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Napa Valley Sign

The Napa Valley sign welcomes visitors to the Valley. The value of Napa County’s grape harvest rose 28 percent in 2016, from $533 million in 2015 to $683 million in 2016.

Thanks to an increased crop and prices, the value of Napa County’s grape harvest rose 28 percent, from $533 million in 2015 to $683 million in 2016.

At the same time, the average price per ton for Napa County grapes rose 7.8 percent to $4,666 per ton, the highest in the state.

State and federal agriculture officials released the preliminary 2016 grape crop report midday Friday, showing that the number of tons harvested in Napa County rose from 123,319 tons in 2015 to 146,557 last year, a 19 percent increase.

“I think it’s all good news if you are a Napa grower,” said Glenn Proctor, partner at the Ciatti Company.

Proctor said an abnormally light crop in 2015 led to a strong demand for grapes in 2016.

“We saw a very active market and higher prices in 2016,” in Napa County, said Proctor. “They were motivated because of the shorter 2015 crop.”

Proctor predicts that the demand for Napa grapes will continue.

“We’re already seeing early activity from buyers looking to source grapes this year for 2017,” he said. “Even though the crop is up, we don’t think that will affect buying.”

“I’m not surprised to see that once again the Napa County wine grape crop is one of California’s most valuable agricultural assets,” said Patsy McGaughy, communications manager of the Napa Valley Vintners.

Such increases “verify that Napa Valley’s reputation as a quality wine region continues to grow.”

“I’m pleased to see that yields were up,” said McGaughy.

“If you look at the prices, clearly there is demand. It’s great to see there are some increased yields to meet that demand.”

The year 2016 appears to be a winning vintage all around, she said.

“We’ve heard that vintners and growers thought it was a vintage of exceptional quality. It seems like there are solid yields and strong prices to add to that.”

Andy Schweiger, winemaker for Schweiger Vineyards & Winery, said that higher prices are a fact of the business.

“The reality is there is no more acreage to plant on,” he said. “More consumers want Napa wine and we can only make so much Napa wine so demand will drive that price up.”

“Unfortunately, I think some of the prices are being driven up by very wealthy people who parachute into to the valley and don’t care about how much money they are spending,” said Schweiger. “In a way we are victims of our success.”

“Being a grower, yes, I like seeing the prices per ton go up,” said Jack Varozza, of Varozza Vineyards in St. Helena.

“That’s good news,” he said. “The price of labor in this valley is so expensive,” that prices per ton need to increase accordingly so growers can afford the labor.

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The labor supply continues to be a problem, Varozza said.

“Last year trying to get enough people to do the vineyard work was very tough.”

“To see cabernet continue to climb just reinforces the strength of the industry and the strength of Napa Valley cabernet and other varieties,” said Jennifer Putnam, executive director, Napa Valley Grapegrowers.

“It also speaks to the quality commitment that growers have made. When you see price increases like this, it’s safe to assume we’re talking about high quality fruit.”

Cabernet sauvignon grapes hold the top spot in Napa Valley, with 63,484 tons produced. That’s a 20 percent increase from last year’s cab crush, which totaled 52,970 tons.

At an average of $6,881 a ton, the price for the valley’s cabernet sauvignon grapes continues to climb, up 8.9 percent over last year’s value of $6,319 a ton.

The average price paid for valley chardonnay in 2015 was up slightly to $2,669, while tonnage rose from 21,097 tons in 2015 to 25,181 tons in 2016.

Tonnage rose for sauvignon blanc, from 10,889 to 13,537 tons. The price for a ton of sauvignon blanc increased to $2,139 on average from $2,011 a year ago.

Local merlot production was also up to 14,322 tons in 2016 from 14,001 tons in 2015. The price paid per ton of merlot was up slightly, at $3,358 from $3,145 last year.

District 3 (Sonoma and Marin counties) received the second highest return of $2,584.87, up 5.9 percent from 2015.

Statewide, the 2016 crush totaled 4,196,753 tons, up 8.5 percent from the 2015 crush of 3,868,459 tons. Red wine varieties accounted for the largest share of all grapes crushed, at 2,255,300 tons, up 10.5 percent from 2015.

In California, the 2016 white wine varieties totaled 1,745,490 tons, up 4.9 percent from 2015. Tons of raisin-type varieties totaled 98,205, up 6.2 percent from 2015, and tons of table-type varieties totaled 97,759, up 38.3 percent from 2015.

The 2016 average price of all varieties in California was $750.27 per ton, up 11.7 percent from 2015.

Average prices for the 2016 crop in California by type were as follows:

-Red wine grapes, $899.44, up 13.9 percent from 2015.

-White wine grapes, $594.01, up 10 percent from 2015.

-Raisin grapes, $213.64, down 13.7 percent.

-Table grapes, $153.05, down 39.4 percent.

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