When you think about wine made in the United States, the Napa Valley region of California is often the first place that comes to mind. That’s not surprising when you realize that the county houses an enormous collective acreage of vineyards.
It may be surprising to you that Napa Valley vineyards don’t contribute all that much to the United States’ rank as the fourth largest wine producer in the world by tonnage. However, the vineyards of the valley figure hugely in the wine culture of the country.
The first wine grapes were planted in Napa Valley in 1838, and since then the gorgeous region in northern California has grown into a premier tourist destination.
Here are a few surprising facts about grapes, wine, and wine making in the Napa Valley:
1. Vineyard land in Napa Valley is among the most expensive agricultural land in the United States, valued between $75,000 and $300,000 per acre. There are approximately 43,000 vineyard acres in Napa Valley, which make up approximately 9% of the county’s total land. The minimum amount you would need to buy up all of wine country in Napa Valley would be around $3.2 billion!
2. Napa Valley vineyards combine to make up less than 5% of the total United States vineyard acreage. In 2011, that 5% of US vineyard acreage produced over 8.4 million cases of wine officially labeled “Napa Valley wine”. In total, wineries in Napa Valley produced nearly 50 million cases of wine.
3. The most popular varietals in Napa Valley are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir.
4. There are over 780 licensed wineries in Napa Valley, the vast majority of which have been built since 1966. Robert Mondavi Winery was founded that year, and was the first big winery to open in the area since the Prohibition era.
5. In 2011 the Napa Valley wine industry employed 46,000 full-time workers who earned $2.1 billion in wages.
6. Tourists take nearly 4 million winery tours each year and spend over $1 billion dollars as they travel the valley.
7. Despite the enormous scale of wineries in Napa, valley wineries only produce 4% of California’s total wine output every year. California produces 90% of wine made in the United States.
While Napa Valley is relatively small from a geographical standpoint, it holds a hugely important position in the wine making traditions of the United States.