A report released last week should hearten people seeking bargains in the wine aisle.
The state's wineries crushed 3.7 million tons of grapes last year, the second-highest total ever, the California Department of Food and Agriculture reported.
Industry experts said the large crop will help keep retail prices in check as wineries market products in a wobbly economy.
The grape supply is about right for the big wineries in the San Joaquin Valley, which mainly produce "value" wines at $3 to $12 a bottle, said Erica Moyer, a broker and partner with Turrentine Brokerage.
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"It's good to have that supply coming from the interior (of California) rather than from overseas," said Moyer, whose Novato-based company buys and sells grapes and bulk wine.
The state's winemakers in recent years have had to contend with inexpensive imports, notably from Australia and New Zealand.
The 2009 harvest was second only to the 3.8 million tons in 2005.
Reduced crops since then raised concerns about a grape shortage, but Wednesday's report detailing last year's bumper crop put those fears to rest for now.
"I think the tanks will be full for a while for the vintners," said Ken Yonan, who grows merlot and chardonnay grapes near Keyes.
Industry people said the state has not returned to a serious wine surplus, which happened nearly 10 years ago. Back then, low grape prices gave rise to the "extreme value" category of wines at $2 to $3 a bottle. Among them were the Charles Shaw label from Bronco Wine Co. near Ceres, better known as "Two Buck Chuck."
Bronco is among the companies that have made the Modesto area a center of high-volume production. Other major players are E.&J. Gallo Winery in Modesto, The Wine Group near Ripon and DFV Wines, formerly Delicato Family Vineyards, near Manteca.
The large crop did not depress the average price for grapes statewide. It was $609 a ton in 2008 and $608 last year.
The price dipped from $367 to $363 in the district that includes Stanislaus and Merced counties and the southern part of San Joaquin County. The Fresno-Visalia area also suffered a slight drop.
"It was a pretty good-sized crop, but the market absorbed it," said Peterangelo Vallis, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Winegrowers Association.
Earnings from 2009 will help valley growers continue recovering from bad years in the recent past, he said.
Several of the state's premium wine regions saw mild to moderate drops in average prices per ton:
Napa Valley: $3,420 in 2008 to $3,401 in 2009
Sonoma and Marin counties: $2,238 to $2,180
Monterey County: $1,218 to $1,152
Sierra Nevada foothills: $1,156 to $1,114
Lodi and nearby areas: $480 to $458. This includes the premium Lodi-Woodbridge area and lower-value vineyards elsewhere.
The premium regions have had trouble selling their pricey wines at a time when consumers are cutting back on spending, especially at restaurants.
"This crop will put additional pressure on the already struggling premium segment of the wine business," said a written statement from John Ciatti, a partner in the Ciatti Co., a grape and wine brokerage based in San Rafael.
He said demand keeps growing for lower-priced wine, but perhaps not fast enough to soak up all of the 2009 vintage.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2385.