An intense 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit Napa County, California, at 3:20 a.m. on Sunday, August 24, injuring more than 200 people, damaging structures and toppling barrels and bottles across winery tasting rooms and storage facilities.
The impact of the quake prompted California Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency for southern Napa at the center of the earthquake, located about 10-miles northwest of American Canyon and six miles south of the town of Napa. The area, which has a population of nearly 80,000 people, hasn’t suffered such a forceful shake since 1989, when the 6.9-magnitude Loma Prieta resulted in the Bay Bridge collapse. Sunday’s damage is estimated to be $1 billion.
“Several structures in the city of Napa, many of historic nature, received significant damage,” reads a statement by Visit Napa Valley. “At this time, it appears the majority of the damage was centered on specific areas in the city of Napa. The regions around Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga seem to have experienced minimal damage and disruption.”
Many in the wine business were feeling simultaneously overwhelmed and relieved.
“My big sigh of relief is that it happened at 3:30 a.m.,” said Elizabeth Vianna, winemaker and general manager of Chimney Rock Winery in the Stags Leap District, just north of the town of Napa. “It could have happened during the work day and people at wineries could have been killed.”
The winery closed its tasting room on Sunday out of respect for its employees and community, and to assess how much damage had been done. Luckily, they did not have any barrel or bottle damage, but they are one of few who can say the same.
“Miraculously, not a single barrel budged and not a single broken bottle,” said Vianna. “I have gotten devastating pictures at some other wineries, Cuvaison, Saintsbury, Fontanella [Family Winery]. It sounds like damage to wineries south on Highway 29 were great.”
Indeed, photos posted via Twitter by Silver Oak Winery and Matthiasson show toppled wine barrels and piles of broken bottles.
— Matthiassons (@matthiassonwine) August 24, 2014
“It seems the heart of Napa took quite a beating,” said Mia Malm, publicist for a range of Napa Valley winery clients. “My office [in Napa] is in a historical building and sustained heavy damage to the brick-and-stone façade at the front and rear. I’m very grateful that the quake hit when it did and there was no one in the building.”
The Napa Valley Vintners continues to gather information from its 500 member wineries across the Napa Valley. Updates will be made at napavintners.com/earthquake. To make donations to the Red Cross of Napa, visit here.