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Napa wineries rocked by powerful earthquake

The most powerful earthquake to hit northern California for 25 years has left more than 100 injured and wreaked havoc in wine cellars across Napa Valley and Sonoma County on the eve of harvest.

Damage to barrel storage room at Oak Knoll in Napa County. (Image: La Villas)

A 6.1 magnitude quake rocked the region and woke its residents in the early hours of Sunday morning. Its epicentre was in American Canyon, just south of the city of Napa.

Just under 200 people have been treated in hospital, mostly for minor injuries. Three people have been reported as seriously hurt.

The quake damaged historic buildings in downtown Napa and to wineries north of Napa in Carneros, Yountville and Oakville. It also ruptured full wine tanks at the Sebastiani winery in Sonoma.

The quake also buckled some of the wine country’s main roads and caused widespread power outages. Wineries were still assessing the damage on Monday evening, but region-wide property damage has been estimated at US$4bn by Kinetic Analysis Corporation.

Among the wineries suffering serious damage were Saintsbury, where barrel stacks collapsed, and Trefethen in Oak Knoll, which sustained severe structural damage to its historic 1886 building where visitors are received.

Trefethen spokesperson Terry Hall told Decanter.com, ‘The family is 100% committed to putting her back in shape.’ Winemaker Aaron Pott also posted a picture on Facebook of tumbled barrels and wine tanks at the Napa Wine Company crush facility in Oakville.

Others escaped unscathed. Steve MacRostie, of MacRostie Winery in Carneros, said, ‘We came in here Sunday morning at seven o’clock and did an inspection by flashlight. Everything seemed to be fine.’

Shafer winemaker Elias Fernandez also said his winery avoided damage thanks to barrel racks that are much sturdier than industry standard. ‘We have barrel racks that are permanent and cross-braced.’

Russ Weiss, general manager of Silverado and chairman of the Napa Valley Vintners, said his winery also avoided damage, but that the trade body ‘has already established an earthquake response forum for wineries to ask for help if they need extra tank space or barrels so those of us who got off easy can help those of us who didn’t’.

Written by Tim Teichgraeber in California

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