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Friday, February 20, 2015

The 2014 Grape Harvest was a Big One

The '14s are in the barrel or even in the bottle. The numbers for the West Coast are coming in on the size of the wine grape harvest and it's large. Note that quantity and quality aren't always the same though the weather seemed pretty close to ideal for a high-quality harvest throughout the West.

California

There are two general areas of wine grape growing. Three-quarters of California's wine grape crop comes from the hotter inland valleys. This is home primarily to the inexpensive bulk wines. What is considered the premium grape areas are mostly coastal areas plus a section of the Sierra Nevada Foothills.

2014 was the third largest harvest ever falling behind the last two years. That is, the last three were the largest harvests ever. Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel are the top three grapes crushed in 2014. Last year was also the earliest harvest ever, a product of the drought with warmer, sunnier winter causing early bud break in the vineyards.

The acreage of vineyards is also growing in the premium wine regions. The average selling price per ton of wine grapes generally decreased in the Central Valley where the inexpensive wines come from, but increased in premium grape growing regions.

Grape prices in the North Coast (Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake Counties) shows a definite
increase since 2010.  Smaller crop sizes in 2008-2011 were followed by record-setting large crops in 2012-2014. It will be interesting to see the supply-and-demand effects now that there is lots of wine in the pipeline from these last three vintages. While much of California agriculture is hurting from the lack of water many vineyard areas are doing fine--so far.

The harvest size was 3.9 million tons of grapes, down from 4.25 in 2013 and 4.02 in 2012. I don't have a breakdown between the coastal areas and the inland areas--that would be interesting.

Oregon

Like California, Oregon had a warm year and early harvest with a large crop. The number or wineries and vineyards planted has really increased for the last several years in Oregon. Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are the top grapes planted. Almost three-quarters of Oregon wine comes from the Willamette Valley.

Harvest size is estimated at 53,000 tons (there's no final figure yet).

Washington

It was the third straight year of record harvests. The size of the harvest has been increasing every year because of new acreage planted though the warm, dry autumn of 2014 helped, too. Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot are the top grapes grown.

The average price per ton for Cabernet grapes in Washington state was $1450. For comparison, in Napa Valley the average is $5930, in Sonoma County $2600.

The harvest size was 227,000 tons. So even though Washington is #2 in wine grapes it's still dwarfed  by California's four million tons.