A Napa Icon Reborn

Revisiting Trefethen’s historic winery one year after a devastating earthquake
A Napa Icon Reborn
Trefethen's McIntyre building has relied on a support system since the 2014 earthquake. (Courtesy of Trefethen)
Aug 19, 2015

The earth shook in Napa Valley a year ago this Monday. The quake hit at 3:20 in the morning; it was a serious jolt that registered a magnitude of 6.0. Buildings crumbled, roadways cracked open, towering tanks of wine fractured and spilled their contents and oak barrels were tossed like piles of dice inside wineries.

It was a terrible day for all of us living in the area. Hundreds were injured, one person died, and the quake caused an estimated $400 million in damages. A year later, the rebuilding continues, and nowhere is that more evident than the historic McIntyre winery at Trefethen Vineyards in Yountville. "We still have a lot of work ahead of us," said Hailey Trefethen, part of the third generation of the family-owned winery.

Built in 1886, the McIntyre winery is one of the most architecturally significant buildings in Napa Valley. Just after the quake, Hailey and her mother, Janet Trefethen, dashed to the winery in the morning darkness to find the three-story wood structure buckled and sagged. The upper floors leaned 4 feet further west than the foundation.

Today, the building stands straight again, steadied outside by a buttress of steel beams and other supports inside. In May, a team of engineers used cables and winches to methodically shift the structure back in place inch by inch.

"We thought it was going to take a month but it only took a week," Hailey said. "That was the great surprise of the process. It was upright for 128 years. It just wanted to go back in place. It had structural memory."

The next step will be removing the siding from the building, one side at a time. Each piece of siding has been numbered and the hope is that most of the siding will be salvaged. The walls will be reinforced inside with new plywood and the siding will go back up. "We want to leave as much of the original material as we can," Hailey said.

The repairs will cost millions and will take at least another year to finish. The Trefethens took yet another financial hit because of the quake: The damaged building was the winery's visitor center and a significant source of income.

With the tasting room closed, there was nothing for many employees to do. It took a month for the Trefethens to get permits approved and a snazzy white tent in place to welcome consumers, and throughout it all the family refused to let any employees go. Hailey was put in charge of keeping the staff busy answering phones, welcoming guests at the gate—whatever it took.

Despite the financial hardships, there was never a question of saving the McIntyre building. In 1968, her parents and grandparents painstakingly restored it, and Hailey and her brother Loren grew up playing there. Standing outside the old winery, Hailey said, "My father, in his first couple of vintages, slept in this building right next to the fermentor."

That building is part of the Trefethen family, and no 6.0 is going to take that away.

Disasters Earthquake United States California Napa News

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