Napa Valley--or all of California for that matter--is one of the most beautiful wine growing regions in the world. Which is why it also attracts more visitors than most any major wine producing area on Earth. On most any day of the year and especially in the late summer and early fall, thousands of wine loving tourists, wine professionals or those that are just curious flock to Northern California to admire and sample some the very best wines in the world. This is pretty much how the day went last Saturday, August 23. The kind of day you would come to expect in Napa Valley, bright sunshine, gentle breeze, all the tasting rooms were bustling with wine geeks, all was good. But as the saying goes, all good things come to and end. And it did, because at approximately 2:00 on Sunday morning a magnitude 6 earthquake rocked the wine country of Northern California. The quake caused over $1,000,000,000 worth of damage and injured more than 100 people, but thankfully no deaths were directly attributed to the quake. This was the largest quake to hit the Bay area since 1989. Those of you that are baseball fans are sure to remember the World Series game between the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants that was postponed 10 days due to that crippling earthquake.
The quake last week didn’t affect any baseball games, but it did do some major league damage to the city of Napa. Dozens of buildings were extensively damaged and a number of fires were ignited, but again, no deaths. Many retail stores did lose significant amounts of inventory, most significantly the thousands of broken bottles in wine shops. It will take more time to evaluate all the cracked and crumbled buildings, but it could have been much worse, especially in the vineyards. Many of Napa Valley’s wineries did sustain some bumps and bruises, mostly ruptured tanks and barrels (thankfully mostly empty) rolling free, wineries whose bottles in their library of older vintages were sadly lost. Ultimately the earthquake caused a lot of mess and disruption and it was a terrible thing, but had the earthquake occurred at the end of October or November instead of August, the loss of wine would have been catastrophic. At the end of October most of the vineyards would have been picked, all the tanks would have been filled and many with Napa Valley’s lifeblood, Cabernet Sauvignon. As it was the red wine barrels were mostly empty, still a lot of money in expensive oak barrels, but an empty busted barrel is always better than a full barrel!
So will the Earth shaking that happened last Sunday morning show any effect on your retail wine shelves, hard to say, but in a business that shows profit in single digit percentages ?? Who knows…
Ken Amendola, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine supervisor
Follow me on Twitter @abcwinekena