Growth spurt spurs Sundale Vineyards

06/30/2011 01:46:00 PM
Dan Gailbraith

Sundale Vineyards continues to expand. In February, the Tulare, Calif.-based grape grower-shipper moved into a new 5,500-square-foot sales and farming operations office building.

It also is in the middle of a major expansion on cold storage, a house-pack facility and revamped boxing facility, said Sean Stockton, president of Sundale Vineyards.

The company is adding two cold-storage rooms, boosting capacity to up to 750,000 boxes, an increase of about 200,000 boxes.

“We’ve started our own in-house sales company,” Stockton said.

“Growth in acreage is driving it. We’ll pack 3.5 million boxes this year.”

That’s double its production five years ago, when Sundale Vineyards packed 1.7 million boxes.

“We have new plantings in the ground that are going to continue driving expansion,” Stockton said.

The company offers a trademarked variety, Sundale Red, and a proprietary variety, Royal Red, is in the ground but not yet producing.

“We’ve been driven into the new varieties,” Stockton said. “Our own Sundale Red, autumn kings, scarlett royals — their success has allowed us to continue to grow.

“The new varieties allow us to farm more efficiently. The development of high-density planting allows us to compete with other commodities at a certain advantage. More plantings per acre equal more volume, and you’re able to grow better quality with the new trellis systems and by fertilizing through your irrigation system. These are commonplace now. It’s a cumulative effect of positive changes.”

The nutritional value of grapes also has kept them high on consumers’ lists, Stockton said.

“Grapes have been steadily picking up ground on other commodities in the last five to 10 years to the point where they’ve become an absolute staple of any retail produce department,” he said.



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