Questions or comments on our new mobile-responsive site? Tell us here.
Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.




Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Dear Dr. Vinny,

You cited stats of about 8 tons per acre of wine grapes harvested in California. That seems very high. In a recent Sonoma County visit, no one mentioned yields greater than 4 tons an acre—and that’s visiting about 20 wineries. Also, lower yields produce better flavors. So why the seeming disparity?

—Rik H., Jeffersonville, Pa.

Dear Rik,

I don’t doubt that the vineyards you visited in Sonoma are below the state’s average yields. But Sonoma County’s 57,000-ish acres of grapes represent only about 12 percent of the state’s current 476,377 acres of wines grapes total. If you drive around to other parts of California, like the 71,000 acres of wine grapes in San Joaquin County, the 35,000 acres in Madera County or the 20,000 acres in Merced, I bet you’d see some of the other ends of the grape-yield spectrum.

That’s honestly not meant as a dig on the grapes grown in those regions. Wine is a business, and in those areas, land is more affordable and the regions don’t have as much cachet, so different types of grapes are grown for different types of wines. Do lower yields produce better-flavored wines? Some of the best wines I’ve had are from vineyards with yields that are close to just 1 ton per acre, but I’ve had some pretty terrible wines from low-yielding vineyards, too. Vintages also play a part in yield variation, and some grapes are just naturally big (or small) producers.

It comes down to economics. In places like Napa or Sonoma, there’s a higher demand, land costs more, and the result is that there are lower yields and different returns on the cost of growing, selling and buying grapes. Maybe the high-yield grapes aren’t in the wines that you or I drink right now, but I think that more people drinking wine is good news for all of us. After all, college-age Dr. Vinny started off drinking wine from high-yield vineyards, and look at me now.

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers


WineRatings+ app: Download now for 300,000+ ratings.