California Pinot Noir

When the hit movie “Sideways” was released on October 22, 2004, with the central character Miles extolling the virtues of Pinot Noir, U.S. supermarket sales of the variety jumped 18 percent between October 24, 2004 and July 2, 2005, compared to the same period a year earlier. Pinot Noir, however, had been steadily growing in popularity long before “Sideways” helped propel the wine into mainstream American awareness. In 2016, California crushed 253,995 tons of Pinot Noir, compared to more than 32,000 tons of Pinot Noir crushed in 1990, according to the California Grape Crush Reports. Clearly, Americans are expanding their preference for the fresh raspberry, plum, rose and spice flavors and aromas of Pinot Noir.

The Pinot Noir Grape

Pinot Noir can be complex, elusive and difficult to grow. Yet many winemakers will make Pinot Noir because the resulting wines can reap a reward as great as the challenge. This noble red wine variety is ancient, described by Romans in 100 A.D. and cultivated in the Burgundy region of France as early as the 4th century. Pinot Noir is prone to genetic variation, and has more clones than any other variety. The University of California, Davis, has some 100 registered Pinot Noir clones. The variety does well in the coolest growing areas where it develops excellent color and flavor.

Top 10 California Counties for Pinot Noir Acreage, 2016

County 2016 Total Acres
Sonoma 12,527
Monterey 9,720
Santa Barbara 5,272
Napa 2,838
Mendocino 2,720
San Joaquin 2,717
Sacramento 2,196
San Luis Obispo 2,051
Yolo 1,009
Merced 922
Other 2,606
STATE TOTAL 44,578

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service.

California Pinot Noir Grape Crush Tonnage

Year Tons Crushed
2016 253,995
2015 184,969
2014 245,751
2013 259,897
2012 248,469
2011 170,450
2010 147,732
2009 156,704
2008 105,678
2007 89,519
2006 105,971
2005 94,736
2004 70,062
2003 58,185
2002 54,156
2001 63,501
2000 53,050
1999 36,653
1998 28,923
1997 48,319
1996 36,642
1995 28,917
1994 31,918
1993 36,378
1992 37,060
1991 34,396
1990 32,295

Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service.