California’s grape season looks to be similar to the crop of 2018.
“Right now we’re dealing with the fruit out of Mexico and the Coachella Valley. We’ll move up to the San Joaquin Valley probably towards the end of this week or the beginning of next week,” says Sean Stockton with Sundale Vineyards in Tulare, Ca.
Flame grapes from Sun Grape Marketing. Photo credit: @sungrapeusa
Over at Sun Grapes Marketing Inc. in Visalia, Ca., Chris Unti notes that while Coachella is wrapping up its season, Mexico will run later than normal with grapes. “They could run through to July when California starts but the quality won’t be as good,” says Unti. “Mexico was delayed about three weeks as well so instead of finishing up around the end of the first week of July, it’s probably going to be later in July.”
At the same time, California is starting later as well. “It’s about five to seven days later than last year or seven to 10 days later than normal,” says Unti. “It was a wet winter and spring and there weren’t a lot of hot days in the spring and that put things behind. And with full crops, that takes a little longer too.”
Sundale’s Stockton adds that both the quality and size of the California crop look solid. “The preseason growing conditions with all of the water and the rain that we got this year has really settled the crop into what looks to be a high quality crop this year,” he says.
Photo: Sundale Vineyards
In terms of varieties, Flames will be the starting variety for red seedless and Sugraone for green seedless. “It’s what everybody starts with and that will flow into Krissy and Timco grapes for red seedless and Ivory on green grapes,” he says. While grape growers continue to explore new varieties of grapes, Stockton notes that growing practices can be a challenge that comes with that exploration. “Newer varieties always provide new challenges and with growing practices, you’re always trying to innovate and increase your size, flavour profile and cost benefits,” adds Stockton.
Good demand for grapes
Meanwhile both growers are anticipating a strong demand for grapes coming out of the gate. “Grapes are one of the staples for most retail grocery outlets. With the rain and everything that affected the California cherry and strawberry markets as well as blueberries, the table grape market will start out with fairly high demand,” says Stockton. “There will also be a bump in demand in July because it’s new—people want what’s fresh and new and the California table grapes fill that void.”
Autum King grapes from Sun Grapes. Photo: @sungrapeusa
Sun Grape’s Unti says that in terms of pricing, consumers may be pleasantly surprised with what they see on their store shelves. “The growers want to move product. So the pricing isn’t going to be crazy high nor will it be bad pricing. But with the quality for the price, people will be happier,” he says. “It’ll be better quality for the same price.”