For Wine Geeks Only: Exploring Napa Valley by the Numbers

It’s usually surprising for most people to learn that, by volume, the Napa Valley accounts for just 4% of California’s total wine production (in total wine revenue, Napa would earn a much larger percentage, though I don’t have the specific figure for this category). Still, as one of California’s most important wine regions, it’s interesting to learn some of numbers that shape the Napa Valley. At my last board meeting with Slow Food Napa Valley, one of our members distributed copies of Napa County’s 2010 Agricultural Crop Report, which is published by the Department of Agriculture and Weights and Measures. The pamphlet features about a dozen charts and graphs that spell out the details of Napa’s winegrape production, as well as its production of secondary crops. Here are a few key stats about Napa wine country, keeping in mind that these numbers pertain to Napa’s winegrapes more so than its wine:

• In total acreage, Napa’s red grapes outnumber its white grapes by a little more than three to one (specifically, that’s 33,060 total acres of red grapes versus 10,208 total acres of white grapes).

• Napa Valley is planted to 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by 15% Chardonnay, 14% Merlot, 6% Pinot Noir, 6% Sauvignon Blanc, and 3% Zinfandel (the other 13% is comprised of dozens of other varietals, including Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Petite Sirah).

• Among all the white grapes planted in Napa Valley, about 65% are Chardonnay; among all the red grapes planted in Napa Valley, about 56% are Cabernet Sauvignon.

• In 2010, Napa’s red grapevines produced an average of 2.86 tons per acre, while white grapevines produced 4.13 tons per acre. More specifically, Cabernet produced an average of 3.03 tons per acre, while Chardonnay produced an average of 4.04 tons per acre.

• Napa’s total acreage for Cabernet Sauvignon outnumbers its total acreage for Chardonnay by almost three to one (that’s 19,557 acres of Cabernet versus 7,000 acres of Chardonnay). This scenario was much different 20 years ago — in the early 1990s, Cab and Chard each had plantings of just over 10,000 acres apiece (Chard plantings have declined since the mid-1990s, while Cab plantings began to surge about 10 years ago).

• Last year, red grapes accounted for 80.5% of Napa’s grape-farming revenue, versus just 19.5% total revenue for white grapes (the average price per ton for red grapes was $3,782, while white grapes earned just $2,906 per ton).

• In 2010, the average price per ton for Napa Cabernet Sauvignon was $4,453, while Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc earned $5,236 per ton and $4,919 per ton, respectively. Keep in mind, however, that Cabernet Sauvignon from a prime Napa vineyard can fetch upwards of $15,000 per ton, easily making it the priciest grape on the market.

• On average, the Rousanne grape earned the highest reported price per ton for any varietal, at $7,000. This figure might be a bit misleading, however, since Napa Valley only has 15 acres of Roussanne in total. Obviously, scarcity seems to have been a factor in this case (the only two Napa Valley bottlings of Roussanne that I’m aware of are produced by Kongsgard Winery and Truchard Vineyards).

• Among the winegrapes listed on Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste, Napa contains 52 acres of Charbono and just 19 acres of Napa Gamay. My favorite Charbono is produced by Summers Estate, although I have also enjoyed the other Napa versions of Charbono — it’s definitely a grape worth seeking out. As for Napa Gamay, the only version I’ve ever encountered was the Melange by Vincent Arroyo Winery, also worth a taste.

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