The quake struck just as the grape-harvesting season was getting under way in Napa County, a significant wine-producing area that generates thousands of jobs in a region famed for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The full extent of industry damage had yet to be assessed, but one Napa winery spokesman said the quake would do little to harm what was otherwise expected to be a superb 2014 vintage. In Napa, a number of building facades crumbled in the historic district, and numerous wineshops were strewn with broken bottles. Disaster modeling firm CoreLogic estimated that total insured economic losses could range from $500m to $1bn, though it acknowledged “a fair amount of uncertainty” around those numbers. Roughly a quarter to half of that projection could come from residential losses, CoreLogic said, noting that $1.8bn in insured claims were paid to policyholders after the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake struck San Francisco in 1989.
The Insurance Information Institute in New York likewise estimated that insured quake damage would probably measure in the hundreds of millions of dollars, although overall economic losses will likely run several times higher. That is because only about 6pc of Napa area homes are covered by earthquake insurance, said Robert Hartwig, president and economist at the institute. Parts of Napa’s wine industry ground almost to a halt on Monday as workers raced to clean up and salvage their products. Managers at Napa Barrel Care, which stores product for a number of area vintners, were busy siphoning up spilled wine and scrambling to find barrels to store the spoils until they could be disposed of, owner Mike Blom said. Behind him loomed a mountain of barrels, many shattered, that had fallen over and piled up during the incident, and the pungent odor of fermenting wine hung in the air. “It’s a big mess right now,” said Rick Ruiz, operations director for the wine retailer TwentyFour wines. “It’s a logistical nightmare.” Also hard hit was the 19th-century wooden building that houses the tasting room and offices of Trefethen Family Vineyards. The first floor was shifted 3 to 4 feet by the quake. Despite damage on the premises, the timing of the quake helped Trefethen and otherwineries escape major production setbacks because it struck after the 2013 vintage had been bottled and sent off for delivery but before most of the grapes were ready to be picked. 27/8/2014