Grape Market Insights: 2013 winegrape season portends a royal crush

On the 22nd of July, 2013, at 4:24 post meridian, George Alexander Louis, also known as, His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge, was born at Saint Mary’s Hospital in London.

George is a fairly common English name. There has been six British kings named George, and St. George, a fourth-century Christian martyr, is the patron saint of England. His cross adorns the national flag.

The name Louis could be in homage to Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Duke of Edinburgh's uncle and the last British Viceroy of India before independence in 1947. The name Alexander, of course, is in reverence to my son, His Royal Highness Prince Christian of Windsor, California whose middle name is Alexander. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge really didn’t have to do that, but it is a nice touch.

You may wonder how I am going to segue from the great royals to the grape rows. Well, as you may know, the name George means "earth-worker" or "farmer." I know of many Georges or Georginas who has been working the royal rears off to keep both Mother Nature and buyers expectations going in the right direction. In general, we are around a fortnight ahead of last year’s grape maturity.

Crop estimates are all over the realm, with most leaning towards "average" to "above average" crop size throughout the North Coast. That is a bit surprising, due to Mummy Nature going sixes and sevens with the growing season. (For those not light with the lingo from across the pond, that means "in disarray.")

Here is the latest dickey bird ("word") from our broker-knights roaming the countryside:

Even after a record Napa County crop of 71,000 tons and a Sonoma County record 47,000 tons in 2012, cabernet sauvignon continues to be King of North Coast Reds. Available grape inventories are low, and prices remain strong. Presently, we have a sundry of buyers actively looking for King Cab. Most Georges are reporting an average cabernet crop.

As the accompanying graph illustrates, bulk-wine inventories of Napa County cabernet sauvignon have dramatically increased from 30,000 gallons in 2011 to just under 600,000 in 2013.

Currently, bulk cabernet sauvignon is selling but at a slower pace. Prices are a bit lower than at this time last year.

Queen Chardonnay has pronounced that her impending crop is above average. However, with the late rains, growers have worked extra hard opening up grape canopies and staying on top of their spray programs, which has cost them lots of bees and honey.

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