It has been unusual in recent years for most grape growers in the San Joaquin Valley of California to have fruit in the market for the Fourth of July to any significant extent. That period has been served primarily by fruit from the Coachella Valley of California, or from Mexico.
But this year, some producers are expecting to begin harvesting in the San Joaquin Valley toward the end of June, early enough to have fruit in at least the western markets for the Fourth of July pull. Pandol Bros. Inc. in Delano, CA, is one of those.
The harvest will start earlier than normal for Pandol Bros., but not as early as anticipated, according to John Pandol, a director with the company. “In mid-April, we were tracking to be along with our earliest years, which in our case is June 21.” Cooler weather slowed that down a bit, and “we have now backed off” to a more normal but still early start date,” he said. “We are now talking about June 28-29.”
The company found its first grapes at the “soft berry” stage in both Flames and Summer Royals “over the weekend” of May 25-26, Pandol said. That occurs typically about 30 days before harvest, “so we would see ourselves starting late in the week of the 26th, “ compared to a start date of July 2 in 2012.
The season’s start in the San Joaquin Valley is expected to overlap with desert production out of Mexico and California’s Coachella Valley. Pandol Bros. is involved in the Mexican deal, and noted that just as San Joaquin Valley vineyards are tracking early, the desert crops are running later than normal, which is likely to cause more of an overlap than last year.
“I view the mid-season to late guys [in Mexico] having a fairly full deal, and June is going to be loaded, no question,” Pandol said. “I see a period in the front end” of the San Joaquin deal when some customers “will start sourcing red seedless grapes out of Central California probably for Fourth of July business” and still continue sourcing green grapes from the desert for that holiday period.
At Pandol Bros., “we will have whites [also known as green grapes] for an additional week and blacks for possibly two weeks” after the San Joaquin Valley starts, Pandol said. Other than early Flames, “in our case, we don’t have a ton of early stuff, so we are not as dialed in as some guys” to have San Joaquin Valley fruit in the market for the Fourth of July. In the green seedless category, “we will have Sugraones, we are estimating, the week of July 8.”
Pandol Bros. will have “additional acres of Sugraone in production during the early season. Those are from “a grower who is diverting more volume from another marketing organization to us,” he said.
Also in July, the company will offer Summer Royals and Thompsons.
At Pandol Bros., “we will not be in a hurry to pick, but we will pick when it is ready to go,” so there will be no concern about the first grapes harvested being immature, he said.