Napa Valley 2014: Shaky but Strong!

October 5, 2014


As you most likely know by now the drought stricken Napa Valley got a very strong wakeup call on August 24th at 3:20 am when a 6.0 earthquake rolled thru northern California. While we are used to a little rock and roll here in the San Francisco bay area, this was the largest quake since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and aftershocks continued for 11 days.


Napa took a direct hit and it caused one death and around 80 million dollars in property damage in Napa alone with many wineries loosing many barrels, tanks and bottles in storage. Downtown Napa is loaded with charming old buildings and its original residential neighborhoods have blocks of lovely old Victorian houses, many of these have been badly damaged and have been red tagged, which means they will have to be completely rebuilt and retrofitted. That of course is terrible news but as far as wineries are concerned; Napa Valley is most certainly still wide open for business and the weather once again here in 2014 has remained spectacular.


One of the strangest (or not so strange) results from this big earthquake has been the sudden running of streams that had been completely dry in Napa and Solano County. This is absolutely great news! If you have been reading this column regularly you know we are in the third consecutive year of drought here in California and this is a critical winter for us as the vines are really stressed and one of the reasons that the harvest is two full week early this year and that the crop is lighter. Please cross your fingers, legs and toes for good luck; we really need heavy rain and snow here in California this winter or it could impact the quality of the 2015 vintage.


Here on October 1st, everyone is all smiles, with all the white grapes harvested in perfect condition! We are now experiencing perfect fall weather that is giving winemakers the option to give the vines extended “hang time” and wait for the absolute perfect time to harvest the Merlot, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. With 2014 that makes three outstanding vintages in a row!


Bordeaux 2014… From my mentor and close friend Mr. Bill Blatch from Bordeaux; I am thrilled to report “that after a damp July and a cool August, Bordeaux had 26 days of the most beautiful fall weather ever. All the whites are harvested and are fragrant and focused-styled” The Merlot’s are being harvested right now and the Cabernets will be next; but just like in California, everyone is taking their time with the fine weather. The grape set and flowering in 2014 was perfect and abundant for the first time in 3 years and with this weather it is sure to be a good vintage in Bordeaux and badly needed. Much more on 2014 Bordeaux next month.


Please feel free to contact me with any questions on any area of wine at



Ralph Sands

PrimeCellar Consultant

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