Colorado wine industry passes million-liter milestone

Phil Castle, The Business Times: 

Doug Caskey sees another sign of growth for the Colorado wine industry in the latest production numbers. Wineries reported passing the million-liter milestone in total volume for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

Doug Caskey

“It’s a pretty positive trend,” said Caskey, executive director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board. The board promotes and helps market Colorado wines and wine-related tourism as well as supports research into growing and making wines.

State law requires Colorado-licensed wineries to report and pay excise taxes on the volume of wine they produce at any time before the first sale within the state. While individual wineries report production figures at different times in the distribution process, overall volume levels offer a numerical snapshot within a given year as well as a way to track production over time.

Over the past 10 years alone, Colorado wine production has increased from just below 380,000 liters to just more than 1 million liters.

That latest number equates to nearly 282,000 gallons of wine, or more than 118,000 cases of 12, 750-milliliter bottles.

Meanwhile, the number of wineries in Colorado has grow to 100 spread out across the state.

While wineries in what’s known as the Grand Valley American Viticultural Area accounted for 47 percent of wine production reported to the state for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, Front Range wineries contributed 41 percent.

The bulk of wine grapes still come from the Grand Valley though — about 80 percent of what’s grown in Colorado. Wine grapes also are grown in nearby Delta and Montrose counties as well as in Boulder, Fremont, Kit Carson, Montezuma, Pueblo and Weld counties

The market share of Colorado wines in the state also has increased to nearly 2 percent in terms of volume and almost 4 percent in terms of sales.

Caskey said Colorado wine production still pales in comparison to such states as California, Oregon and Washington. Moreover, the 2010 wine grape harvest in Colorado dropped by a third from the previous year to 10,000 tons following severe winter weather and spring frosts.

Nonetheless, the Colorado wine industry continues to grow, he said. “In the face of a small, difficult harvest in 2010 and ongoing economic uncertainty, our wineries continue to expand.”