Source: University of California Cooperative Extension
—A group of University of California staff members and ag advisors have published a detailed report about typical practices and costs to replant a Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in Crush District 11, the Lodi area of northern San Joaquin and Sacramento counties.
The report complements a similar study from 2010 about the North Coast region. It analyzes a hypothetical 200-acre farm owned and operated by the grower. Sixty acres of vines being replanted are the basis of this study; the farm also has 135 acres of mature vineyards in production. Roads, irrigation systems, fencing and farmstead occupy 5 acres of the property.
Land in this area costs $11,000-$30,000 per acre.
Establishing a vineyard
The new vineyard is being planted on land that had an existing vineyard, and then was left fallow or planted with alternative crops for a couple of years.
Costs for the first year include charges for a contractor to remove old grapevines the previous fall. The grower may add soil amendments. The contractor then rips the land in two different directions to a depth of 5-6 feet to break up hardpan, improve root penetration and water infiltration, pull up additional roots remaining from the previous vines and disc the land.
He discs twice the following spring, adding a pre-emergent residual herbicide.
The grower then plants potted benchgraft vines on a 5-foot x 11-foot spacing at 792 vines per acre. The vines are trained to a quadrilateral cordon height at 60 inches above ground and spur pruned.
The field is marked and laid out in the fall or spring (April) and planting by hand starts in the spring (May.) The following year, 2% or 13 vines per acre have to be replanted.
The trellis system is designed to support a quadrilateral cordon trained to a horizontally divided canopy and spur-pruned vineyard.
The trellis system is part of the vineyard, so it is included as part of the establishment cost.
Farming the vineyard
In this study, training during the establishment years includes pruning, tying, suckering, shoot positioning and shoot thinning.
The prunings during the first three years are placed in between the vine rows and are chopped during the first discing.
During the first year, the vines are allowed to grow freely with no attempt at training.
In the second year, during dormancy (February), the vines are pruned back to two buds to provide shoots, of which one is selected for trunk development. This shoot is topped at or slightly below the cordon wire during the latter part of the season.
Two lateral shoots are selected from the trunk as the bilateral cordons. Any remaining lower laterals are also pruned and the cordons cut back to the appropriate length.
By the third year, cordons will have grown along the permanent cordon wire and pruners select spur positions in May and June. Dormant canes from spurs are pruned to two-bud spurs.
The vines are mechanically trimmed in September, prior to harvest.
Irrigation water is calculated at $100 per acre-foot, with 6 inches of stored rainfall from an average of 17 inches of annual rains.
During the first two years, irrigations begin in May and end around September. In the third year, additional irrigations are made after harvest.
Harvesting for profit
The crop is machine harvested by a custom operator who charges $325 per acre. The vines begin yielding fruit in the third years and produce for an additional 22 years.
Yield in the third year is 5 tons per acre. Yield maturity is reached in the fourth year, with an average of 10 tons per acre used to calculate yields. Yield for Cabernet Sauvignon in Lodi is typically 8 to 12 tons per acre.
The report was created by San Joaquin County farm advisor Paul S. Verdegaal, UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) specialist Karen M. Klonsky of the UC Davis
Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, and staff research associate Richard L. De Moura with growers Dale Carlson, Brad Goehring, Joe Valente, Diego Olagaray, Bruce Fry, Ernie Dosio and Amy Blagg.
By comparison, a similar costs report in Napa County for 1,555 vines per acre yielding 4.5 tons per acre would result in total cash costs per acre of $31,983, $5,212 and $5,251 for the first three years, but the income would total $4,455 per acre (with 1 ton in the third year.)
That report said land in Napa Valley costs $50,000 to $300,000 per acre.
The 21-page report is available at coststudies.ucdavis.edu