The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2014

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Page 52 of 132

52  /  the tasting panel  / october 2014 SHAKE-OUT O n August 24, 2014, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck at 3:20 a.m. PDT just five miles south of the town of Napa, CA—the strongest quake to hit the Bay Area since 1989. Pictures immediately flooded social shar- ing sites—images of living rooms and kitchens torn asunder, winery crush pads buried under barrels toppled ten to 20 feet high and wine draining into gutters—a nightmarish scene that highlights the reality of living atop active fault lines that bear no sympathy for human invention. Wineries hit the hardest were within the vicinity around the town of Napa. Covenant Winery winemaker Jeff Morgan, who makes wine for a private client at Laird in North Napa, said that all 21 of his barrels wound up on the floor, but that the crew there worked swiftly and did a great job of cleaning up. "I discovered 20 of my 21 barrels of wine were intact, had not leaked and the bungs were in solid. I'm hoping many of my colleagues are experiencing similar good news." Mindi Burnett, who works at Swanson Vineyards, said her family's home in Napa was in complete disarray and without power for three days. "All our cabinets were flung open," but with the silver lining was that, "somehow no glass came flying out." However, she reports, "I had some friends with inches of glass on their floor." As for the winery, which is based in Rutherford, only a few bottles broke, and a swift cleanup allowed them to host the former Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, for an 11:00 a.m. tasting, less than eight hours after the quake struck. This duality of "business as usual" vs. "closed for repairs" the day after was rampant throughout the valley. Just 12 miles south, the historic Trefethen Winery, an old wooden structure that has withstood the major quakes of 1906, 1989 and 2000, buckled under the shaking of this one. A newsletter from the family reported no injuries, but noted that their stainless steel tanks "sustained some damage, some being sheared from their mounts." The wine was moved to other tanks without loss and most barrels "thrown about helter- skelter" were empty. Christian Oggenfuss, Chief Education Officer of the Napa Valley Wine Academy, reported that all "instructors and employees are safe" and that "we were fortunate to escape with little impact and no damage." At storage facility Valley Wine Warehouse, near the epicenter in American Canyon, very minimal damage was sustained thanks to safety and security precautions in place. Winemaker Aaron Pott, who, in addition to his own label, makes wine at Blackbird Vineyards, said, "We didn't lose a drop. We make our wines at Quixote Winery in the Stags Leap District, and we have all of our barrels stacked just one and two high. Blackbird, however, lost 18 of 420 barrels." For others in the valley, like Morgan and Pott, the hope is that original esti- mates, which assumed 50–60 percent in loses, will in fact be much less. "The spirits of many cellar workers I've been talking to, who have been affected, are great—they're a hardy bunch," says Morgan. For the wineries that sustained heavier damages, life is moving on. Though they are spending time and energy on cleanup rather than getting ready for harvest, the fact is, there's wine to be made, and everyone is digging their way out and getting back on track. Getting Back on Track IN POST-EARTHQUAKE NAPA, WINERIES PICK UP THE PIECES AND PRESS ON by Jonathan Cristaldi Napa Valley Vintners came up with an inspirational poster that embodies the winemaking community's feelings. ILLUSTRATION COURTESY OF NAPA VALLEY VINTNERS

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