At Allied’s North Coast annual gathering, keynote speaker Steve Smith, vice president of operations for Constellation Wines U.S. agreed with DiBuduo that the valley is rebounding, but the coastal areas are still struggling.

In an interview with Western Farm Press, he acknowledged that U.S. wine grape consumption is growing at a “healthy” 3 percent. However, the “fly in the ointment” is that the average per bottle cost of wine has not come back and wineries are struggling on the top end of the wine pricing scale.

He also agreed with DiBuduo’s point that grapes for value priced wines are in a strong position this year.

There has always been a quality separation between the hotter interior valleys and cooler coastal growing regions. However, that separation is narrowing with “substantial” quality improvement in valley grapes. He applauded the work of the San Joaquin Valley Wine Growers Association in giving more visibility to SJV wines.

He also said nurseries are taking increasingly more orders for vines for new vineyards in the valley in the wake of improved grape prices.

He suggested more of a “team effort to work together” as vintners and growers strive to be profitable. “We need to leverage our knowledge by working together to maintain and grow our business.

“With any commodity it is really incumbent upon us both to have open lines of communications and for growers to understand the margins we are working under,” he said.

Nevertheless, he also recognized the wine market is now globally competitive and that “increased imports are coming in to cover the shortfall of California grapes and satisfy the increased interest from millennials.”