Deal Alert: Wine by the Glass Prices Plummet

Vintners need cash, so they are slashing prices

Napa and Sonoma counties wine harvest kicked off in earnest this week.

The first batch of the 2009 North Coast pinot noir vintage started leaving the vines and heading for the vats in a vineyard south of Glen Ellen.

A relatively cool summer has delayed the harvest by a week, but not necessarily reduced production.

And while the wines started this year won't hit the market for a while, wineries are already dealing with a depressed market, at least for the high end market.

So an abundance of fresh grapes means low prices, and an abundance of ready wine also means low prices, which may leave growers and producers strapped for cash in the midst of a credit crunch.

That need for cash is turning into a boon for wine drinkers.  Because wine makers need money for harvest time, they are slashing prices on high end wines.

Zazu Restaurant in Sonoma Valley says wineries are giving big price breaks on past vintages of some really great wine.

"We are pouring wines that are generally between 60 and 70 dollars for the same price that we used to pour the 30 to 40 dollar bottle of wine," Duskie Estes said.

This year's crop could be one of the best vintages seen in years, but without buyers, the fruit could be left to rot on the vine.

Growers say if that does happen it won't be the first time. 

And the depressed economy isn't just bad news for vintners -- it's also bad news for farmers, generally.

Prices for livestock raised by young farmers were significantly lower than last year, and across the country, Americans are cutting back on purchasing organic produce -- of which California is the leading producer.

It's enough to drive the folks in wine country to hit the bottle. For the rest of us, it's time to hit the farmer's markets to cash in on bargains and directly support our local growers.

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