Heat Damaged Wine In California?

I know that I will be criticized for bringing this up and probably accused of kicking people while they are down. But living in a city that largely lost its wine inventories in the scorching heat during the post Katrina days, I know that discloser is important, as painful as it might be. If the consumer does not know what areas were affected, they may decide to err on the side of caution by avoiding the larger area as a whole. So if it is known what areas did not lose power for multiple days and what temperatures were like, it will surely benefit consumer confidence. No nefarious motives here; I hope that the damages were minimal.

This is a good question, I’d assume the good businesses would have insurance to cover the loss…and if I’m sold wines that show signs of heat damage I’ll just not choose to buy there again.

Couple of answers: Very few wine shops or wine storage facilities were affected by power outages for very long. And while there were a few days of higher temps (80s), low temperatures were in the 30s and 40s almost every day, with less daylight than night hours now that it’s fall. Any decent building would have stayed relatively cool, even without AC running. I don’t think this is something to worry about. We’ve had a few days in the mid 80s in recent weeks, but even in my poorly insulated house, without AC, the inside temperature has barely made 70, and we don’t get as cold at night as Napa or Santa Rosa does.

Also many wineries and storage facilities have back up power options such as generators, so listing regions that lost PG&E supplied power can be very misleading and hurt brands as consumers may not realize this. Best to let each winery handle this question on an individual basis.

Is it correct to assume that what you state is applicable to the Norh Valley, South Valley, and all the areas of Sonoma that had the fires?

Most folks I know store everything offsite in places far away from the fires, as square footage in wine country is prohibitively expensive.

Well, I wasn’t in the affected areas, so am speculating a bit. But I looked at temperatures for the fire days in both Napa and Santa Rosa, and extrapolated based on similar temperatures where I am in the south bay. Plus there were very few wineries directly impacted by fires. Some along southern Silverado area, some in the Glen Ellen-Kenwood-Oakmont corridor, certainly some in the southern Mayacamas hills, and farther north in the hills between Santa Rosa and Calistoga (Tubbs fire).

Just trying to tamp down the fear and sense that seems to be out there that the whole Napa/Sonoma area has been wiped off the map. The majority of both areas is completely unaffected. That doesn’t diminish the devastation that the affected areas are going through, but it’s a small fraction of populated areas, with most of the fires being in relatively unpopulated mountain areas (and sadly, on the first night, some concentrated neighborhoods). This wasn’t Katrina, is the point, where a wide area was affected, and where power was out for a lengthy period, leaving everything exposed to quite warm ambient temperatures.

Yeah, reminds me of the '89 earthquake when all my out of family/relatives from the eastern half of the country thought the whole Bay Area was devastated because all the news kept showing was the Marina District in SF and the Cypress Structure (880) in Oakland.

It wasn’t that hot and power loss was more local than systemic, unlike Puerto Rico. We were in the Sea Ranch area before and if anything, it was ‘bring a sweater’ kind of weather.

I don’t mean to downplay the human tragedy that has happened to so many people there. One of my coworkers said his brother lost everything, and was lucky to escape alive.

It would have shown a little humanity to wait to bring this up. But you can’t get blood outta of a turnip.

IMO, the only wines affected by the power outages were the ones where the home cellar or winery burned to the ground or the wineries that bailed for a few days when the power went out and lost ferments that went too hot due to loss of glycol cooling in the tanks.

Weather was tame with evenings in the low 30s as Alan mentioned

On that same note. I had a wine shipment (2-day service) sit in Pacheco and Oakland over the 13th weekend on it’s way to Chicago. I also don’t want to kick people while they’re down but do speculate about the effects of temperature while it sat for 5 days. This is a high end wine so it will sit in my cellar for years before it is consumed.

Thoughts ? Call the winery ? Call FedEx ?

In the grand scheme of things, people in the affected area’s have way bigger issues than my expensive grape juice.

Again, temperatures were not high during this timeframe. Believe it or not we have air conditioning out here in California. Highs in Oakland were in the mid 60s. I wouldn’t worry one bit. I had wine delivered to me last week that sat in a UPS distribution center in Coffey Park for 5 days due to it being an evacuation zone and having no power. We drank the wine Saturday and it was just fine.

You Pobega’d???

Thanks for the data on temps in the Bay area. Obviously you have A/C in CA, but that doesn’t necessarily apply to FedEx warehouses. Wine seemed fine on arrival so I will move on & do nothing.

You can contact the winery, but the important question is what the temperature was in the warehouse for a few days. I would open the box and look for any sign of heat damage–e.g.,
seepage. Absent any evidence of heat damage, I wouldn’t assume it was an issue.


The average temp for that entire week in Sonoma (aka the town), near my winery, was 60 degrees. Other locations in Sonoma & Napa were within that general range as well, looking at temp maps for that week. So even without power, this isn’t an issue to worry about, including FedEx/UPS warehouses. Course, wine stored in buildings in the middle of the worst fires might not fair as well (depending on the condition of the building)…but most wineries store their wine offsite (from the winemaking facility)…and all the storage facilities I know of were outside of harms way.

Most folks I know store everything offsite in places far away from the fires, as square footage in wine country is prohibitively expensive.

There’s that wine warehouse in Vallejo that burned down due to arson a few years ago.

What Brian meant was that we have natural A/C in CA, in other words, it’s typically cool here at night, and it you’re close to the bay or the ocean, in the daytime too, even in the summer, without ever having to power up air conditioner.

Data point from Sonoma, town of: the high that week according to my Netatmo weather station on my back porch was 80.6F - but that was the first Monday, just after power was lost in most places. The rest of the week averaged highs in the low 70’s, and lows at night in the mid-40’s to high-30’s. Most of the week was overcast - either via clouds, smoke or some combination thereof. I was lucky enough to have power and I was running our furnace in the morning to warm the house up.

My buddy who is on the production side said temperature in their cellar only rose two degrees, despite not having power for several days.

I’m on the secondary market side of the business so we will obviously be extremely careful with any local collections moving forward, but heat damage due to loss of power would be the exception, not the rule. Especially if the wine was stored in an off-site facility - which typically has a massive amount of temperature inertia from concrete, racks and the bottles themselves.