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WENATCHEE, WA -- An ample supply of premium Piñata apples is giving shoppers another reason to celebrate in the new year. Grown exclusively in Washington state by Stemilt Growers, Piñata apples are making their way back onto store shelves following a successful nationwide debut last January.

"Piñata is a variety that thrives in eastern Washington's arid climate, and the 2010 harvest was no exception," Roger Pepperl, Stemilt's marketing director, said in a Jan. 3 press release. "Moderate summer temperatures combined with maturing trees to produce the highest quality crop of Piñatas that we've seen yet. We're anticipating a great year for Piñata at retail."

A cross between Golden Delicious and two heirloom varieties from Europe -- Cox's Orange Pippin and the Duchess of Oldenburg -- Piñata is a high-sugar, high-acid apple that is both crisp and juicy with a classic apple flavor and tropical finish.

Piñata is a result of nearly two decades of development at the apple-breeding program in Dresden-Pillnitz, Germany. Following its 1986 release in Europe, the apple quickly made a name for itself under the names Pinova and Sonata, and was even selected as the 2001 Apple of the Year in Germany. In 2004, the Mathison family and their company, Stemilt, purchased the exclusive rights to grow and market this apple in the United States, quickly changing its name to Piñata in order to convey better the apple's stimulating attributes.

The Mathisons have been farming in eastern Washington since 1893, when the first generation homesteaded 160 acres on Stemilt Hill near Wenatchee, WA. Six generations have partaken in the family's farming tradition, with a focus on quality and innovation guiding them through each decade. In recent years, new variety development has taken center stage at Stemilt, with orchard blocks set aside to test new varieties of apples.

To further make 2011 a successful year for Piñata, Stemilt has a full line-up of marketing programs for retailers to take advantage of. A new, easy-to- assemble pop-up display will be making its way into stores this month. The display highlights the heirloom heritage of Piñata and a few of the apple's unique attributes. It also has a QR code and text-in number that takes shoppers to a mobile site where they can get more information on Piñata, including free recipes.

Beyond its snazzy name and heirloom heritage, Piñata is one of the more versatile apples available today. The crisp and juicy texture makes it great for eating fresh out of hand, while its ability to resist browning when sliced means that it's an ideal choice for fresh salads. Piñata has the same thin skin and fine-grained texture as a Golden Delicious, which means it doesn't break down when exposed to high temperatures for cooking.

For more information and delicious Piñata recipes, go to www.stemilt.com. Piñata is also a social apple, so be sure to become a fan of it on Facebook: www.facebook.com/PinataApple.