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Napa grape crush yields big haul

Grape harvest last October in Calistoga. | Photo by Clark James Mishler

A preliminary analysis of the 2023 crush shows that Napa County vintners produced nearly 169,000 tons of wine grapes, a significant jump of 23 percent or close to 38,000 tons over last year.

Statewide growers brought some 3.7 million tons to market, up 8 percent from last year, according to a preliminary report from the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Officials said the totals could have been even higher as many grapes were left unharvested due to soft demand and disease. Many wineries outside of Napa County ended the season with excess supply and a lighter than expected demand.

Not so in the valley, which traditionally produces just 4 percent of the wine grapes in California but accounts for about 27 percent of the state’s wine sales.

The new state figures show that once again Napa grapes fetched the highest average price statewide at $6,943 per ton, up 3.7 percent from 2022.

Next were grapes from Sonoma and Marin counties – which are grouped together by the report authors – with an average price at $2,916 per ton, up 2.9 percent from 2022.

The total tonnage of white grapes crushed in Napa County in 2023 was 35,936; the total amount of red grapes processed came to 132,879 tons. Of that total, 22,263 tons was Chardonnay, 3,413 tons Sauvignon Blanc, 7,980 tons Pinot Noir and 92,262 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon, up from 73,812 tons in 2022.

Steve Fredricks, president of Turrentine Brokerage, a leading grape and bulk wine brokerage, said the 2023 report highlights the entry of new brands into the market in recent years as well as unique weather and soil conditions.

“The increase in overall supply is due to redevelopment of older acres and redevelopment of acres from other varieties to a healthier, more productive vineyard supply,” he said.

The average price for Chardonnay in Napa County was $3,600. For Cabernet it came to $9,080, though the 3,848 tons of Cabernet Franc came in at an average of $10,624.

Interestingly, Paso Robles crushed more Cabernet than Napa did, over 95,000 tons.

Christian Klier, North Coast Grape Broker for Turrentine, noted the winter and spring rains, which she said rejuvenated the soil following years of drought.

“The healthy crop in 2023 was further supported by lower yields in previous years due to drought and frost events,” she said. “Initial concerns regarding crop size based on cluster counts and pruning wood from the previous season were dispelled as the crop thrived with optimal soil moisture and cool temperatures. A prolonged ripening period allowed the berries to grow without facing dehydration risks. The 2023 harvest had minimal fruit weight loss, thanks to the ideal conditions that persisted throughout the season.”

To view the report visit: http://tinyurl.com/bdf4uz55

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