Grape growers in the Lodi Appellation are having a booming year, but experts say it’s too soon to reveal the great prices Lodi winegrapes are earning.
The harvest statewide is estimated at 3.7 million tons, up from 3.3 million tons in 2011, the Wine Institute, a wine advocacy group, reported in early November.
Data is not yet available on the average prices winegrapes are earning, or precisely how much fruit came off the vines this season. That information will come out in February’s Crush Report.
Stuart Spencer is the owner and winemaker at St. Amant Winery, and also works for the Lodi Winegrape Commission. He says the prices were up this year across the board, from Cabernets to Zinfandels. Yields were up too, with Zinfandel seeing a very large harvest. All other varietals saw above-average yield.
The market for affordable wine has grown exponentially in the past decade, said Spencer.
“The demand is exceeding the supply. Much of the growth is with the large national wineries looking for a good supply. That’s where a larger portion of our grapes are going,” he said. “But smaller producers are buying more and more as they look to grow.”
How does a good wine crop help boost Lodi’s economy?
“It has a lot of good effects. Whatever happens to your No. 1 industry happens to everyone else. Wine is an economic engine for north San Joaquin County,” said Pat Patrick, president and CEO of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce.
Other wine-growing regions around the world have not had as good of a year, he said, but their hardship is to Lodi’s benefit as the largest provider of winegrapes in the U.S. Extreme weather — including drought, frost and flood in many of Europe’s wine regions — caused much of their crop to be discarded, reports the Wall Street Journal.
When winemakers and their employees have money in their pockets, they spend it at local restaurants, book travel plans with Lodi agents, and buy new pickup trucks, said Patrick. He also notices an increase in charitable giving when grapes are having a good year.
Spencer agrees, and says this bodes well for the future.
“The industry is doing well at this point. I think we’re going in the right direction, and Lodi is positioned well,” said Spencer.