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Napa Valley wine community moves forward despite persisting tremors

Published:  28 August, 2014

The Napa Valley was shaken by three back-to-back aftershocks on Tuesday, as wineries, local businesses, and residents began to rebuild following the larger quake that struck on Saturday.

The Napa Valley was shaken by three back-to-back aftershocks on Tuesday, as wineries, local businesses, and residents began to rebuild following the larger quake that struck on Saturday.

The US Geological Survey reported the largest aftershock at a magnitude of 3.9, forming part of the greater seismic activity that occurred at a very inopportune time for the Napa Valley community. Only a few winemakers, in the midst of harvest, saw significant damage from the earthquake; however, local wine bars and restaurants - the other principal draws for tourism in the area - may suffer far greater impacts during what should be the peak of the tourist season.

Napa damageSome restaurants and bars in downtown Napa were badly damagedCarpe Diem wine bar in Napa was severely impacted by Saturday's 6.1 magnitude earthquake - businesses are now focused on rebuilding and re-opening as quickly as possible to focus on the region's busiest time.

Though parts of downtown remain roped off and inaccessible, most of Napa is open and ready for business. Clay Gregory, president of the local tourism organisation Visit Napa Valley, said: "It's not a catastrophe. It clearly was a very bad thing, and it impacted some wineries and some homes. But it's not a catastrophe." The website,, provides frequent updates as businesses report that they are open to the public.

Earthquake insurance: expensive and ineffective

Other forms of aftershock manifested following the quake, most of which were spurred by assessments of financial losses experienced by wineries, local businesses and private homes. Earthquake insurance - or lack thereof - has been a topic of concern for all those affected by the event. 

Kinetic Analysis Corp estimated that damage to the region's businesses meant economic losses of around $4 billion, with roughly half that covered by insurance.

In an interview with the New York Times, Saintsbury co-founder Richard Ward said that though the company has earthquake insurance, they are subject to a $100,000 deductible, which is standard for the state of California. Actual damage to the winery is estimated to be in the $50,000 range so "we will just absorb it," said Ward.

Local agency Vantreo Insurance Brokerage noted in a statement that only four out of its 80 winery clients have earthquake coverage. "It's expensive," said agency owner Pam Chanter. Another agent explained that a policy to cover $4 million in inventory can merit an annual premium cost of $20,000. Staci Davidson of Guerrero Insurance Agency in Napa agreed, saying very few people - fewer than 2% of their clients - buy earthquake insurance because of the cost.

Earthquake insurance in California is paid through the California Earthquake Authority, a public entity, but managed through individual insurance companies.

Napa wineries to fund community relief efforts

Whilst downtown Napa businesses have a long road ahead, most Napa Valley wineries are already back to business as usual. The Napa Valley Vintners Association said: "The vast majority of wineries are reporting that they are open for business." In order to help their neighbours that were more adversely affected by the earthquake, the NVV - with its 500 member wineries - will donate $10 million to the Disaster Relief Fund for Local Residents and Businesses.

The NVV, in partnership with the public charity Napa Valley Community Foundation, will administer the relief funds to Napa County residents as well as local businesses to get them operating again, allowing employees to return to work and local commerce to continue. 

"Hundreds of homes and businesses in the local community were damaged by this disaster," said Russ Weis, chairman of the NVV Board of Directors and general manager of Silverado Vineyards. "The Fund will provide resources and assistance to support the community as it rebuilds."