Starting in 2012, Monterey County winemakers experienced a three-year economic boom, with above-average wine grape production and values, generating $247 million in 2014, the peak year.
Last year, however, grapes dropped by 25 percent in value—to the lowest they’ve been since 2011—after heat and dry weather affected grape-growing areas.
“On the face of it, it looks like grapes had a really bad year,” says Kim Stemler, executive director of the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association. “But in the long run, I actually think there is promise being shown.”
Stemler says that 2012 and 2013 were uniquely abundant years for wine grape production, and balance in the market needed to be restored. But she also expects the economic fallout from the Brexit vote to negatively affect the local wine market. U.K. imports of California wine are likely to become more expensive due to the devalued pound, so Stemler expects consumers there to choose cheaper bottles. “Last year, they bought a bottle for $30. Now, maybe they’ll buy a $10 bottle of wine. We are going to lose money,” Stemler predicts.
Those up-and-down changes are a natural part of the thriving local agricultural industry that continues to break records year after year. In 2015, the value of Monterey County crops exceeded $4.84 billion, according to the annual crop report released June 28 by county Agricultural Commissioner Eric Lauritzen. That’s almost $1 billion higher than 2011.
“This unparalleled record of success reflects a healthy diversity of high-value crops in our county,” Lauritzen said at a press conference releasing the report.
Among the 26 major crops grown in the county, leaf lettuce retained the top spot, generating $869 million in 2015, a 12-percent increase from the previous year. Strawberries, the number-two crop, were valued at $861 million, a 21-percent increase over the previous year.