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San Diego County wine industry sees 19% sales growth in 2021

Pinot Noir grapes just picked are shown in a bin in Napa, Calif., Friday, Aug. 29, 2014.
Associated Press
Pinot Noir grapes just picked are shown in a bin in Napa, Calif., Friday, Aug. 29, 2014.

San Diego County winery sales saw a 19% increase last year over 2020, but sales have not yet rebounded to a pre-pandemic high, according to a report released Wednesday by the San Diego County Vintners Association.

According to the report, county wineries realized about $44.1 million in gross sales in 2021, a little short of the local winery industry's all-time- high of sales in 2019 — $46.2 million. The number of active wineries in San Diego County also rose to 160 in 2021.

"Like other industries, the county's wine industry has been challenged the last few years. But this report demonstrates the resiliency of wineries and the interest in winemaking in our region with a 6% increase in winery openings in 2021," said Ray Schnorr, Vintners Association president and co-owner of Highland Valley Vineyards in Escondido.

"San Diego wineries and vineyards are harvesting higher quality grapes, creating award-winning wines, and expanding the ways in which people can enjoy wine with more outdoor patios and tasting experiences than ever before," Schnorr added.

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According to the report, 1,370 acres of vines were harvested in the region last year, producing 3,073 tons of wine grapes with a production value of $5.2 million. These figures are down from pre-pandemic 2019 when county vineyards harvested 3,596 tons of wine grapes, worth $5.58 million, with a sales price of $1,552 per ton, a record amount in the region. The report found 81% of growers reported excellent to good harvest quality, the strongest since 2016.

The top three varietals produced in the county last year retain their rankings from prior years — Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Sangiovese, respectively, with Grenache and Merlot tied for fourth, and Chardonnay and Petite Syrah tied for fifth. Last year marked the first time that a white wine has appeared in the top five for regional varietals.

"Our wine industry continues to make great strides, especially in North County," County Supervisor Jim Desmond said. "I was a big supporter of keeping wineries open during the pandemic to keep these small businesses afloat. Local wineries are thriving despite the last few years of uncertainty, creating jobs, attracting tourism, and providing an important cultural industry in the county. It's impressive."

The 2022 San Diego County Economic Impact of Wineries report can be found at San Diego County Vintners Association website.