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.