With all the recent political crossfiring, finger pointing and rhetoric about jobs created, lost and outsourced, etc., the health of the California wine industry is an increasingly bright spot in the U.S. economy.
Sure, wine is a big part of our lives and a tinier factor in the broader economic scheme of things. But California wine is pulling more and more weight.
Here are a few facts and figures that are worth considering. The statistics were compiled by California's Wine Institute, based on both government and trade organization resources.
The Golden State produces 90 percent of the nation's wine and is the fourth-largest wine producer in the world, behind France, Italy and Spain.
Retail sales of California wine in 2011 totaled $19.9 billion domestically, with $1.39 billion in exports, both of which were record numbers. California wine is one of our country's greatest ambassadors. It is sold and consumed in 125 countries.
California wine has its biggest impact in California, of course, with an economic value of $61.5 billion according to 2010 numbers, and $121.8 billion in the U.S.
Some 330,000 Californians work in the wine business, with another 820,000 employed nationally as a result of California wine. The workforces generated $12.3 billion in state wages and $25.8 billion in U.S. wages, respectively. Those workers contributed an estimated $14.7 billion in state and federal taxes.
Nearly 21 million people visited California wine regions in 2010, and they spent an estimated $2.1 billion.
The best news is that in trying economic times, the state's wine industry is growing in size, revenue and jobs.
When I travel outside the U.S. and tell people I live in California's Napa Valley, wine is often the first thing that springs to their minds. Not Hollywood, not the beaches, not the parks or the big cities, but the gift of the grape. If you add in the economic and social impact of Washington, Oregon, and America's other wine regions, the grape plays an even bigger role.
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