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California Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is among the world’s most sought-after wines, known for its translucent color, moderate tannins and acidity. The wines display subtle flavors and aromas of fresh raspberry, plum, rose and spice.

The variety had been steadily growing in popularity among U.S. consumers long before 2004, when the movie “Sideways” helped propel Pinot Noir into the national spotlight. But there is no denying the film’s impact on the variety. Following the release of “Sideways” on October 22, 2004, with the central character singing Pinot Noir’s praises, U.S. supermarket sales jumped 18 percent in less than a year. In 2004, California crushed 70,062 tons of Pinot Noir, compared to 313,824 tons in 2018, according to California Grape Crush reports. The California regions with the largest Pinot Noir acreage include Sonoma, Monterey and Santa Barbara counties.

Pinot Noir can be complex, elusive and difficult to grow, yet many winemakers persist because the resulting wines can reap a reward equal to the challenge. This noble red variety is ancient, described by Romans in 100 A.D. and cultivated in the Burgundy region of France as early as the 4th century. Pinot Noir is prone to genetic variation, and has more clones than any other variety (the University of California, Davis, has nearly 100 registered Pinot Noir clones). The variety does well in cool growing areas where it develops excellent color and flavor.

Top 10 California Counties for Pinot Noir Acreage, 2018
County Total Acres
Sonoma 12,735
Monterey 10,686
Santa Barbara 5,467
San Joaquin 3,002
Mendocino 2,788
Napa 2,753
Sacramento 2,351
San Luis Obispo 2,141
Yolo 1,283
Merced 922
Other 2,704
State Total 46,832
Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service
California Pinot Noir Grape Crush Tonnage
Year Tons Crushed
2018 313,824
2017 263,793
2016 253,995
2015 184,969
2014 245,751
2013 259,897
2012 248,469
2011 170,450
2010 147,732
2009 156,704
2008 105,678
2007 89,519
2006 105,971
2005 94,736
2004 70,062
2003 58,185
2002 54,156
2001 63,501
2000 53,050
1999 36,653
1998 28,923
1997 48,319
1996 36,642
1995 28,917
1994 31,918
1993 36,378
1992 37,060
1991 34,396
1990 32,295
Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service