September is California Wine Month

by Monica Bennion on September 15, 2011

Raise a glass and join us in celebrating California Wine Month!  In a tribute to the harvest season and the flourishing multi-billion dollar wine-industry, 2011 marks the seventh year that September has been proclaimed California Wine Month.  In this article we feature some interesting facts about California’s wines, its regions and the economic effect of the industry.

ECONOMICS
California accounts for nearly 90% of the United States wine production, with nearly 200 million cases of California wine sales into the U.S. market.  California is also the 4th leading wine producer, after France, Italy and Spain.  All 50 states in the United States produce wine grapes and have at least one or more wineries.

California state wineries create jobs for 330,000 Californians and revenue from retail sales of $18.5 billion dollars.  This includes $1.14 billion in exports to 125 countries.

California wineries attract more than 20 million wine tourists annually, with an estimated $2.1 billion dollars in retail sales.

As of 2010, there was a recorded 3,400 bonded wineries in California, up 321% from 807 wineries in 1990.  Nearly all of these are family owned businesses.

CONSUMPTION
In 2010, the United States surpassed France as the largest wine-consuming country in the world.  The varieties most consumed by Americans include Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.

California wine shipments in the United States reached nearly 200 million cases with an estimated 43 million cases distributed out of the United States.

THE LAND
Wine grapes are grown in 48 of the 58 counties in California, with 111 of them being federally approved American Viticultural Areas.  This amounts to 535,000 acres of wine grapes in California.

Nearly 3.6 million tons of wine grapes were harvested in California in 2010.  If you consider 1 ton of grapes translate into nearly 60 cases of wine, or 700 bottles…I’m not even going to try to do the math!  Here’s a little perspective, in 2007 alone, Scott Harvey Wines bottled over 4,600 cases of Zinfandel and nearly 2,900 cases of Barbera, not to mention all of the other varieties.

The top three red wine varietals grown in California are 1) Cabernet Sauvignon, 2) Merlot and 3) Zinfandel.

The top three white wine varietals grown in California are 1) Chardonnay (the most planted wine grape in California),  2) French Colombard, and 3) Sauvignon Blanc

California is a very geologically diverse region, and thus each wine region produces grapes suitable to the terroir of each region. Below is a brief breakdown of the wine regions of California and the grapes best suitable to their climate and terroir:

  • Napa Valley – Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot
  • Sierra Foothills (including Amador County) – Zinfandel, Barbera, Sangiovese and Tempranillo
  • Sonoma County – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sparkling Wine grapes
  • Mendocino and Lake Counties – Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc
  • Marin County – Pinot Noir and some Chardonnay
  • Monterey County – Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chenin Blanc
  • San Luis Obispo – Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Chardonnay
  • Paso Robles – Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel
  • Santa Barbara – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling
  • San Diego – Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel
  • Central Valley – Chardonnay and Zinfandel

IN CLOSING
California grape growers, wine makers and distributors have made a big impact not only in the United States, but across the globe.  It is predicted that the United States will soon bypass one or more of the top three wine countries (France, Italy and Spain) not only in wine grapes and harvest, but in production, sales and consumption.

To this I raise my glass of delicious Scott Harvey Zinfandel and toast a successful and enduring California industry.

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