenter.
"Our assistant winemaker says everything looks fine," in the cellar,
said Jake Shebitz, assistant manager, who also didn't foresee any
problems with the harvest.
Several in the industry said that strict building codes and
earthquake recommendations, like never stacking more than six
bottles, likely helped limit damage.
But there was concern about losses to warehouses and other
wine-related businesses that had sprung up between Napa and American
Canyon in recent years to take advantage of nearby highways.
Marsha Herbert, owner of Custom Wine Services in American Canyon,
said she lost a couple hundred cases of wine, including some
high-end bottles, out of thousands stored in the warehouse.
"To me, it looked awful, because there was wine everywhere," said
Herbert. "But when people stopped in to check on their inventory,
they didnít think it was that bad."
Herbert estimated it would take until Wednesday for clean-up to be
completed and inventory totaled.
(Additional reporting by Robin Respaut, Charles Mikolajczak,
Christine Farr and Peter Henderson; Writing by Mary Milliken;
Editing by Eric Walsh)
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