Napa Has a Grape Vine Shortage

It's time to replace many grape vines, and nurseries are out of stock

By Chris Roberts
|  Monday, Dec 17, 2012  |  Updated 12:41 PM PDT
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2013 may not be a very good year for Napa wines. It's not so much a grape problem -- there's not enough vines.

A shortage of grapevine stock is currently vexing vinters in the legendary winemaking region, according to the Associated Press.

A glut of vines planted following a disease outbreak in the 1980s are all due to be dug up and replaced, and other vineyards are replacing common varietals with grapes better suited to their microclimates. Others are reconfiguring their vineyards' layout to better accommodate machines, or to prevent erosion. All this means that commercial vineyard nurseries are sold out, and many may be out of stock until 2014 or beyond, the AP reported.

"What's totally phenomenal for me is I'm focusing on 2014 and 2015, which is absolutely nutso," said Michael Monette of Sunridge Nurseries, one of the industry's biggest suppliers of plants. "I've never seen anything like this."

Napa's ascent to wine superstardom exploded in the 1980s, after several Napa wines famously beat out French varieties at a Paris competition in 1976. 

$1.2 billion worth of vines were replaced 20 years ago following an outbreak of a plant disease that ate away the rootstock. And 20 years is about how long a vine lives before it needs to be replaced -- hence the shortage of new stock, and the grape-less conundrum many growers will find themselves in.

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