By Kenneth Harwood

Economist, Solvang Chamber of Commerce

Santa Barbara County recorded more than $1.5 million in sales of wine grapes in 2016, and a few varieties of grapes brought especially high prices. For example, cabernet franc grapes sold for nearly $3,000 per ton, pinot noir for about $2,500, and syrah for about $2,400.

Chardonnay grapes represented the largest number of tons sold. These grapes brought $1,456 a ton.

Prices of premium wine grapes in Santa Barbara County are nipping at the heels of prices in Napa County. Santa Barbara County pinot noir grapes sold for 96 percent of the Napa County pinot noir grape price in 2016, for example.

Experienced winemakers often say that quality of grapes determines 80 percent of the quality of wine.

Cabernet franc and merlot are often blended with cabernet sauvignon to produce higher-priced red wines. Many such red blends retail for $100 or more a bottle.

Wine is a popular drink. Yearly consumption of wine per resident in the U. S. rose from one gallon in 1946 to nearly three gallons in 2016.

Solvang alone offers more than 20 tasting rooms and wine bars, and most communities in the Santa Ynez Valley have a variety of wine tasting venues. The valley contains four federally recognized wine growing districts, known as American Viticultural Appellations or AVAs.

See online the Santa Barbara County Agricultural Production Report 2016, and Napa County Agricultural Crop Report 2016, for prices per ton of wine grapes. The Wine Institute online publishes historical data of wine consumption. Wine bars and tasting rooms are listed in the 2018 Solvang Destination Guide, and in the 2018 Santa Ynez Valley Destination Guide. Combined guides are online and in print.