There are at least 794,000 acres of wine, raisin and table grapes in California, but more likely the acreage is 861,000, according to USDA/NASS.

Estimating California vineyard acreage is one of the most nettlesome tasks the crop reporting service takes on. The numbers are a combination of what 9,000 California grape growers provide or do not provide in a voluntary survey and pesticide use reports compiled by county agriculture commissioners.

Growers say there are a little less than 800,000 acres. Pesticide use reports say it's more than 860,000.

Here is what NASS' best estimate is:

  • 522,000 acres of wine grapes; 45,000 non-bearing. This compares to 513,000 total in 2004 and 529,000 the year before.

  • 246,000 raisin type; 6,000 non-bearing. This compares to 248,000 the year before and 260,000 in 2003.

  • Table grape acreage has not changed for 3 years. It's 93,000 with 10,000 non-bearing.

Thompson seedless continues to be the dominant grape variety in the state with 221,000 acres, down only about 7,000 acres from 2004. This grape is primarily a raisin producer, but can be used to produce wine grapes and table grapes.

Despite estimates of 100,000 acres of all grapes — half of them Thompsons — being been pulled out over the past five years primarily in Central California, there are still 7,000 acres more Thompson vineyards in the ground in 2005 than there were in 1997 when the crop reporting service says there were 214,000 acres planted. There are almost 5,000 acres classified as non-bearing raisin types.

Flame Seedless, Crimson Seedless and Rd Globe are the dominant table grape varieties.

Chardonnay tops acreage

Chardonnay is still the largest acreage wine grape with almost 95,000 acres followed by Cabernet Sauvignon at almost 77,000 acres.

There are 290,000 acres of red wine grape vineyards in the state with 14,000 non-bearing. White wine grapes total almost 181,000 with about 12,000 non-bearing.

The largest non-bearing acreage is in Chardonnay (almost 3,000 acres) followed by the 2,500 acres of non-bearing Zinfandel, which is the second largest wine varietal in California followed by Merlot at 53,500.

French Colombard is making a comeback. It was one of the first to go during the last wine glut, but too much apparently came out and growers are replanting it based on winery demand. Almost 2,300 acres of the 29,000 acres of Colombards planted are non-bearing. Pinot Gris is No. 3 in the non-bearing category with 2,200 acres out of a total of 7,245 planted just within the past three years.

e-mail: hcline@farmpress.com