OAKVILLE (CBS SF) – The dramatic pictures of toppled wine barrels that spread across social media in the moments after Sunday’s 6.0 earthquake foretold what some are saying is an incalculable cost to the wine industry.
The region produces 17% of the nation’s wine, including some of the most prized vintages bottled just north of Napa in Calistoga, Yountville and St. Helena. For owners of those labels, there is no way to replace the loss of a product bottled years ago.
David Duncan of the famed Silver Oak Winery says each bottle in their now-trashed reserve room was meant for special tastings and VIPs.
“We actually call it the inner sanctum in the winery. They’re very special, unique reference wines and we don’t sell them. They’re not available. So to lose them, they’re gone forever,” Duncan told CBS News’ Carter Evans.
Three barrels of wine at Silver Oak were also damaged, costing an estimated $100,000 in premiere vintage.
“I’ve seen some photographs from friends of barrel rooms that have taken it really hard. So I think there will be certain wineries that will be affected severely,” said Duncan.
The quake damaged 14 tanks at the Sebastiani winery in Sonoma. Cabernet Sauvignon barrels were toppled at B.R. Cohn Winery, and the Matthiasson winery reported damage to its chimney and tweeted this pic:
The Laird Family Estate lost enough wine to fill up a swimming pool and had a truck was also stuck in the dock. Robert Biale Vineyards had about 25 to 30 barrels of wine fall off the racks and on the ground, spoiling much of that wine.
At, Napa Barrel Care, a storage facility for about five wineries, at least 100 barrels of wine fell off the racks and on the ground. Each barrel can hold up to 300 bottles. Most of that wine gone.
Though we’ll likely get estimates, the loss of rare and ancient vintages with unknown costs makes it very hard to come up with a true cost to the industry of Sunday’s quake. Still, Duncan believes wine connoisseurs need not fear a widespread shortage in the future, in part because most of the grapes to be used in this year’s crush were still on the vine. What would happen had they fallen off?
“Then you would have a major disaster,” Duncan said. “You can’t put them back on.”