Grape grower-shippers expect strong volumes, good quality

06/29/2012 10:47:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

KINGSBURG, Calif. — California grower-shippers agree the 2012 crop will have decent volumes of good-quality fruit, and the San Joaquin Valley harvest should start much earlier than in 2011.

“The bloom period kind of sets the stage for when we do the harvest, and this year the temperatures were almost ideal — 85-95 degrees — in sheer contrast to last year,” said George Matoian, salesman for Visalia Produce Sales Inc.

He was referring to the 2011 season, when cool, wet spring weather delayed the San Joaquin Valley crop by a week to two weeks.

“This year, we’re making up a lot of ground as far as degree days,” he said.

Matoian said he expects the first grapes from the valley the first week of July with promotable volumes by mid-month.

Sean Stockton, president of Tulare-based Sundale Vineyards, said he expects a crop size similar to last year’s, which ended up at 97.4 million 19-pound box equivalents.

“There are a lot of things that can happen between now and November that will dictate what the crop will be,” Stockton said.

“It’s a solid crop size with the exception of a couple of varieties. That’s going to translate into the high 90 millions.”

John Giumarra Jr., vice president of Giumarra Vineyards Corp., Bakersfield, Calif., said he’s heard estimates as high as 101 million boxes, “which will be — if it’s all picked and packed — one of the largest crops in history.”

“There’s no question there’s a full-size crop out there.”

He credits additional acreage of varieties, such as summer royal and autumn king, that are just coming into full production for the uptick in production.

Matoian said he’s heard crop estimates near 100 million boxes.

“Will it get there? I don’t know,” he said.

The unknown factor is the secondary market for varieties, such as thompson seedless, that also can go into wine.

Should that happen, Matoian said that might reduce the number of boxes of No. 2 grapes packed.

Since last summer, the wine market has been strong, with demand exceeding supplies for some grape varieties. Some wineries already are seeking uncontracted fruit for this year’s crush.

Jeff Olsen, vice president of The Chuck Olsen Co., Visalia, put this year’s crop at about 100 million boxes or slightly below.

“It’s a decent-sized crop and should have some pretty good quality,” he said.

The vines had plenty of chill hours during the winter to put them into deep dormancy, and they emerged this spring looking strong.

Although some areas experienced spotty frost or hail damage, Olsen said it was minimal and shouldn’t affect the overall market.



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