Good-quality table grapes are coming out of California’s Coachella Valley after a “really late” start this season.
“This is some of the best quality I’ve ever seen in this valley,” said Bob Bianco, co-owner of Bakersfield, Calif.-based Anthony Vineyards. “It’s amazing — big size and good color.”
The company did not kick off its Coachella grape program until the week of May 25, he said.
“It took a long time to get warm here,” he said, adding that the region had unseasonably low temperatures in February, March and early April.
Anthony Vineyards opened with red flames then sugraones. Other varieties would come on later.
Sizing is excellent, Bianco said, because of the gradual warmup and long growing season.
The company has been licensed to grow varieties from Bakersfield-based Sun World International LLC, such as Autumn Crisp, which will be available next season, Bianco said.
Richard Bagdasarian Inc., Mecca, Calif., started picking grapes the week of May 18, a week earlier than last year, said president Nick Bozick. But he said the fruit was not maturing at normal speed.
The valley is at least a half-million boxes behind where it was last year at this time, he said in early June.
Southern California had a cool, wet early spring, but that won’t put a damper on grape quality.
“The grapes seem to be growing very well through all this crazy weather we’ve been having,” Bozick said.
The green Early Sweet variety launched the season for Bagdasarian, along with flames and black seedless summer royals.
Bozick expected the lighter volume in May to be followed by heavier volume in June.
Overall movement in the Coachella Valley may be down a bit because some growers are pulling out older vines like sugraone and flames and replanting with newer varieties or waiting for new varieties to be available that now are in the test phase, he said.
Bagdasarian is transitioning to some new varieties from Sun World, International Fruit Genetics and Sheehan Genetics LLC, Bozick said.
Coachella-based East West Unlimited, which grows primarily sugraones, got started June 4, said Steve Root, president and CEO.
“Quality and bunch size look good,” he said.
Root has issued a plea for supermarket chains to support California grape growers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have to get the U.S. back on track,” he said.
Mexico ships grapes to the U.S. during roughly the same time that the Coachella Valley is producing, and Root would like to see retailers buy domestic product.
“Give us a shot first, especially in a year like this, when the U.S. is hurting,” he said. “People need their jobs back.”
Grapes should be available from the Coachella Valley though mid-July.