CFO Director John Ecklund spent years in California and he shares some of his insight here.
Visiting California wine country is on the vacation bucket list for many travelers. But what many do not know is that there is more to Napa County than wine and there is more to California wine than Napa.
According to the California 2015 Grape Acreage Report, California listed 34 white wine varietals totaling 183,968 acres and 41 red varietals totaling 308,733 acres. That totals to a whopping 492,701 acres of wine grapes. At an average yield of 7.52 tons per acre, that calculates to 247,000,000 cases of wine that will be entering the market in the next two years.
Surprisingly, Napa is not the largest wine grape producer in California. The “San Juaquin” district (area around Fresno) has 73,227 acres of wine grapes. Sonoma County, just west of Napa, has 59,575 acres, and Monterey County has 46,707 acres. Napa comes in fourth with 45,537 acres.
Chardonnay is by far the queen of white grapes with 96,819 acres. The next largest white varietal is French Colombard with 20,683 acres.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the king of red with 89,697 acres. It is followed by Zinfandel with 46,411 acres, Pinot Noir with 44,027 acres, and Merlot with 43,239 acres.
Although the harvest season is the most popular, any time is the best time to visit Napa. During the winter months, the vines are being pruned and the wild mustard is blooming between the rows of grapes. The hills around the valley are green (if it rains) and the area generally has warm days and cool nights.
The vines awaken from their winter slumber the later part of March into April. It seems, more often than not, that around April 15th, Mother Nature likes to play with a sudden cold snap, leaving the new growth on the vines susceptible to freezing temperatures. If the bud freezes, the crop is destroyed for the year. Although the vines send out new shoots, there is not enough time for fruit to develop. If the temperatures get close to freezing, the growers turn on “wind machines” that resemble airplane propellers on top of towers in the vineyards. These machines circulate the cold air that is settling in the low spots in the vineyard with warmer air that is higher up. Growers also turn on overhead sprinklers. Because the water is warmer than the surrounding air, it prevents the buds from freezing.
Harvest time is an exciting time filled with long hours of work. The sparkling wine grape harvest generally starts in mid-August, followed by white grapes and red grapes. Harvest generally ends around the end of October but can, at times, continue until nearly Thanksgiving. There is a saying in the industry, “It takes a lot of great beer to make great wine.” How true!
If you plan on visiting any of the wine areas, pick up a copy of Wine Country this Week (available at most visitor centers or at www.winecountrythisweek.com.) It is a free magazine full of information concerning wineries and non-wine activities that provides insight into planning a route wine tasting, eating, and enjoying other tourist activities.
Wine is a fun industry that offers good food, wonderful adult beverages, and the opportunity to meet new people. It is not only a lot of work, but it is also an expensive industry. While agriculture land prices in California are declining, prime Napa Valley vineyards are holding steady at a price of $314,000 per acre. This is why Opus One 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon can be acquired (not purchased) for $280.00 per bottle.
For more ideas on how you can make a future wine tasting trip to California enjoyable, relaxing, and memorable, contact John at 408-602-5905.