Larson expected good quality on a crop that should be slightly larger than last year’s, thanks to an acreage increase.
“You never know until you start picking, but the weather’s been very, very favorable,” he said. “Yields should be good and the quality looks outstanding.”
The high quality should be matched by brisk movement, given what Larson has heard about Coachella’s main rival.
“There should be extremely high demand,” he said. “I hear Mexico’s down.”
Shippers can’t do it alone, however, Larson said.
“The trick is getting the big (retail) boys to line up a certain amount of promotions,” he said. “If so, it should be a good year for everybody.”
Peter Rabbit Farms expects to begin shipping perlettes May 6-8, to be followed by flames May 11 and sugraones and black varieties May 20, Burton predicted.
Perlettes and flames could get underway two to five days earlier than usual.
Burton looked forward to a high-quality 2009 crop.
“The crop looks good,” he said. “We’ve had some beautiful growing conditions. We had a mild spring, a lack of real cold, cold weather.”
While it was too early to tell for sure, Burton expected good sizing on this year’s Coachella crop.
Mother Nature found the perfect middle ground for grape-growing this year, said Tony Bianco, president of Coachella-based Desert Fresh Inc.
“It hasn’t been too hot or too cold — it’s optimal growing weather,” he said. “We call weather like this ‘grape-sizing weather.’ Nothing’s rushed.”
Desert Fresh expected to begin shipping flames May 11, with perlettes to follow four or five days later, Bianco predicted. Volume shipment of flames would come in late May or early June, he said.
“It’s pretty much on par with being a normal start,” he said.
Some minor weather-related interference could reduce yields in some vineyards, but not enough to have much of an effect on markets or overall volumes, predicted Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League, Fresno.
“My understanding is the bunch counts are down a little bit, but they’re adequate,” he said. “They’re still within the normal range, and they should still make the box counts of last year.”
For Jim Howard, vice president of the Fresno-based California Table Grape Commission, no news is good news when it comes to forecasting demand later this spring and summer for Coachella grapes.
“We’re not aware of anything going on that would negatively impact the Coachella season,” he said.