While many businesses in and around Napa, California, emerged unscathed from Sunday’s 6.0 quake, Vintner’s Collective was hit hard. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
With aftershocks still rolling through after Sunday morning’s 6.0 earthquake — the biggest since the Loma Prieta quake in 1989 — some Napa and Northern California locals were stepping gingerly through rubble and admittedly jumping at each aftershock. But their message was clear: Don’t cancel your travel plans for Labor Day or harvest season; Napa community and business members will band together and bounce back fast.
“It was really scary; I’m not going to lie,” said Napa city resident Becky Tyner Sandoval, who owns Small Lot Wine Tours and works with many boutique wineries around Napa and Sonoma. “But we’ve been through these major floods that people forget about. We’ve had a lot of natural disasters here.”
In the hard-hit areas of the city of Napa, the Carneros wine region on the Sonoma/Napa counties border, neighboring American Canyon, and nearby Vallejo, the worst damage occurred in pockets, with many places coming through unscathed. Most of Napa County’s major tourist destinations —including St. Helena, Calistoga, and Yountville — reported little to no damage, with businesses planning to be open as usual this week. From the earliest hours of Sunday morning, less affected areas were sending first responders to the epicenter.
The turret of the Alexandria Square building in Napa and the Carpe Diem Wine Bar below were both damaged. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Downtown Napa businesses affected, assessing the impact
Though most people agree that the long-term damage will be to the local wine industry — and are already speculating on how the loss of so many precious barrels will affect wine prices — there was physical devastation in downtown Napa as well.
As business owners struggled to rescue merchandise from the rubble, store windows along entire streets lay shattered on the sidewalks, and walls were caved in on many historic buildings. Notable landmarks like the courthouse are awaiting inspection.
“It’s really sad, because we don’t have too many of those old buildings,” said Sandoval.
Winemaker Tom Montgomery reacted to the damage caused at the B.R. Cohn Winery barrel storage facility in Napa. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
On Sunday, the town was eerily quiet as almost all Napa business owners regrouped and took stock. Many downtown businesses are hoping to reopen early this week, but unlucky ones like Vintner’s Collective were reduced to rubble.
“A lot of places are trying to assess damage and see what makes sense,” reported a spokesperson from downtown Napa’s tourism association on Sunday. “We are following up around the clock with everyone.” Follow @napadowntown on Twitter to get the latest tweets on all downtown reopenings and news.
Keep those travel plans
Hotels in even the hardest-hit areas remain open for business — and optimistic even in the face of major cleanup efforts. In the latest official statement from the Napa Tourism Improvement District, major properties operating as usual included the Inn on First, Inn on Randolph, Napa River Inn, and the Meritage Resort and Spa. As the property closest to American Canyon, Meritage was lucky to sustain only minimal damage — and its management has been vigilant in helping less fortunate neighbors.
Alan Mathison works at cleaning up a broken storefront window. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
“We’ve had quite a few reach out individually, and we’re trying to accommodate as best as we can, just depending on their story and hardships,” said Resort Manager Robert Brand. Though Brand declined to give specific rate information, a front desk clerk quoted the rate on Monday as $299 a night, the normal price (as opposed to post-Hurricane Sandy rates in New York, when hotels were charging the displaced up to $1,000 a night).
“We are … ready to accommodate people coming into the area, and also open to helping local people who have been affected,” Brand said. “We’re also working with hotels further up the valley that may have had to relocate some of their guests.”
Meritage is also compiling a list of frequently visited nearby wineries and restaurants to share with the many concerned travelers contacting the resort with questions. Brand estimated that 80 to 85 percent of local businesses would be open on Monday.
Other hoteliers shared his positive perspective.
“Napa will indeed bounce back quickly,” said Carneros Inn founder Keith Rogal. “Everyone is hard at work in cleanup. And the sun is shining.”