Vintners sobered by shake test

16 AUGUST 00 | Representatives of California's wine industry got a sobering demonstration in July of the damage a large earthquake could cause in their cellars.

The demonstration was set up by Berkeley civil engineering graduate student Joshua Marrow, who studies wine barrel stacking methods.

During a simulated 7.4 earthquake &endash; wine barrels toppled and racks collapsed in a matter of seconds, spilling water that could easily be a premium pinot noir. Only straps tethering the barrels to the ceiling prevented them from bursting open and sloshing their contents into the gutter.

"I'm kind of in shock," said Jeff Ritchey, winemaker at the small Clos LaChance winery in Los Gatos. "This shows there's not a whole lot you can do if you're in the cellar when an earthquake hits."

The shake test was conducted on the nation's largest earthquake simulator at Berkeley's Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center in Richmond.

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