For makers of wine and for drinkers of wine, 2012 was a year to toast.
An initial report said the state's wine grape harvest hit a record 4.01 million tons, easing concerns about a shortage after reduced crops in 2010 and 2011.
Consumers will continue to find plenty of affordable wine -- much of it produced at Modesto-area wineries -- though maybe not the superbargains of recent years.
"It filled their tanks," said Ken Yonan, who grows merlot and chardonnay grapes near Keyes. "Their tanks had been empty."
The National Agricultural Statistics Service released its preliminary report earlier this month and will have a final version March 8.
The first report showed a 20 percent gain in the harvest over the 3.35 million tons in 2011. The previous record was 3.76 million tons in 2005.
The average price per ton last year was $769, up from $637 the year before. As always, location matters: Napa Valley grapes went for an average of $3,579 per ton in 2012, while those from Modesto-area vineyards averaged $490.
Prices increased in several growing regions, including Lodi, the San Joaquin Valley and the Sierra Nevada foothills. It was welcome news to growers, who had seen prices plunge about a decade ago because of a glut of grapes.
"Pricing across the board was just as strong and in some cases stronger than 2011," said Erica Moyer of Riverbank, a broker and partner with Turrentine Brokerage in Novato. "Growers and wineries are happy."
The company, which deals in grapes and bulk wine, attributed the big crop to a long, moderate growing season in most of the state.
"Growing consumer demand is expected to easily absorb the increase, especially after a light harvest in 2011," President Steve Fredricks said in a news release.
Modesto-area wineries have done much to stir up the demand, by enhancing the quality of San Joaquin Valley grapes while keeping production costs in line.
Among them are E.&J. Gallo Winery of Modesto; Bronco Wine Co. near Ceres; The Wine Group, with holdings including the former Franzia Winery near Ripon; and DFV Wines near Manteca, formerly Delicato. Together, they employ several thousand people.
These producers control a large part of a U.S. market that will get larger as more consumers become frequent wine drinkers.
Modesto-area wineries have brands from Napa, Sonoma and other premium regions that are recovering from the recession's hard hit on higher-end spending.
John Aguirre, president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers in Sacramento, said the income boost will repair finances on the farm and ripple through nearby communities.
"The 2012 crop delivered an economic boon for California," he said in a news release.
The abundance of grapes could reduce the need for California wineries to import bulk wine from sources such as Australia.
The previous glut gave rise to the "extreme value" market sector -- cork-closed bottles of single-varietal wine for about $2.
The most famous was the $1.99 Charles Shaw brand made by Bronco for the Trader Joe's stores in California. The wine, dubbed Two Buck Chuck, rose to $2.49 last month because of the 2010-11 shortage of grapes and bulk wine.
It likely would take more than one large harvest to bring such a bargain back, but consumers can look forward to wine that won't stretch their budgets.
Yonan said the improved grape prices could keep growers from switching to almonds or other better-paying crops.
"I think the industry will be good for the next four or five years," he said.