Politics & Government

Napa wine and food businesses mop up

The smell of spilled wine. The sound of broken glass swept into dustpans and dumpsters. The sight of widening puddles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the floor.

This is Napa, a region defined by its wine and food, rattled by a 6.0-magnitude earthquake.

“Obviously this is a real blow,” said Marguerite Capp, owner of Capp Heritage Vineyards.

Capp opened her downtown Napa tasting room in February, in a 98-year-old building that took two years to renovate. In a matter of minutes, the earthquake cracked 5-foot windows, knocked plaster off the walls and ceiling, and destroyed 10 to 12 cases of wine priced at $400 or $500 each.

Napa has 789 wineries, which produced 49.7 million cases of wine in 2011, according to a study by Stonebridge Research. The study concluded that Napa wine production has a $13 billion economic impact in the county; $26 billion in California; and $50 billion in the U.S.

Wineries in the area were taking stock following the quake Sunday. Sutter Home Winery employee Jorge Orozco said that his company stores 4,000 or 5,000 barrels of wine in the Napa Barrel Care warehouse outside of downtown Napa. He is worried about how the barrels fared.

“From what I saw, it doesn’t look pretty in there,” he said. “There are hills of barrels on the floor. Wine spilled on the ground.”

Tom Montgomery, a winemaker at B.R. Cohn in Glen Ellen told the Associated Press that his winery lost “as much as 50 percent” of its wine.

The Asociated Press also reported that Dahl Vineyards in Yountville lost a barrel containing $16,000 worth of pinot noir.

At the Capp Heritage Vineyards tasting room, employees were wiping the bar clean of spilled wine and glass. Two blocks away, employees at the Lucero Olive Oil store were slipping and sliding as they cleaned. Lucero manager David Gadlin estimated that the quake knocked 70 percent of his store’s artisanal oil and vinegar onto the floor. “Sweep and mop, and repeat the process about 100 times,” he said.

Farther down the street, Joe Pfeifer, wine bar manager at Bounty Hunter Wine, assisted his nine employees with cleaning up broken bottles and spilled wine. He estimated that they lost 200 to 250 bottles of wine. “We’re sweeping, mopping,” he said. “Just trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.”

After cleanup, Napa businesses must wait to reopen until city officials determine if buildings are structurally sound.

“We’re going to wait and see how things look tomorrow ... and what the powers-that-be say about the structural integrity of the building,” Pfeifer said.

Capp said she and her fellow Napa businesses would muddle through. “We’re farmers,” she said. “Farmers are strong, self-sufficient people, and we’ll work through this and move on. That’s what farmers do.”

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