Many times I get asked why are the wines here so pricey especially Cabernet sauvignon. Many who come here and dine in one of many great restaurants scattered throughout Napa Valley, sometimes roll there eyes when glancing through the wine lists. Do you look for the most expensive bottle, often a French red or Napa Valley Cabernet, finding many way over $100, some $1,000+?
There are many reasons the better ones start at $100 and up. To begin, the average price per ton for Cabernet sauvignon in 2014, according the Napa County Agricultural Commission’s annual report, $5,932. The priciest grapes in the Valley, To Kalon Vineyard, have been reported to have sold for up to $18,000 per ton. In case you are wondering, one ton of grapes makes about 700 bottles of wine at 750 ml each. To Kalon Vineyard photo from Robert Mondavi Winery website.
Add to this all the regular costs in making wine, land values $100,000 to $250,000 for unplanted acreage, with prime location planted acreage going for $400,000+ per acre and then all the costs one doesn’t think about. It all adds up quick. Here are a few subtle facts that many don’t know:
- It costs $40,000 to $50,000 per acre to plant a vineyard and then nearly $60,000 per year thereafter to maintain and this is for only flat land. If on a hillside factor in another 25%.
- It takes 3 years to get a usable crop with maturity coming after 5 years. Replanting required after 25-30 years for keeping the grape quality at its best.
- The better wines are aged in oak barrels 3-4 years and some longer. Heck, a top quality French oak barrel can cost $4,000 each and you generally can only use them twice to ensure they endow the flavor they do to the wine.
- Throw in marketing, consultants, charity gifts, the percentages taken by distributers and discounts for restaurants, it all adds up.
In the end, we each will need to justify paying top dollar for a great Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Obviously, they are many who just can’t afford such a luxury. But if you are one of those that can, it is a taste with no equal, truly the nectar of the gods. Who knows, it just might bring out the Bacchus in those that imbibe.