Wine grape harvest biggest in yearsLucas pulls plug on Grady Ranch, plans residential developmentBasin Street buys back 17 Santa Rosa propertiesCasino construction begins in Rohnert ParkSMART construction beginsDozens of wineries, brands, vineyards change handsEnphase Energy goes publicWestern Health Advantage, other health plans enter marketExchange Bank restores financial health, dividendAirport expansion delayed as airline traffic hits record
Befitting one of the world's leading wine regions, wine played prominently in the Top 10 Stories of 2012 selected by the Business Journal editorial staff.
Two of this year's top stories came out of the wine industry: The near-perfect 2012 harvest and, secondly, a flurry of acquisitions.
But there were plenty of other big stories of 2012 in the North Bay, among them the stunning withdrawal of of Lucasfilm's Grady Ranch studio project; the return of Basin Street Properties' dominance in the commercial real estate market, and the entrance into the market of new health care insurance options for the first time in many years.
There were big stories in addition to the Top 10, such as the November acquisition of Novato's Circle Bank by Portland-based Umpqua. We even made news late this year when the Journal, Press Democrat and Petaluma Argus-Courier were acquired by locally-owned Sonoma Media Investments LLC.
We look forward to more big stories in 2013. For now, here are the Top 10 Stories of 2012:1. Wine grape harvest biggest in years
The North Coast winegrape season was not too hot, too cold or too wet. Combined with steady demand for grapes and wine following two short crops, the industry found itself in a situation rare in recent years: The harvest was possibly the largest since 2005 and a number of wineries were eager to find room to buy as much as they could.
[caption id="attachment_64591" align="alignright" width="315"] Trefethen Vine;yards workers harvest chardonnay grapes before dawn.[/caption]
The first official tally of tonnage and grape pricing won’t be known until the state releases preliminary figures in early February.
In Napa County, the expectation for 2012 tonnage was 30 percent above growers’ multiyear averages until grapes for sparkling wine started coming off vines a month and a half ago, and now the typical outlook is between a grower’s average and plus 10 percent, according to trade group Napa Valley Grapegrowers. Average yield from feedback the association has received is about four tons an acre, ranging from 2.5 an acre on hillsides to as many as seven tons an acre in a few places by the Napa River.
If the average yield estimate bears fruit, it would amount to about 174,000 tons, based on nearly 43,600 bearing acres of vines reported to the Napa County Agricultural Commissioner last year. That would put it between the sizable 2006 crop of nearly 153,000 tons, yielding 3.6 tons per acre, and the huge 2005 crop of 181,000 tons, yielding 4.3 tons an acre, according to the county crop report.
By comparison, the cool season and rainy finish of the past two years significantly reduced Napa County crops. Last year’s harvest of almost 122,000 tons had a yield of nearly 2.8 tons per acre, and the 2010 crop weighed in at almost 139,000 tons, or 3.2 tons an acre.
Like the the post-harvest forecast for the 2012 crop in Napa County, the outlook for Sonoma County tonnage also is in the 2005–2006 tonnage range, according to Sonoma County Winegrape Commission. In 2006, 216,000 tons were harvested, and in 2005, 230,000 tons, corresponding to yields of 3.9 and 4.2 tons per acre.