New Winery Owners Are Not All Pop Stars

California now has 4,054 wineries and North America 9,436

number of wineries
Source: Wines Vines Analytics
San Rafael, Calif.—It’s a cliché that high-tech entrepreneurs, pop stars and pro athletes all seem to have their own wine brands, but pros of another sort accounted for the net increase of 415 wineries in North America in 2015.

A veteran wine marketer, Lauren Watters, and a master sommelier, Chris Blanchard, launched their winery, Down By Law, in August 2015. “Luckily we know a lot of people to help get this brand off and running,” said Watters.

She was a brand manager for The Prisoner and Faust wineries, and had worked at Diageo for a number of years. Blanchard worked in wine distribution and in high-end restaurants. Now they own one of the new wineries in North America that have raised the total number to 9,436, according to Wines Vines Analytics.

Down By Law is a virtual winery, not a bonded winery, meaning that it produces its wines in a host facility. Watters and Blanchard make their $18 California Chardonnay and $20 California Cabernet Sauvignon at a Napa, Calif., custom-crush facility.

They are hardly alone in taking this approach. The U.S. saw a net increase of 165 virtual wineries in 2015, and they now total 1,640. Other entrepreneurs were responsible for a net increase of 250 new bonded U.S. wineries for a total of 7,062.

The authoritative winery count for North America as a whole, drawn from an exhaustively maintained database, grew by 5% from 2014. Wines & Vines magazine reports these signs of a steadily growing wine economy in its 2016 Directory & Buyers Guide released this week, along with 12 other extensive content sections.

California still the leader
It’s no surprise that California remained far in the lead for number of wineries, adding 141 bonded and virtual wineries in the past year to total 4,054.

A close observer of new wineries, Vivian Cruz, owner of Winery Compliance Services in San Luis Obispo, Calif., helps about 15 wineries per year go into business.

“I saw a big, huge leap when Crushpad (a Sonoma, Calif., custom-crush winery that specialized in micro-clients) went under. A lot of those were bottled underneath the Crushpad brand, and all of a sudden I had 10 new clients because they didn’t have the licensing they needed to operate on their own. So yeah, I see a lot of them go from the custom-crush model to independent wineries.”

After California, Washington state was No. 2 with 718 total wineries, closely trailed by Oregon, which nearly closed the gap between the two neighboring states. Oregon saw a net increase of 57 wineries for a total of 689, while Washington's total went up by 14.

Each of the 50 United States has wineries, and half of them now have at least 50 wineries within their borders. States growing at the fastest rates include Ohio, up 15% to 181 wineries, Minnesota, up 15% to 62 wineries, and Florida, up 22% to 55 wineries.

Wines Vines Analytics, the magazine’s market-research team, covers both bonded and virtual wineries through proprietary research methodology, aided by multiple communications with each winery every year and thorough review of numerous public records sources.

The numbers were released in advance of the wine industry’s biggest annual gathering next week in Sacramento, Calif., the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium.

The average winery size remains very small, as 6,850 wineries produced less than 5,000 cases of wine annually, and just 64 wineries bottled more than 500,000 cases.

Six new 'large' wineries
This largest group gained six new members last year: Domaine Chandon, Michael David Winery, NakedWines, San Antonio and Terravant (all from California), and Goose Ridge and Zirkle Wine Co. of Washington state. One winery, Meiomi, which had been part of Copper Cane Wines & Provisions, dropped off the largest wineries list when Constellation bought it.

The 2016 Directory & Buyer’s Guide is the most comprehensive information source for the North American wine industry. It contains two major sections: the Winery Directory, which has detailed information about every winery, and the Buyer’s Guide, which provides content about equipment, supplies and services for the wine industry—plus a wide array of other valuable information for wine producers, grapegrowers, wine industry trade members and suppliers to the wine industry.

Wines & Vines’ 2016 Directory & Buyer’s Guide is available for $95 through the magazine’s website, winesandvines.com.

Posted on 01.25.2016 - 11:24:27 PST
I do not know where the winery numbers in this article are from but the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has a list of current winery licenses on their website and the list has 374 wineries. That would put Texas in 4th place just ahead of New York.
Gary Elliott

Posted on 01.25.2016 - 11:59:37 PST
Gary, our numbers come from a proprietary research methodology that includes multiple communications with each winery every year and a thorough review of numerous public records sources. We analyze all the information to calculate an accurate winery count. We carefully subtract the wineries that go out of business each year, etc. Many government agencies simply state how many licenses have been given, or tally other legal and tax requirements. One winery can have multiple licenses, for instance. Our numbers often differ from government and association numbers. -- The Editor
Jim Gordon
Napa, CA USA

Posted on 01.25.2016 - 15:08:27 PST
Thank you Jim. Very interesting. A question, how do you classify the medium-to-large companies that hold multiple brands? The article mentions Constellation, for example. Do you count each brand as a separate winery, or do you count the holding company as a single winery?
Peter Willmert

Posted on 01.25.2016 - 15:25:17 PST
Hi Peter, Thanks for your question. We do count as separate wineries many of the major brands under ownership of larger entities, depending on several factors. For example, under Constellation, Robert Mondavi, Franciscan, Clos du Bois, Woodbridge and others are counted as individual wineries. -- The Editor
Jim Gordon
Napa, CA USA