With supplies abundant and grape prices lower, there have been relatively few acres of new plantings across the state. Some growers are betting on new varietals, but even that tack is usually hedged with a contract.
“A number of growers are grafting over to other varietals from Merlot,” says Duff Bevill, vineyard manager for Dry Creek Vineyard at Healdsburg. “Some of us have contracts and will continue to ‘white knuckle’ the market for a few more years, even with the lower pricing. Remember, if you're a grower, the glass is always half-full.
“Pinot Noir is the ‘hotty’ in the Russian River Valley and Chardonnay demand also continues to increase there,” Bevill says. “Although one can find some new plantings here and there, there are no obvious, large-block, new plantings that I'm aware of.
“In general, there is more interest in Chardonnay here in Sonoma County, and prices and contract terms reflect that interest. Sauvignon Blanc demand is also up and prices, in some cases, are actually in line with non-Russian River Chardonnay.
“There is new interest in Cabernet Sauvignon from wineries whose marketing and branding is Sonoma County or an appellation within Sonoma County. Their programs appear to be growing at very healthy rates,” Bevill says.
In other areas, Cabernet Sauvignon is more than plentiful, and oversupply of grapes, in general, is limiting growth.
“There are limited new plantings in Paso Robles,” says Stacie Jacob, executive director, Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. “Our area’s 26,000 vineyard acres are planted, with half coming in over the past seven years. New plantings are only happening if there is a contract to do so. Currently, we have an oversupply of Cabernet Sauvignon.”