Selling Grapes to Wineries

Courting wineries is a lot like lining up a date for the prom. Right now there aren’t enough Sonoma County grapes to go around and wineries have to compete for available fruit. Take advantage and drop by wineries to talk about your vineyard. You’ll get lots of free stuff and maybe a free meal or two. But don’t let the hospitality snow you.

Matching a winery to your vineyard

Whether or not you know it, you have goals for your vineyard and for your grapes. It is important to set them out clearly. Goals for a vineyard can be things like:

Financial
Provide income when I retire
Provide extra income now
Provide a long term investment

If you goals are mostly financial, then you should look for one of the larger wineries whose standards aren’t quite as demanding, allows reasonable yields and who still pays top dollar. These larger wineries will allow you to keep your costs down and you revenues up. You can establish a long term relationship that you can have some confidence will last.
The Grapes
Grow the highest quality grapes
Simply to live on a vineyard
Grow grapes in harmony with the land

If your goals are related to wine, then you should look for wineries that share your attitudes about wine. This can be a fun process and should involve meeting a lot of winemakers and tasting a lot of wine. Typically you will be talking to smaller wineries that have a similar focus to your own.
The Wine
Be involved in making the best wine
Eventually make wine myself

If you want to eventually make your own wine, then find a winery that will allow you the greatest level of involvement in the process. Keep track of your juice and taste it as it travels from crush to fermentation to barrel to bottle. Most smaller wineries will welcome this kind of involvement from a grower.

Contracts

Most grape contracts are by the ton. Since you, as grower, have some control over the number of tons you grow, you can increase your income by raising your yields. But wineries want low yields because in general it means higher quality. Wineries will often limit your yield in your contract. Make sure that if your yields are severely limited, that you get a higher price per ton to compensate for it or convert to a per acre contract.

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