North Coast winegrape crop in 2013 sets new records

[caption id="attachment_81446" align="alignnone" width="450"] Workers empty tubs of cabernet sauvignon grapes picked before dawn at Trefethen Family Vineyards' Hillspring Vineyard in Napa Valley's Oak Knoll district on Oct. 9.[/caption]

The size and value of the winegrape crop in the North Coast reached new records, crushing even the record-scale 2012 crop, according to the first release of the state's tally of the harvest released Monday.North Coast crop by the numbersTonnagePrice per tonValue

Overall, the North Coast had about a 1 percent increase in tonnage to 562,000 tons, equating to more than 400,000 more cases of wine, based on 165--170 gallons of wine per ton of grapes, according to preliminary figures from the California Grape Crush Report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service and California Department of Agriculture.

"That gives wineries more cases to sell in markets that are growing," said Brian Clements, senior partner and winegrape broker for Novato-based Turrentine Brokerage. "We have them when we need them. Mother Nature often gives us crops when we do not need them."

A 15,000-ton increase from Lake and Mendocino counties and a slight uptick from Sonoma County last year offset a 5.5 percent drop -- 10,000 tons -- in Napa County tonnage (see the table of North Coast tonnage below). Sonoma County last year reached 268,000 tons, led by a 7.0 percent increase to 87,000 tons for its chief variety, chardonnay.

Napa County tonnage of nearly 173,000 last year was dampened by a significant drop in production -- down 8.1 percent, or nearly 5,800 tons, to nearly 66,000 tons  -- for the chief county variety, cabernet sauvignon. Sonoma County also had a drop cab tonnage of 7.1 percent, or nearly 4,700 tons, to almost 44,000 tons. That was despite new plantings of cab in Lake and Mendocino counties, which had tonnage growth of about 17 percent last year, or 3,400 more tons.

Such plantings helped cab uproot pinot noir as Mendocino County's second-largest winegrape variety, up 1,400 tons from 2012 to nearly 10,000 tons last year, according to the Mendocino WineGrowers trade group.

The outcome was the equivalent reduction in higher-end North Coast cab of about 400,000 cases in wine, coming when sales of finer cab are growing rapidly nationwide.

"We were a little surprised to see a big drop in merlot and cab in Sonoma," said Greg Livengood, president of San Rafael-based wine and grape brokerage Ciatti Co. "Pinot noir was good in Sonoma -- up a couple of percent. Chardonnay was big, but it may be a little bit long [in bulk-wine supply] in Sonoma.

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