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Wine Industry on the Road to Recovery in the Wake of the Napa Earthquake

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By Madeline Blasberg

Vines and wineglassOn August 24, just as the grape harvest was getting underway, the ground beneath California’s wine country shook as a 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck just six miles southwest of Napa. Today, nearly a month later, upwards of 150 citizens are nursing their wounds while the California wine industry is quietly mourning what is perhaps its most devastating natural disaster to date.

Widespread power outages and destruction turned the generally picturesque Napa into a disaster zone, prompting Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency. Today, historic downtown Napa wears the wounds of the quake, an uncanny look for this popular tourist destination. Historic buildings crumbled, leaving debris and bricks scattered into the streets and citizens left with the task of rebuilding.

Reports focused heavily on the damage done to residential homes and commercial buildings within the wine regions’ downtown areas, only vaguely alluding to the devastation faced by local wineries. In an effort to stem off negative PR, most wineries are reluctant to report exactly what their damage looks like, or to speculate as to what the price tag on their losses may be.

All the same, just hours after the quake, horrifying photos trickled into social media sites, with images of wine stained warehouses, toppled wine barrels, and shattered bottles. Behind the scenes, winemakers and owners are said to have rallied together to salvage what remains – sharing storage space, swapping equipment, and lending man power to smaller wineries where help is sorely needed, according to the LA Times.

The Napa Barrel Care, a barrel warehouse responsible for storing wine & barrels for 40 California wineries, lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in wine spillage. Tom Montgomery, a winemaker at B.R. Cohn Winery, told the Washington Post that the winery lost as much as 50 percent of its wine inventory, a devastating figure. The AP reported that in a single swoop Dahl Vineyards, of Yountville, lost $16,000 when a barrel of ultra-premium pinot noir smashed to the ground. The Napa Valley Vintners Organization reports that upwards of 100 wineries have reported damage and all-in-all the cost of the recent Napa earthquake is expected to surpass $1 billion.

While wineries are keeping a tight lid on the damage caused by the August 24th quake, industry insiders know that just below the surface there’s a scramble to recover and to reorganize in time for this year’s harvest season, which is now in full swing. Though it may still be too early to look on the bright side, wine professionals and consumers alike can be thankful that, at the very least, the 2014 harvest was spared.

The Napa Valley Vintners Organization has organized a Community Disaster Relief fund and volunteer effort to help those affected by the earthquake.

Madeline Blasberg is a Certified Wine Consultant currently working as an Official Wine Commentator & Reviewer for Etching Expressions, a company specializing in personalized wine bottles. She has spent time living in Mendoza, Argentina where she was surrounded by wine, both personally and professionally. – See more at: http://www.cellarangels.com/blog/wines-pair-your-summer-bbq#sthash.RZvjcL7Y.dpuf
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