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.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

What yield can a person expect to harvest in tons from a 1-acre parcel of vineyard, assuming the highest yield in Napa? What is a reasonable price per ton for an exceptional quality of fruit in Napa? Does it vary by type of grape? What would a mixed block be worth?

—Patricia S., Chico, Calif.

Dear Patricia,

That’s a lot of questions you’ve asked, so let me go over them one at a time.

First off, California vineyard yields are not regulated by law, and they can vary quite a bit. As I’ve answered previously, the average yield in California is about 8 tons per acre, but in some regions like Napa and Sonoma, I imagine it’s much lower on average. Sometimes winemakers like to brag about how low-yielding their vineyards are, but I never really hear anyone say anything below a half-ton an acre, probably because below that, the economics of growing grapes stops making sense.

The most recent statistics from the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture put the average price per ton of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon at about $5,100, while Napa Chardonnay averaged $2,400 a ton.

Supply and demand play a big role in the price of grapes. Hi, economics! Keep in mind that some grapes are just naturally higher- or lower-yielding, or easier or harder to grow than other grapes. Some grapes are planted at higher or lower density per acre, and then all of the factors about how the growing season affects the grapes can raise or lower the cost.

As far as the cost of a mixed block, vineyards can really vary in price. I don’t think you’d find anything in Napa for less than $50,000 an acre, and the most I’ve ever heard paid for vineyards was in the range of $350,000 an acre. It depends on the reputation of the vineyard and other variables, like access to water, zoning laws and the like.

—Dr. Vinny


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