What is in this article?:
- Record wine grape crush in California for 2012 should not dissuade growers from stepped-up production.
- "Factors that drive wine grape prices have been in the grower’s favor lately."
- "Don’t plant on speculation; get a contract for the grapes you’re about to produce."
BEN SLAUGHTER, left, with Correia-Xavier, and Jeff Bitter, vice president of operations for Allied Grape Growers in Fresno.
Bullish on wine industry
Others who appeared bullish on the state’s wine industry during the meeting included members of a panel on investing in the industry and Ben Slaughter, real estate authority with Correia-Xavier.
Slaughter also talked of the boost the U.S. industry has gotten from a cheap U.S. dollar, “making exports attractive and imports expensive.” He talked of a limited “ag is cool” sentiment that has some seeking to buy agriculture properties, including vineyards, and especially as prices for grapes go up.
“Wine prices drive grape prices,” he said, “and grape prices drive vineyard prices.”
Slaughter said there have been stronger prices for grapes on the Central Coast, and planting in that region has been stepped up. But planting on the Northern Coast has declined as the amount of desirable land declines.
In the Central Valley, prices for open farmland have risen significantly, Slaughter said, at 17 percent annually for 10 years. In 2002, he said, open farmland in the region was selling at an average price of $2,800 an acre, compared to $12,800 in 2012.
He said it remains questionable how sustainable it will be “to continue to grow $300 (per ton) grapes on $12,000 dirt” and with diesel priced at $4 a gallon.
The investment panel included Mark Couchman, Silverado Premium Properties and Silverado Winegrowers, who said, “The wine market in the United States is healthy” and “there’s continued demand for higher priced wines.”
“The San Joaquin Valley is in a great position,” Couchman said, “and not just for wine grapes. But don’t forget, you’re in a global market.”
Other bits of advice and activities at the forum included these:
“Keep it simple” was the message of at least two of the speakers, Francesca Schuler, head of marketing for retailer Beverages and More, and Claudia Schubert, president of Diageo Chateau and Estate Wines.