Corrected: (UPDATED COVERAGE, July 19) California grape shippers were reporting outstanding quality and good demand in mid-July, as the deal transitioned from the Coachella Valley to the San Joaquin Valley.
By the week of July 16, Castle Rock Vineyards, Delano, Calif., had finished harvesting grapes in the Coachella Valley and was shipping flames, sugraones and summer royals from the Delano/Arvin growing region, said Jim Llano, the company’s sales manager.
Thus far, the outstanding quality out of Coachella is carrying over to the San Joaquin deal, Llano said.
“We’re very pleased with the color and condition, and the color and eating quality are excellent,” he said. “It’s one of the best sugraone crops we’ve had in a long time.”
Llano also has heard excellent reports from his field managers on the progress of the company’s thompsons, autumn royals, red globes and Castle Rock reds, which should begin shipping in August.
Flame volumes out of the valley began peaking in mid-July for Visalia, Calif.-based Visalia Produce Sales Inc. and would likely peak through the month, said salesman George Matoian. Sugraones also were peaking in the second half of July, he said. Visalia Produce also began shipping summer royals about July 6.
“Harvest is going great, the weather was ideal up until last week,” Matoian said July 16.
And even warmer-than-usual temperatures the week of July 9 didn’t have much of an adverse effect on fruit, he said. Visalia Produce expected to begin shipping princess grapes around July 25, Matoian said.
Crimsons and scarlet royals were expected to follow in the second or third week of August, he said.
Jeff Olsen, vice president of Chuck Olsen Co., Visalia, which was shipping flames and black varieties the week of July 16 and expected to add thompsons and crimsons the week of July 23, reported “fair to good demand” during the transition from Coachella and Mexico to the San Joaquin Valley.
Flames were at least a size bigger than last year, with excellent color and quality, all of which bode well for strong demand, Olsen said.
“The flames are beautiful, with minimal to no cracking,” he said. “Everything’s pointing to a good year.”
On July 17, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $18.10-19.10 for 18-pound containers of extra-large California flames, down from $20.10-24.10 last year at the same time.
Late July and August is a time when grapes are competing with stone fruit, melons and other summer favorites, but Llano is optimistic that with the excellent quality this year, demand for California grapes should remain strong.
“With the quality, we think buyers will keep coming back,” he said. “We feel very good about the way the season is setting up.”
Flame prices could dip from $16-18 to $14 as peak volumes come on, Matoian said, but the price probably wouldn’t stay below $16 for long.
“They’re promotable at $16,” he said.
Sugraones also would probably be promoted at about $16 in coming weeks, Matoian said. Blacks would likely stay in the $18-20 range until harvest picked up, he said. After that, blacks also will likely be promoted at about $16.
Note on correction: The original version of this story incorrectly identified Jim Llano as the source of price quotes.The correct source is George Matoian.