Worst-case scenario: income loss of $5 million for grape growers

The mid-December cold snap that sent temperatures plunging well below zero might cost Mesa County winemakers up to $5 million in income.

That’s according to state viticulturist Horst Caspari of the Colorado State University Research Station on Orchard Mesa.

Caspari said the most of the frost damage occurred west of Sink Creek on Orchard Mesa. Nearly all the vines west of Sink Creek were killed, Caspari said.

Caspari, emphasizing that his estimates were of the worst-case scenario, said that if the hardest hit areas produce no grapes at all in 2010, the loss would be about 480 tons of fruit, based on the 2009 production numbers.

“At $1,300 per ton, that is $624,000 in lost crop revenue,” Caspari said. “Further, assuming that all that fruit could have been turned into wine that wineries could have sold at an average price of $12 per bottle, it results in a lost value of approximately $4.5 million in wine.”

The combined revenue loss from grapes and wine come to around $5 million.

However, the overall impact to the state’s wine production is fairly small, Caspari said.

“The industrywide impact might be less than 20 percent because we still have close to a 100 percent crop outside of the Grand Valley AVA,” Caspari said.

Also, this year’s loss is small compared with the loss during the winter of 2006 and 2007, when cold weather damage caused the 2007 crop to be half the 2006 crop.

“And the year after (2008), we jumped right back to 1,300 to 1,400 tons,” Caspari said.

While this year’s shortage is expected to affect some wineries, Caspari said many wineries have built up their wine inventories, thanks to two back-to-back peak vintages.


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