TULARE, Calif. — For some of central California’s tree fruit varieties, Labor Day weekend marks the final stretch.
For table grape grower-shippers, it’s just the start of the second half.
“Fall is our prime time,” said Sean Stockton, partner and chief executive officer of Sundale Sales, the marketing arm of Sundale Vineyards and Cold Storage Inc.
The cool late winter/early spring forced harvest delays of about two weeks for most varieties.
Harvesting of scarlet royals and crimsons was scheduled to get under way by early September at Sundale Vineyards, with packing of Sundale reds and autumn kings expected to begin by mid-September, Stockton said. The company expects picking of all varieties to continue into November with promotable supplies available well into December, he said.
The year’s volume is projected to hit 3.5 million cartons, Stockton said, more than double Sundale’s production of just four years ago.
At Fowler-based Simonian Fruit Co. the thompson seedless harvest started in mid-August, said Jeff Simonian, salesman.
“We also have organic thompsons that should start shipping about Sept. 1,” he said.
The other conventionally grown fall grape varieties at the Fowler grower-shipper include crimsons and autumn royals.
“We’ll have a limited supply of Christmas rose,” Simonian said.
A rainbow of varieties will be coming from Reedley-based Dayka & Hackett LLC in September.
Harvesting of thompson and princess varieties will likely finish the last week in September, said Tim Dayka, co-owner. But September will signal the start of picking for scarlet royals, sweet scarlets, autumn royals and autumn kings, he said.
Red globes will follow as will what Dayka terms a very small supply of luiscos.
The big uncertainty for grower-shippers is whether the late start will translate to a later season end. Not likely, according to John Pandol, director of special projects for Pandol Bros. Inc., Delano.
“I doubt the season will extend,” he said, “It’s like an accordion, and there’s always the possibility of rain and frost in the late fall.”
Pandol Bros. is counting on a 24-week harvest, down from the usual 26-week harvest, Pandol said.
“That doesn’t sound like much,” he said. “But when you start 6 million cartons in the hole, it takes time to catch up.”
Pacific Trellis Fruit, Reedley, is again offering its usual wide complement of late season grapes, said Earl McMenamin, salesman.
Varieties include sweet scarlets, scarlet royals, crimsons, red globes and a limited supply of thompsons, he said.
“We’ll have supplies well into November, about 400,000 cartons,” McMenamin said.
The table grape program at Fruit Patch Sales Co., Dinuba, is expanding with more growth planned for the future.
“We have a strong table grape program this year, and we’re continuing to build on it,” said Sheri Mierau, vice president of sales and marketing.
A retail trend that continues to gain traction is packing table grapes in clamshells, Dayka said.
“It’s not new, but it is a continuing trend that’s building significant momentum in the percentage now sold in clamshells,” he said.
For Dayka & Hackett, up to 40% of its table grape business is now packed in clamshells.
“There are pretty compelling reasons why clamshells are successful, and there are some outstanding opportunities for the retail community with the clamshells,” Dayka said.
That’s why more and more retailers are either adopting or experimenting with merchandising table grapes in clamshells, he said.
At Dayka & Hackett, most of the grapes are packed in 2-pound or 3-pound clamshells with a limited number in 1-pound cartons, Dayka said. The 2-pounders are packed mostly 10 by 2 with the 3-pound cartons usually packed 6 by 3, he said.