El Dorado grape numbers look good | TahoeDailyTribune.com

El Dorado grape numbers look good

Despite production losses resulting from a frost in May 2000, wine grape values in El Dorado County grew by 5 percent for that year.

The total value topped $4 million, in comparison to a little more than $3,800,000 the year before. And the number of acres earmarked for wine grape growing increased 16 percent to 1,165.

The statistics released from the county agricultural commissioner last week added to the growing belief that El Dorado has become a blossoming region for grape growers.

The rising numbers buck the trend of lowering California wine grape prices, which dropped an average of 3.5 percent a ton.

“(The increased values have) a lot to do with the high quality grapes in comparison to other areas,” agricultural biologist Wendy West said Friday from her Placerville office.

It’s both an art and a science, West said.

The grapes tend to thrive in the wide temperature variances that are often found in Placerville and the surrounding areas. Indeed, the secret of the grapes varies with each winery. But for the most part, it relates to the production of the sugar content in the fruit, she explained.

The topography of the hilly growing region also helps, she added. Some of the grape growers have noticed weather patterns, in which cold pockets tend to hang in the valley – opposed to on the hillside where the crops soak up the sun’s rays, as contributing to the fruition of the crop.

Apple production also rebounded in 2000, coming in with a total value of $4.4 million. Extensive hail damage in that year dropped values to $3.8 million.

For other commodities, Christmas tree sales took off in 2000, posting a 33 percent increase from 1999 to $2.7 million.

The high demand for choose-and-cut trees can be attributed to the lack of supply from Oregon, so the burden lay heavier on California that year, West indicated.

Moreover, unusually warm weather and sunny skies in December sent people out in droves to get a piece of the Waltons Christmas.

Overall, the 2000 gross agricultural value increased to $52.4 million, representing an increase of 2 percent over the 1999 figures.

The agricultural department estimates the impact of ag conditions on the El Dorado County economy a year ago will amount to about $320 million. Of that figure, the department calculated that 35 percent can be traced back to the wine industry.

Many of the Placerville-area fruit growers sell their products in South Lake Tahoe’s two Farmers’ Markets locations – one at the American Legion Post on U.S. Highway 50 and the other at Stateline at Kahle Community Park off Kingsbury Grade.

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