A Rude Awakening in North Coast Wine Country

Quake1I first learned of the earthquake that struck California’s North Coast wine country early Sunday morning when I logged on to Facebook and read this post from a “friend of a friend”:

“To all my non-nor cal, wine loving peeps: the price of good wine is going up!”

It was accompanied by a picture of a private wine cellar with bottles littered all over the floor, and a shared post indicating that an earthquake had occurred.

My initial reaction was anger. How could anyone be more concerned with the price of wine than, say, whether anyone had been injured… or killed… in the earthquake?

I would have immediately “un-friended” this person except, like I said, he is a “friend of a friend”… so all I could do was navigate away from his mindless post and seek out some dependable sources.

In California wine country, there is no more dependable source than Jim Caudill, who handles P.R. for Napa Valley’s Hess Collection winery. This was his initial post on the earthquake:

“Big time earthquake 3:19… checking for damage… felt gnarly.”

Quake3Before long, Jim was re-tweeting and posting pictures from other friends in the industry: a full aisle of broken wine bottles at the Safeway store in American Canyon, believed to be the epicenter of the 6.1 magnitude quake… building damage in downtown Napa… various shots from the Napa Register.

But it was still too early to fully understand the extent of the damage. Jim had been in contact with fellow Hess employees, though, and posted this update:

“We do have some damage on Mount Veeder in our cellars, will need to wait on Mother Nature to turn on a bit more light to fully grasp the extent of our damage…updates to come. Many of our colleagues who live nearby, especially below the winery in Brown’s Valley, report extensive damage to glassware, dishes and such, but so far, all are shaken (stirred too) but fine. We’re all nervously laughing and smiling, but saying prayerful thanks that no one has been hurt. We learn to live with it, but it’s serious stuff that we plan for.”

Not long thereafter, as the light of day revealed just how much damage the earthquake had done, Jim posted this:

“As a result of damage here on our Mount Veeder home, the Visitor’s Center will be closed initially on Monday and Tuesday while we assess damage and make some repairs. Thank you for your understanding and patience, we hope to be open for your visits mid-week.”

Then came a series of stunning photos: winery artwork knocked over… a floor covered with glass — glass that used to be 300 Champagne flutes… barrels thrown off racks, some shattered.

photo“I’ve never seen a barrel shattered,” Jim posted. “This is unreal.”

By day’s end, similar stories were being told and scenes repeated up and down the valley. The biggest earthquake to hit Northern California in 25 years had, quite obviously, resulted in extensive damage — quite possibly changing the lives of hundreds of people forever.

And yet all some could think about in the first minutes after the quake was the possibility of the price of wine going up.

– – – – –

We’ll have more on the earthquake tomorrow, and we’ll explain why the price of wine is NOT likely to go up as a result of the quake. Then on Wednesday, we’ll offer some advice on how you can better protect the wine bottles you have in your home.

Meanwhile, we send good thoughts to Jim Caudill and all of our other friends in North Coast wine country. We hope your facilities escaped with only minor damage, but most of all, we hope all of you are safe.

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3 comments on “A Rude Awakening in North Coast Wine Country
  1. jimcaudill says:

    Having lived in Northern California since 1980, I’ve experienced a few of these big and small, but this one felt really quite dramatic, and they don’t always. I’m still apologizing to my dog Garbo for thinking she must have jumped off the bed and knocked something over…sometimes a major earthquake is just a major earthquake. We’re cleaning up very well — it’s amazing to watch our talented and dedicated cellar crew tackle the problems — and we need to get it back into shape because the grapes, they are a comin’….

    • Robert Johnson says:

      Thanks for commenting, Jim. I’m sure Garbo will forgive you in time. Hang in there. Best of luck with the clean up and the harvest!

  2. […] reported on the quake the day after it hit, sharing friend and colleague Jim Caudill’s early impressions. He was awakened by the shaking, […]

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