Hurt by the recession and less-than-ideal weather for growing, wine-grape gross sales in Monterey County dropped 27 percent in 2010, to the lowest level since 2004.
Growers “will probably want a glass of wine” when they see the figures, said Rhonda Motil executive director of the county Vintners and Growers Association, at a news conference for the county crop report Tuesday.
Gross sales were $173 million, down from $238 million in 2008 and 2009. The harvest in 2010 was 177,000 tons, a drop of 13 percent from the year before.
The wine industry is more susceptible than some other industries to recession because wine is a discretionary item, said Paul Johnson of J&L Farms in Salinas.
“We got hit by a double whammy,” Johnson said at the news conference. It was particularly cold in spring 2010, Johnson said, which isn’t good for the grape crop. “We got hit pretty hard.”
Motil said sales of the higher-priced wines were hit hardest, while midpriced bottles in the $8 to $13 range increased.
Chardonnay, the most common grape in the county, took the biggest drop in sales, going from $89 million in 2009 to $60 million last year.
The second most common grape, pinot noir, dropped from $50 million to $35 million. The figures are for gross sales and growers’ costs are not figured in.
While 2010 was an off year for the local industry, Motil chose to see the glass as half full.
There’s been no indication growers are ripping out or abandoning crops, she said, and there are indications this will be a better year.
Growers “are seeing positive trends,” Motil said. “A lot have had early contacts” for selling this year’s crop, and there are indications that store sales are improving.
While the spring of 2010 was unusually cold, Johnson said, this year was even colder, making it likely that there will be a lower-than-average crop.
It’s possible that this year’s production could be good, Johnson said, but that would take perfect weather through the early-fall harvest.
But if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate and production is down, he said, that could be offset by higher wholesale prices
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