Can a Napa Icon Be Saved?

The Trefethen family vows to restore the historic but quake-damaged McIntyre winery
Sep 17, 2014

Of all the dramatic visuals the morning after the Napa earthquake—the shattered wine cellars and landslides of fallen barrels—nothing for me was more startling than the live TV images of the historic McIntyre building, crippled and sagging on the grounds of Trefethen Vineyards in Yountville. 

History is a fascination of mine and the old McIntyre winery is one of the most architecturally significant buildings in Napa Valley. It was built in 1886 by Hamden McIntyre, a Scotsman who was also behind the impressive designs of Far Niente and Inglenook wineries as well as Greystone, now home to the West Coast campus of the Culinary Institute of America.

The quake hit at 3:20 a.m. on Aug. 24 and it was still dark at 4 a.m. when Hailey Trefethen and her mother, Janet, arrived at the winery, where the upper floors now lean 4 feet further west than the foundation. "In that light especially," Hailey recalled, "it didn't look real. It was like a cartoon. We were in shock."

There were no employees working at the time, thankfully, she said, but by 10 a.m. the entire winery crew was on site, even though many of their homes were in shambles. "That's when I started crying for the first time, to know what this place means to all of our employees," Hailey said.

While most of the winemaking was done in nearby buildings, the old winery was like a home to the Trefethen family. Hailey and her brother Loren grew up playing there, and before the quake it was used as offices, tasting room and barrel storage.

After buying the property in 1968 and painstakingly restoring the McIntyre building, the Trefethens are hopeful they can once again restore its former glory. The first step was shoring up the building with iron beams and other measures to make it safe for engineers and architects to go inside.

The restoration plan is still in the works, and for now the winery remains closed to visitors, although the family has plans for a makeshift tasting room. As for a timetable on restoring the classic structure -- if it's possible - it remains too soon to know. "Realistically, yes, it could be a few years," she said. "Hopefully, not too many."

Right now, at least, the winery is focusing on harvest. "We've been making wine through all of this," Hailey said. "We're going to have to wait until the end of harvest before we know more."

Disasters Earthquake United States California Napa

You Might Also Like

It’s a New Day in Woodinville

It’s a New Day in Woodinville

With Chateau Ste. Michelle’s continued presence in question, Washington state’s mecca of …

Dec 22, 2022
Oregon Pinot Noir Star Lynn Penner-Ash Moves On

Oregon Pinot Noir Star Lynn Penner-Ash Moves On

The Willamette Valley icon retires after four decades in the wine business

Sep 22, 2022
Zinfandel According to Nalle

Zinfandel According to Nalle

The Sonoma veteran's claret-style Zins are back in favor as the next generation refines …

Mar 30, 2022
In Praise of 2019 California Zinfandels

In Praise of 2019 California Zinfandels

Early returns suggest this is one of the most enjoyable vintages in years

Feb 17, 2022
Saying Goodbye to Washington’s Buty Winery

Saying Goodbye to Washington’s Buty Winery

After more than two decades of winemaking, owner Nina Buty closed up shop last week at her …

Jan 26, 2022
Burgundy's Louis Jadot Expands Its Oregon Footprint

Burgundy's Louis Jadot Expands Its Oregon Footprint

French négociant adds 82-acre Eola-Amity Hills property to its Résonance portfolio

Jan 6, 2022