America’s premier luxury wine region has outdone itself, reaching new highs in prices for bottles and tastings. The average price per bottle at Napa Valley wineries crossed the $100 mark in 2022, and winery tasting fees increased 35 percent, according to the 2023 Direct to Consumer Wine Report released on Wednesday.
Examining the available wine tastings in the U.S., the survey notes a rise in tasting fees as well as a continuation of reservation-only policies. Up until the past decade or so, many wineries would not charge for winery visits, and would take walk-ins for casual stand-up tastings. Since wineries were forced to switch over to a reservation-only based system during the pandemic, many have decided to keep this appointment-only format.
The report found that 29 percent of wineries were reservation-only in 2022, compared to only 17 percent in 2019, pre-pandemic. And in Napa specifically, 60 percent of wineries have kept the appointment model since it was mandated in 2020. Similar to the increase in bars and restaurants relying on reservation systems, wineries cite the ability to plan ahead for staffing and provide customers with more personalized experiences as why they’ve stuck with reservations.
In line with the continued trend of more formal tastings, there was also a rise in the average fee for a wine tasting, particularly in Napa Valley. The cost of a base-level tasting Napa Valley rose $21 in 2022 to $81, towering over the average price of $38 in Sonoma County, and $28 in Paso Robles. And for Napa’s higher-end tastings, the fee rose to $128 per person on average, compared to $72 in Sonoma County and $48 in Paso Robles. On top of the increased fees, tasting rooms are also relying more on tips from guests. In 2014, tips in tasting rooms were controversial, with only 21 percent of wineries using them compared to the 69 percent that rely on tips today.
In addition to the increased tasting room fees, visitors will also have to spend more to take home a bottle of Napa Valley wine. The average bottle price at Napa wineries rose $17 in 2022, crossing the $100 threshold to about $108. Again, Napa’s prices beat out other wine regions, with the average bottle price in Sonoma County coming in at $57 a bottle. This number probably won’t stop rising anytime soon, as the Silicon Valley Bank State of the U.S. Wine Industry report in January found that 71 percent of West Coast wineries plan to increase their wine prices in 2023.
Many questioned whether or not Silicon Valley Bank would continue its wine division reporting after it suddenly collapsed earlier this year, but this release reassured that the bank will continue to keep tabs on wine country under its new owner First Citizens Bank.
Perhaps the focus on more formal, luxury tastings and higher price tag is driven by the drop in tourism post-pandemic. While Napa saw a 22 percent increase in visitors from 2021, the numbers are still down 19 percent from 2018. Further, wine regions outside of Napa including Sonoma, Paso Robles, and Santa Barbara all saw a decline in visitors from 2021 to 2022.