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» December 22, 2006 «
It's the most wonderful time of the year for sales of sparkling wines. Analysts say the Christmas-New Year holiday season accounts for about one third of sparkling-wine sales. Marketers have worked to broaden sales throughout the year, but observers say many consumers continue to associate sparkling wine with the holidays and other special occasions. California wineries sell about 30 million gallons of sparkling wine each year.
If you could grow a mature grapevine in a coffee cup, think about how many vines you could place in a small space. Researchers thought about just that, and bred a new variety they call the Pixie. Scientists from the federal government and UC Davis will use the tiny vines to find traits that will improve other grape varieties. Because they're so small and produce fruit year-round, the Pixie vines allow researchers to accelerate studies on all stages of grape development.
People buying eggs for holiday baking may have noticed that prices have risen. Demand has been growing faster than supply, so egg prices have increased on both the wholesale and retail levels. A government forecast estimates that retail egg prices could rise at much as 8 percent in 2007. At the farm level, California farmers sold eggs at a loss for much of 2006, but the rising prices could make the business more profitable in the new year.
Favorable fall weather allowed California tomato farmers to make the most of a crop that suffered damage from the July heat wave. Even so, stocks of tomato paste remain relatively low and wholesale prices have risen. For that reason, the U.S. Agriculture Department forecasts that processors will likely ask farmers to increase tomato planting next year. Farmers typically grow processing tomatoes under contract with a particular processor.Top