California Dominates Restaurant Sales

Wine & Spirits survey reveals prices, favorites and trends

by Jane Firstenfeld
California Dominates Restaurant Sales
Source: Wine & Spirits magazine
New York, N.Y. -- Wines from California outsell imports in fine dining establishments by wide margins in virtually every category, according to Wine & Spirits magazine's 19th Annual Restaurant Poll, to be published in its April issue. All but 14 of the top 50 brands came from California; the only other U.S. Producers to make the list were Oregon's King Estate and Washington's Chateau Ste. Michelle. Of the remaining dozen top brands, five were from Italy, three from France, and two each from Argentina and New Zealand. The seven best-selling brands were all from California: Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, Cakebread Cellars, Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Ferrari-Carano Winery, Silver Oak Wine Cellars, Caymus Vineyards and Rombauer Vineyards.

Wine & Spirits announced the results in a release dated March 6 that featured a timeline showing a purported plateau in red wine sale. The red wine share had decreased only slightly from a historic peak of 63.8% in 2006 to 62.1% in 2007.

California brands also dominated in wine-by-the-glass sales. Of the Top 33 brands listed, only six were imports. Washington's Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay and Riesling took eighth place and the rest were California products, including the top four: Beringer Vineyards White Zinfandel and Chardonnay; Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards Chardonnay; J. Lohr Winery Merlot and Chardonnay and Kendall-Jackson Vineyards Chardonnay. Average price by-the-glass for the top four ranged from $8.45 to $12.54.

The picture was remarkably different when it came to the lowest priced wines on restaurant lists. Although Beringer Vineyards White Zinfandel was the biggest seller, with an average price of $19.55, 15 of the 34 wines reported were imports, and three Washington brands, Chateau Ste. Michelle, 14 Hands and Hogue Cellars, made the top 15.

Overall, bottle prices rose only a few cents on average, from $62.32 in 2006 to $62.89 in 2007; Cabernet Sauvignon prices fell from an average of $90.05 in 2006 to $85.92 last year. While 74% of respondents reported an increase in wine sales, this figure was down from 86% in 2006.

To compile the survey, Wine & Spirits mailed 2,444 questionnaires to restaurants culled from 40 Zagat Survey guides from across the U.S. Of these, 309 restaurateurs submitted their responses prior to deadline; some were later interviewed about perceived trends in wine sales. The complete poll includes details by varietals, sources and other data. Wine & Spirits subscribers may download the results at wineandspiritsmagazine.com; others may purchase the April issue, to be released March 13.
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