A 3 percent hike in overall winegrape values in Napa County last year to nearly $751 million pushed agricultural values to a record $757.1 million, according to the latest crop report. The boost in value comes amidst a 7 percent decline in the county’s grape crush that was attributed to record rain, extreme heat and devastating wildfires.
Napa’s winegrape values remain in a league all their own as nowhere in California do wineries pay more for grapes.
Growers farm nearly 34,000 acres of red winegrapes and just under 10,000 acres of white varieties in the county. Harvested tons at the end of last season, according to the annual crop report, came in at over 142,000, a decline from the 153,000 tons harvested in 2016.
Dr. Monica Cooper, Cooperative Extension viticulture advisor in Napa County, writes in the annual crop report that the extremes “bookended” a growing season that was capped by damaging wildfires as harvest was under way. In some cases wineries were destroyed, and in others grapes were left to hang unharvested on the vine. Smoke taint was a concern among the wineries and growers.
Cabernet Sauvignon is still king among all varieties planted in Napa County at nearly 21,000 acres, or about half of the total winegrape acreage in the region. Yields in 2017 topped 66,700 tons at an average price of $7,498 per ton, or 10 percent higher than the 2016 price.
Merlot and Pinot Noir acreage came in at second and third, respectively. Growers harvested 13,160 tons of Merlot at $3,390 per ton. Over 8,600 tons of Pinot Noir grapes were harvested at an average price of $2,798 per ton.
Cabernet Franc yielded the highest price at over $7,800 per ton on 2,907 tons harvested. Just over 1,100 bearing acres of that variety are planted in the county.
While Chardonnay remains the most popular white variety planted at about 6,400 acres, combined with Sauvignon Blanc the two varieties make up about 92 percent of the whites planted in the county.
Nearly 21,000 tons of Chardonnay grapes were harvested in 2017, according to the crop report. The average price was up 5.1 percent to $2,811 per ton on average.
Albarino was the highest-valued white variety planted in 2017, commanding $3,769 per ton on 75 tons of total production.
The wet winter weather also affected vegetable production, said Napa County Agricultural Commissioner Greg Clark. Growers there cited delayed planting schedules that lingered from the record rainfall in 2016-2017.
The annual crop report highlights 50 years of the Napa Ag Preserve, a land use policy that continues to protect the scenic valley from development. The Ag Preserve consists of the valley floor in unincorporated areas between Napa and Calistoga. The county spans over 500,000 acres, with 90 percent of that designated as agriculture, watershed and open space. Winegrape production takes place on about 10 percent of the county’s land.
The 2017 Napa County Crop Report can be viewed online.