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Friday, February 8, 2013, 1:07 pm

North Coast 2012 winegrape crop hits $1.35B in value, 553,000 tons

Record crops, prices plus demand for grapes ‘points to a healthy North Coast wine business’

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    NORTH COAST — Many wine industry experts figured the 2012 winegrape harvest was going to be the biggest in several years and refill grower pockets after two smaller crops, but the first official tally of the crop released Friday suggests it was the biggest ever, even crushing the giant 2005 harvest in value and tonnage.

    Winegrape tonnage totaled 552,874 tons in the North Coast last year, including 266,101 tons in Sonoma County, 181,183 in Napa County, 70,859 in Mendocino County and 34,731 in Lake County, according to the preliminary figures in the 2012 California Grape Crush Report.

    Meanwhile, the California winegrape crop beat a number of estimates, by reaching a record 4.01 million tons last year. That’s bigger than the 3.76 million tons of 2005 and 3.70 million tons of 2009. Grape market experts had been anticipating  3.8 million to 3.9 million tons.

    “The crop was needed, and hopefully we’ll be balanced going forward,” said Glenn Proctor, partner with San Rafael-based wine and grape brokerage Ciatti Co.

    Prices for excess bulk wine from North Coast vines generally have come down since the 2012 harvest and “panic” pricing during much of the season, but the relatively low proportion of new vineyard acreage in the region in the past 10 years should keep grape supply at top of mind for wineries, according to Brian Clements, vice president of Novato-based Turrentine Brokerage.

    “Enjoy the size of the crop and the quality, but don’t let this lull you into thinking the shortage is over,” Mr. Clements said.

    The crop in Sonoma and Napa counties beat the previous record crush in 2005 of 230,858 and 180,815 tons, respectively. Mendocino’s crop last year was just smaller than the 2006 record of 70,866 tons, and Lake’s was smaller than the 2007 high crush level of 36,321 tons. The previous record crush for the region was 505,342 tons in 2005.

    “The [crop] numbers and action we see in our business points to a healthy North Coast wine business,” Mr. Clements said.

    Sonoma’s top winegrape crop, chardonnay, at nearly 81,000 tons was 24 percent above the five-year average tonnage and above the banner 74,000-ton crop of 2005, according to Mr. Clements.

    There was also a huge jump in pinot noir tonnage in the North Coast as the surge in planting several years ago has reached full maturity and a warmer season. The nearly 73,000 tons in the region equates to 2.2 million more cases available than from the 2011 crush.

    Sonoma’s 52,380 tons of the cool-climate red grape last year was 52 percent above the variety’s five-year average crop size in the county and well above the 38,000-ton peak in 2006, Mr. Clements noted. Pinot noir tonnage from the Napa side of Los Carneros region at nearly 12,000 tons was 41 percent above the five-year average.

    “It’s staggering,” Mr. Proctor said about the reported pinot noir tonnage. A month ago, a dozen major industry professionals estimated the size of the variety in Sonoma County was about 38,000 tons — 42,000 at the most.

    Napa County cabernet sauvignon also had record tonnage, up 28 percent from the five-year average to nearly 71,000 tons. That’s 12 million gallons than crushed in 2011, observed Turrentine President Steve Fredricks. Put another way, that’s like having another 1.38 million cases of wine.

    “Even with a record harvest, demand continues to stay strong for 2013 grapes,” Mr. Clements said.

    And average Napa cab grape prices crossed $5,000 a ton for the first time, up more than 12 percent. Bulk Napa cab prices spiked as high as $40 a gallon in the the first part of last year as vintners looked for wine to sell after dramatically scaling back inventories in 2009 through 2011 as the U.S. economy sputtered.

    “We have inventory of bulk wine to work through and sizable 2012 inventory,” Mr. Proctor said about this company’s listings. “Will it all get used at higher cost of goods or all sell at $40 to $45 a bottle?”

    Increases in grape prices last year amid strong buying activity as worries about supply grew helped push the county weighted average prices per ton up 4.6 percent in Sonoma to $2,139, 7.1 percent in Napa to $3,498, 15.1 percent in Lake to $1,399 and 16.2 percent in Mendocino to $1,385.

    Price increases pushed North Coast winegrape revenue up by a half-billion dollars, or 59 percent, from that of 2011, reaching $1.35 billion and passing the $1.06 billion of 2005 and $1.01 billion of 2006. Napa grape revenue jumped 59.3 percent to $633.8 million; Sonoma, 67 percent to $569.3 million; Mendocino, 42.2 percent to $99.2 million; and Lake, 18.6 percent to $48.1 million.

    The value of the winegrape crop statewide soared by nearly $1 billion, or nearly 45 percent, from 2011 to $3.10 billion, overflowing previous records of $2.17 billion in 2005 and $2.14 billion last year.

    While California wineries needed the extra supply, they’ll now have to deal with tighter margins as they move brands to consumers, according to Mr. Proctor. The 667,000 more tons of winegrapes crushed last year than in 2011 equates to nearly 46 million standard cases of wine.

    “We will see some pricing modulation in the bulk market, because there now is decent inventory and larger wineries are assuming that if they needed inventory they can get it,” he said.

    Brokers report that buyer interest four months past harvest remains strong. Yet there’s an expectation that bulk-wine and grape buyers, armed with more data on the size of the 2012 vintage, will try to negotiate lower prices for new purchases.

    Winegrape revenue

    Region prelim. 2012 $ chg. % chg. 2011
    Mendocino $99,162,219 $29,407,444 42.2% $69,754,775
    Lake $48,086,388 $7,555,117 18.6% $40,531,271
    Sonoma $569,289,138 $228,463,718 67.0% $340,825,420
    Napa $633,804,199 $235,828,419 59.3% $397,975,780
    North Coast $1,350,341,945 $501,254,699 59.0% $849,087,246
    Statewide $3,099,094,753 $957,479,681 44.7% $2,141,615,072
    Source: California Grape Crush Report, tables 2 and 10. 

    Tonnage by region and variety

    Variety Region prelim. 2012 equiv. chg. in cases chg. chg. 2011
    Chardonnay Mendocino 24,386 436,054 6,343 35.2% 18,044
      Lake 1,768 21,526 313 21.5% 1,454
      Sonoma 80,879 1,959,705 28,505 54.4% 52,374
      Napa 31,791 740,843 10,776 51.3% 21,015
      North Coast 138,824 3,158,128 45,936 49.5% 92,887
    Pinot Gris/ Mendocino 546 12,066 176 47.4% 371
    Pinot Grigio Lake 475 14,768 215 82.6% 260
      Sonoma 2,635 83,311 1,212 85.2% 1,423
      Napa 982 28,504 415 73.1% 567
      North Coast 4,637 138,648 2,017 77.0% 2,620
    Sauv. Blanc Mendocino 3,231 -26,627 -387 -10.7% 3,619
      Lake 8,586 -70,070 -1,019 -10.6% 9,605
      Sonoma 17,086 563,750 8,200 92.3% 8,886
      Napa 14,788 434,335 6,318 74.6% 8,470
      North Coast 43,691 901,388 13,111 42.9% 30,580
    Cab. Sauv. Mendocino 8,238 -128,184 -1,865 -18.5% 10,102
      Lake 11,967 -135,506 -1,971 -14.1% 13,938
      Sonoma 46,770 937,956 13,643 41.2% 33,127
      Napa 70,935 1,381,064 20,088 39.5% 50,847
      North Coast 137,910 2,055,329 29,896 27.7% 108,014
    Merlot Mendocino 7,063 114,648 1,668 30.9% 5,395
      Lake 1,603 35,853 522 48.2% 1,082
      Sonoma 21,473 467,658 6,802 46.4% 14,671
      Napa 24,977 569,250 8,280 49.6% 16,697
      North Coast 55,116 1,187,409 17,271 45.6% 37,844
    Pinot Noir Mendocino 8,604 129,250 1,880 28.0% 6,724
      Lake 255 5,039 73 40.4% 181
      Sonoma 52,380 1,652,035 24,030 84.8% 28,350
      Napa 11,696 390,012 5,673 94.2% 6,023
      North Coast 72,934 2,176,336 31,656 76.7% 41,278
    Syrah Mendocino 2,616 41,360 602 29.9% 2,015
      Lake 1,228 12,980 189 18.2% 1,039
      Sonoma 5,116 103,276 1,502 41.6% 3,614
      Napa 2,955 56,691 825 38.7% 2,130
      North Coast 11,915 214,308 3,117 35.4% 8,798
    Zinfandel Mendocino 8,146 255,351 3,714 83.8% 4,432
      Lake 3,185 88,983 1,294 68.5% 1,891
      Sonoma 23,107 687,926 10,006 76.4% 13,101
      Napa 5,358 116,731 1,698 46.4% 3,660
      North Coast 39,797 1,148,991 16,713 72.4% 23,084
    Total Mendocino 70,859 926,441 13,476 23.5% 57,383
      Lake 34,731 50,022 728 2.1% 34,004
      Sonoma 266,101 6,839,422 99,483 59.7% 166,619
      Napa 181,183 4,077,638 59,311 48.7% 121,872
      North Coast 552,874 11,893,523 172,997 45.5% 379,878
      Statewide 4,013,904 45,852,819 666,950 19.9% 3,346,953
    Source: California Grape Crush Report, table 2. Note: 165 gallons of wine per ton, 2.4 gallons of wine per 9-liter case.

    Weighted-average prices per ton by variety and region

    Variety Region prelim. 2012 chg. chg. 2011
    Chardonnay Mendocino $1,266 $220 21.0% $1,047
      Lake $1,263 $366 40.8% $897
      Sonoma $1,874 $46 2.5% $1,828
      Napa $2,267 $110 5.1% $2,157
    Pinot Grigio Mendocino $1,392 $93 7.1% $1,299
      Lake $900 -$192 -17.6% $1,092
      Sonoma $1,623 $19 1.2% $1,604
      Napa $1,916 $75 4.1% $1,841
    Sauv. Blanc Mendocino $1,185 $157 15.3% $1,028
      Lake $998 $88 9.7% $910
      Sonoma $1,418 $55 4.0% $1,363
      Napa $1,860 $54 3.0% $1,806
    Cab. Sauv. Mendocino $1,604 $296 22.6% $1,308
      Lake $1,616 $240 17.4% $1,376
      Sonoma $2,241 $240 12.0% $2,001
      Napa $5,067 $549 12.2% $4,518
    Merlot Mendocino $1,174 $230 24.3% $945
      Lake $1,184 $280 31.0% $904
      Sonoma $1,466 $115 8.5% $1,351
      Napa $2,566 $110 4.5% $2,456
    Pinot Noir Mendocino $2,526 $114 4.7% $2,412
      Lake $1,322 $34 2.6% $1,288
      Sonoma $2,979 $99 3.4% $2,880
      Napa $2,438 -$71 -2.8% $2,509
    Syrah Mendocino $1,255 $201 19.0% $1,054
      Lake $1,411 $268 23.4% $1,144
      Sonoma $2,110 -$37 -1.7% $2,147
      Napa $3,035 $106 3.6% $2,928
    Zinfandel Mendocino $1,436 $183 14.6% $1,253
      Lake $1,528 $383 33.4% $1,145
      Sonoma $2,395 $40 1.7% $2,355
      Napa $3,021 $153 5.3% $2,868
    Totals Mendocino $1,399 $184 15.1% $1,216
      Lake $1,385 $193 16.2% $1,192
      Sonoma $2,139 $94 4.6% $2,046
      Napa $3,498 $233 7.1% $3,266
      Statewide $772 $132 20.7% $640
    Source: California Grape Crush Report, table 10.  

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    Comments

    2 Comments

    1. February 11, 2013, 8:35 am

      by Roger King

      Your numbers are incomplete. You have left out the other components of the North Coast which include portions of Marin County and Solano County AVA’s Suisun Valley and Green Valley that have been in the North Coast AVA since approval.


    2. February 12, 2013, 1:12 pm

      by Jeff Quackenbush, Business Journal Staff Reporter

      Marin has less than 100 acres of vines and just over a dozen wineries, so it is included in figures for Sonoma County (District 3 in the crush report).

      Yes, Suisun Valley and Solano County Green Valley American Viticultural Areas are in the North Coast AVA, as are the Marin vines.

      Reported tonnage crushed in Solano (District 5) last year was 23,832, up from 15,294 in 2011 and 18,862 in 2005. The average district price was $820 a ton, up 13.2 percent from $724 in 2011.

      Solano’s top five winegrape varieties are:

      1. Chardonnay: 6,109 tons crushed at a weighted-average price of $833 per ton
      2. Pinot gris: 5,067 tons at $688 a ton
      3. Pinot noir: 4,658 tons at $874 a ton
      4. Chenin blanc: 1,450 tons at $450 a ton
      5. Merlot: 1,319 tons a $947 a ton

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