DELANO, Calif. — The crop estimate for California grape production dipped slightly to 97.5 million 19-pound boxes in July, down from April’s estimate of 99.3 million.
“That mostly reflects a shorter crop in the Coachella Valley than we anticipated,” said Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission, Fresno.
Nevertheless, plenty of grapes are projected to fuel promotions into January, Nave said.
“The table grape industry is continuing to grow incrementally,” she said.
“A 100-million box crop is what we expect the norm to be. It’s trending later all the time with the new varieties and new growing methods.”
For fall, Jakov P. Dulcich & Sons plans to ship 1.5 million boxes of two of its varieties — autumn king and scarlet royal.
“I think volume will peak in October and be in a down trend from there,” said Nick Dulcich, co-owner and sales manager.
“It’s a lighter crop due to some issues left over from spring rains and cooler weather.”
“We’re shipping grapes up until New Years (Day),” Dulcich said.
“We’ll probably do 3.5 million boxes from September to December.”
Royal Madera Vineyards, Madera, plans to offer crimson seedless, autumn royal and red globe from late August through October, said salesman Steve Cerniglia.
In 2012, Royal Madera plans to extend its deal by adding autumn kings.
“Just to have a light green variety to take us through the fall,” Cerniglia said.
“That will take us into November next year.”
For Dulcich & Sons, the traditional thompson seedless remains part of the mix.
It ships August through Thanksgiving, but the company opts for newer varieties for the premium 16-pound Thanksgiving trade.
“The whole thing is about being fresh,” Dulcich said.
“The storage variety is becoming a thing of the past. You’re going from one variety to another now with grapes.”
Autumn kings start in light volumes around the third week of September and go through Christmas.
Scarlet royal is gaining ground on other fall reds, according to Dulcich, who has about 500 acres planted in the variety. Small size has been an issue for some growers, he said.
The commission wants more retail space.
“Fundamentally, there’s a shift in consumer mindset in the fall,” Nave said.
“In the summer consumers think about grapes for hand use, picnics. In the fall people think, ‘What do we need for lunches?’ There’s a whole new series of activities. Many varieties are available in fall, hence the need for space so retailers can showcase grapes.”
The commission expects its outreach efforts, for example in Food Network Magazine, to feed demand.