Wine industry veterans see declining vineyard expansion

  • Jose Anguiano places a metal stake to mark where chardonnay vines will be planted in the spring at Sonoma Cutrer Vineyards, near Windsor, on Wednesday, October 16, 2013. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

As the largest wineries increase their vineyard holdings, industry veterans say future expansion of vineyards in Sonoma County may be minimal because there is little land left to plant.

The land that remains doesn't have the water or the warmth to support premium vineyards, and regulations on hillside planting are strong enough to dissuade those who can't afford to clear those hurdles, many say.

Sonoma County Vineyards: Who Are The Players?


<i>Search our interactive map of Sonoma County vineyards<a href="http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/99999999/multimedia/131119775" target="_blank"><b> here</b></a></i>

"It's like going to the supermarket at the end of the day, and all the best fruits and best tomatoes are picked over," said David Freed, chairman of Silverado Premium Properties, the third-largest vineyard owner in Sonoma County.

But 15 years ago, wine industry veterans were saying essentially the same thing.

Vineyard acreage had swelled from 28,000 acres in 1989 to 44,700 acres in 1998, an increase of nearly 60 percent in just nine years, according to data on the county's grape crop collected annually by the Agriculture Commissioner's office.

"No one thought there was any more room, and then the whole Sonoma Coast thing got started," said Jon Fredrikson, president of Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates, a Woodside wine industry consulting firm.

Over the next decade, vineyard acreage grew more than 40 percent in Sonoma County, peaking at 62,900 acres in 2009. It fell to 59,200 acres last year, after the recession led many wine consumers to trade down to cheaper wines, and growers and wineries had less capital to invest in replanting older vineyards.

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