Wine grape growers see multiyear contracts return; some prices also improving

Walter Eagan, a Russian River Valley appellation grower of zinfandel and chardonnay grapes east of Windsor, was surprised to get a three-year zin purchase grape contract from St. Helena-based Duckhorn Wine Co. earlier this year.

"I have not seen that for a while," Mr. Eagan said.

And more North Coast growers could be in that position this year, thanks to a tightening supply of grapes and wine in bulk, according to grape market experts.

"Not only do we see light at the end of the tunnel, but in some areas of California we already are out of the tunnel," said Nat DiBuduo, president of Allied Grape Growers, a 60-year-old cooperative representing nearly 600 North Coast and San Joaquin Valley growers.

He gave that encouraging news to Mr. Eagan and more than 100 other growers, grape and wine brokers, and winery representatives at the trade group's annual meeting for North Coast members, held in Santa Rosa on July 15.

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