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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.2012 North Coast winegrape crush data

Revenue by county

Tonnage by variety and county

Average price per ton by variety and county

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 Regionprelim. 2012$ chg.% chg.2011Mendocino$99,162,219$29,407,44442.2%$69,754,775Lake$48,086,388$7,555,11718.6%$40,531,271Sonoma$569,289,138$228,463,71867.0%$340,825,420Napa$633,804,199$235,828,41959.3%$397,975,780North Coast$1,350,341,945$501,254,69959.0%$849,087,246Statewide$3,099,094,753$957,479,68144.7%$2,141,615,072Source: California Grape Crush Report, tables 2 and 10. Tonnage by region and variety VarietyRegionprelim. 2012equiv. chg. in caseschg.chg.2011ChardonnayMendocino24,386436,0546,34335.2%18,044 Lake1,76821,52631321.5%1,454 Sonoma80,8791,959,70528,50554.4%52,374 Napa31,791740,84310,77651.3%21,015 North Coast138,8243,158,12845,93649.5%92,887Pinot Gris/Mendocino54612,06617647.4%371Pinot GrigioLake47514,76821582.6%260 Sonoma2,63583,3111,21285.2%1,423 Napa98228,50441573.1%567 North Coast4,637138,6482,01777.0%2,620Sauv. BlancMendocino3,231-26,627-387-10.7%3,619 Lake8,586-70,070-1,019-10.6%9,605 Sonoma17,086563,7508,20092.3%8,886 Napa14,788434,3356,31874.6%8,470 North Coast43,691901,38813,11142.9%30,580Cab. Sauv.Mendocino8,238-128,184-1,865-18.5%10,102 Lake11,967-135,506-1,971-14.1%13,938 Sonoma46,770937,95613,64341.2%33,127 Napa70,9351,381,06420,08839.5%50,847 North Coast137,9102,055,32929,89627.7%108,014MerlotMendocino7,063114,6481,66830.9%5,395 Lake1,60335,85352248.2%1,082 Sonoma21,473467,6586,80246.4%14,671 Napa24,977569,2508,28049.6%16,697 North Coast55,1161,187,40917,27145.6%37,844Pinot NoirMendocino8,604129,2501,88028.0%6,724 Lake2555,0397340.4%181 Sonoma52,3801,652,03524,03084.8%28,350 Napa11,696390,0125,67394.2%6,023 North Coast72,9342,176,33631,65676.7%41,278SyrahMendocino2,61641,36060229.9%2,015 Lake1,22812,98018918.2%1,039 Sonoma5,116103,2761,50241.6%3,614 Napa2,95556,69182538.7%2,130 North Coast11,915214,3083,11735.4%8,798ZinfandelMendocino8,146255,3513,71483.8%4,432 Lake3,18588,9831,29468.5%1,891 Sonoma23,107687,92610,00676.4%13,101 Napa5,358116,7311,69846.4%3,660 North Coast39,7971,148,99116,71372.4%23,084TotalMendocino70,859926,44113,47623.5%57,383 Lake34,73150,0227282.1%34,004 Sonoma266,1016,839,42299,48359.7%166,619 Napa181,1834,077,63859,31148.7%121,872 North Coast552,87411,893,523172,99745.5%379,878 Statewide4,013,90445,852,819666,95019.9%3,346,953Source: 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 VarietyRegionprelim. 2012chg.chg.2011ChardonnayMendocino$1,266$22021.0%$1,047 Lake$1,263$36640.8%$897 Sonoma$1,874$462.5%$1,828 Napa$2,267$1105.1%$2,157Pinot GrigioMendocino$1,392$937.1%$1,299 Lake$900-$192-17.6%$1,092 Sonoma$1,623$191.2%$1,604 Napa$1,916$754.1%$1,841Sauv. BlancMendocino$1,185$15715.3%$1,028 Lake$998$889.7%$910 Sonoma$1,418$554.0%$1,363 Napa$1,860$543.0%$1,806Cab. Sauv.Mendocino$1,604$29622.6%$1,308 Lake$1,616$24017.4%$1,376 Sonoma$2,241$24012.0%$2,001 Napa$5,067$54912.2%$4,518MerlotMendocino$1,174$23024.3%$945 Lake$1,184$28031.0%$904 Sonoma$1,466$1158.5%$1,351 Napa$2,566$1104.5%$2,456Pinot NoirMendocino$2,526$1144.7%$2,412 Lake$1,322$342.6%$1,288 Sonoma$2,979$993.4%$2,880 Napa$2,438-$71-2.8%$2,509SyrahMendocino$1,255$20119.0%$1,054 Lake$1,411$26823.4%$1,144 Sonoma$2,110-$37-1.7%$2,147 Napa$3,035$1063.6%$2,928ZinfandelMendocino$1,436$18314.6%$1,253 Lake$1,528$38333.4%$1,145 Sonoma$2,395$401.7%$2,355 Napa$3,021$1535.3%$2,868TotalsMendocino$1,399$18415.1%$1,216 Lake$1,385$19316.2%$1,192 Sonoma$2,139$944.6%$2,046 Napa$3,498$2337.1%$3,266 Statewide$772$13220.7%$640Source: California Grape Crush Report, table 10.