'A Sea of Cabernet': Napa Wine Businesses Assess Earthquake Damage

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When a 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck Napa early Sunday, it caused significant damage to local businesses connected to the wine business.

At Henry Hill & Company, a bonded wine warehouse, a roof caved in and sent full barrels of high-priced wine tumbling to a concrete floor below.

"We're wading around in a sea of Cabernet," said Bill Hill, the company's owner.

His warehouse contained nearly1,000 barrels—many filled with expensive, high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon wine. Hill called the building's damage "severe" and estimated that close to 20 percent of his wine has been lost at a cost of "hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Dozens of barrels are now trapped under a semi-collapsed roof. To save the wine barrels that are pinned in by the roof, Hill is trying to get help to secure the roof.

The other barrels need to be transferred to a safe, secure, temperature-controlled facility in order to save them. But Hill said it's not easy finding that type of warehouse space on short notice, and it will be difficult to move the wine barrels and transport them out of his wine-flooded facility.

To complicate matters, Hill said he doesn't have earthquake insurance. Many of his friends and other Napa-area small businesses don't have earthquake coverage either, he added.

"Earthquake insurance is expensive, hard to get and it doesn't cover much of what I need as a small business owner," Hill said.

Napa County has approximately 430 physical wineries. Napa wine industry and related businesses have an annual economic impact of $50 billion economic impact on the U.S., according to the Napa Valley Vintners, a local wine trade association.

Next door to Hill's wine storage facility, Napa Antique Wine Artifacts also sustained damage, said its owner Chris Griffith.

The specialty antiques shop sells vintner bottles, old wine bottles and decor for wineries, tasting rooms and local wine caves in and around Napa.

Griffith said he was stuck in his shop this morning after the earthquake's rubble trapped him. Eventually he was able to climb out of his shop and safely get out the door.

Griffith said he felt terrible about what his neighbor Hill is facing. Large barrels of fine wine are a very precious commodity in Napa and often impossible to replace, he added.

As Napa business start the cleanup after the earthquake, Griffith said it is impossible to ascertain just how much financial damage has befallen local Napa vineyards, wineries and associated businesses.

"There's no question the loss to the wine industry around Napa is going to be significant, and we won't be able to tally the total for weeks, if not months," Griffith added.

In addition to damage at the wine storage centers and local vineyards, a tremendous amount of wine was also lost due to broken bottles at supermarkets, wine stores, wine bars and restaurants.

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