In mid-May, Allied Grape Growers completed our San Joaquin Valley bunch count survey for 2018. For each of the major varieties we have numerous sample ranches from Clarksburg and Lodi in the north, down to areas south of Fresno. At each vineyard, we sample the same set of vines each year for consistency. This bunch count is broken into regions as described in the table herein and as applicable for variety. Allied Grape Growers does not report annual bunch counts in the coastal regions due to the fact that most growers adjust their crop load significantly in those regions throughout the growing season to meet winery expectations for crop load and quality.

The summary data included in the table herein represents average bunch counts for the San Joaquin Valley compared to the previous year as well as the ten-year average. This year, the variety/region combinations showed differences that were both more and less clusters than last year and the ten-year average, depending on the combination. Since a simple comparison to 2017 would only give the perspective "as compared to last year", we have also shown how the 2018 bunch counts compare to the ten-year average.

The following are average bunch counts per vine taken from various variety/region combinations in 2018 as compared to last year and the ten-year average.

2018 Allied Grape Growers Bunch Count/% Change 2018 % Change % Change
Variety and Location Bunch From From
Whites Count Last Year 10-Year Avg
Chardonnay (Dist 11/17 - Lodi/Clarksburg) 64.7 12.3% -10.8%
Chardonnay (Dist 12 - Merced-Manteca) 82.7 34.1% 7.2%
Chardonnay (Dist 13 - Madera/Fresno) 103.0 25.8% 22.9%
French Colombard - (Dist 13-14) 116.7 11.6% 9.2%
Muscat of Alexander - (Dist 13 - Madera/Fresno) 62.1 11.1% -6.7%
Pinot Grigio - San Joaquin Valley (incl. Lodi) 87.8 9.9% 1.6%
Thompson Seedless - (District 13 - Madera/Fresno) 32.7 18.8% 0.0%
Barbera 105.2 34.9% 37.6%
Cabernet Sauvignon (Dist 11 - Lodi) 80.3 -21.2% -16.5%
Cabernet Sauvignon (Dist 12 - Merced-Manteca) 95.8 -17.9% -10.4%
Cabernet Sauvignon (Dist 13 - Madera/Fresno) 85.8 3.3% -2.8%
Carignane (Dist 13 - Madera/Fresno) 116.2 36.7% 33.1%
Grenache (Dist 13 - Madera/Fresno) 86.6 14.8% 8.9%
Merlot (Dist 11 - Lodi) 70.2 -14.0% -5.2%
Merlot (Dist 12 - Merced-Manteca) 75.3 -9.7% -13.3%
Merlot (Dist 13 - Madera/Fresno) 119.3 36.1% 38.9%
Petite Sirah (Dist 11 - Lodi) 48.8 -15.6% -21.4%
Rubired (Dist 13 - Madera/Fresno) 156.0 23.4% 3.3%
Ruby Cabernet (Dist 13 - Madera/Fresno) 124.3 21.2% 12.8%
Syrah (Dist 13 - Madera/Fresno) 89.9 1.1% 5.8%
Zinfandel (Dist 11 - Lodi On wire) 46.6 -8.3% -19.7%
Zinfandel (Dist 11 - Lodi Head trained) 40.8 -18.4% -16.8%
Zinfandel (Dist 13 - Madera/Fresno) 66.9 7.3% -11.7%

Based on bunch counts alone, we believe the crop looks like what we would classify as average. Nothing we see convinces us of a huge shortage or surplus across the board. However, one thing to note is that all of Lodi's major historical varieties showed lower bunch counts than last year and the ten-year average except for Chardonnay. Whites in general are up from last year and even the ten-year average. Generics reds seem to be generally up in counts while varietal reds seem generally down (except in the Central and Southern San Joaquin Valley). Aside from these immediate varietal/categorical observations, there doesn't seem to be any particular pattern we can call out for the crop as a whole.

Word from the field is that the Syrah crop is looking very light, despite the bunch count indication of a normal crop. Rubired, even though it shows a very strong bunch count, cannot be completely evaluated for yield until well after berry set, as it is extremely prone to shatter. The Thompson Seedless counts (at 32.7 clusters per vine) were dead-on with our 10-year average and slightly higher than last year. We fully suspect a 9.5-10 ton/acre Thompson crop based on bunch counts and growing conditions so far.

The bigger story than bunch counts for 2018 has been the extremely favorable growing conditions experienced during the Spring that has contributed to bunch elongation, an extended bloom time, and a mostly favorable berry set. Although nothing particularly exciting comes from bunch counts alone, most in the industry are saying that this crop should be a solid average, or better, crop.

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