Stainless Steel to the Rescue in Wine Country, Earthquake Country

When wine country and earthquake country share a lot of common ground, stainless steel wine barrels are an important ally.

In recent earthquakes both at home in Napa Valley and abroad, wine industries have been rattled by a sudden loss of product, facilities, time and vineyard land. Storage shelves have fallen, oak and cement barrels have broken, power has been lost, vines have been compromised — a lot can go wrong in wine country when an earthquake hits.

While any earthquake damage is bad news, many winemakers have turned to stainless steel wine barrels for an extra defense against earthquakes. Our stainless steel wine barrels can be safely stacked 4 to 6 barrels high depending on gauge of steel and barrel design, but in the heart of earthquake territory tend to err on the lower side. However, many winemakers confidently stack their stainless steel wine barrels up to 4 to 5 barrels high without concern that the barrels themselves would be damaged if an earthquake hit.

In 2014 an earthquake in South Napa measured at 6.0 on the moment of magnitude scale. The earthquake was the largest to hit the Bay Area in 25 years. Winemakers shuddered at what they might find in their barrel room when it was safe enough to return to work. At Bryter Estates Winery, the potential disaster was mitigated by Skolnik stainless steel. The Bryter workers were ecstatic to find that the contents of their aging racks was left unscathed — their vintages were safe and secure in their Skolnik stainless steel wine barrels.

Damage across Napa winemakers ranged from the loss of 20,000 gallons and 15,000 cases of wine, the contents of which managed to flood the property of a few wineries, to just a few broken glasses. But, as other winemakers scrambled to assess the damage from the quake, Bryter Estates could rest a little easier, knowing that their vintages, some of their most expensive products, were safe with stainless steel.

Many more winemakers relied on stainless steel wine barrels as a plan B — siphoning wine from damaged or leaking, but not destroyed wine tanks into a supply of stainless steel wine barrels.

Napa Valley isn’t the only wine territory that overlaps with an earthquake zone. And, while there is no guarantee that stainless steel barrels will remain intact, they are stronger, thicker and a whole lot less fragile than the average oak barrel.