Grape Market Insights: Lowest Sonoma Co. chardonnay price in four years calls for marketing savvy

Buried in the recently released 2010 California Grape Crush report are important considerations for North Coast winegrape growers this year.

Wine business fanatics like myself sit hunched over our computers, trying to be the first one to view the "numbers": overall tonnage, tonnage per variety by district and district average price per variety.

The 2010 California winegrape crop was 3.58 million tons, a decrease of only 3 percent from 2009 and the third largest crop in California history. The North Coast crop size was down about 5 percent; the Central Coast, up 5 percent; the northern San Joaquin Valley, down 22 percent; and the southern San Joaquin Valley, up 5 percent.

Let's start our analysis with chardonnay, the top crop in winegrowing District 3, basically Sonoma County.

The report shows about 65,500 tons total tons delivered for District 3 chardonnay last year, down 10 percent from 2009. The average price paid per ton for those grapes in 2010 was $1,800, down 8 percent from the year before. Taken together, the total value for Sonoma County chardonnay was $118 million, which is nothing to shake a stick at.

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