Sunview Marketing International in Delano, CA, which has had an in-house breeding program for 35 years and has, over the years, grown and marketed several grape varieties coming out of that program, has introduced this year a new green seedless grape called Stella Bella that Scott Boyajian, director of sales, described as a mid-season replacement for Thompson seedless.
The grape is “very large, very crunchy,” deep green in color, and has a “very good flavor” that is unlike any other grape variety, he said. “It is a unique flavor, it is good, it is sweet. We ship it when it is about 20 Brix.”
The Stella Bella is in its first year of commercial production this year, after six or seven years in development since “we first got it out of our program and looked at it,” he said. “We are expanding on it at this point.”
The shipping season this year will be relatively short. “We are picking it now” and had been picking it for about two weeks “on the young vines that we have,” Boyajian said Aug. 8. “We will pick it for probably three more weeks.” As volume grows and vineyards mature, he expects the variety to have a more extended season, comparable to Thompson. “We will ship it probably through August and September,” he said.
The company ships grapes from July “all the way through December and into January,” so Stella Bella will be just “a portion of our program” and will probably “constitute maybe 20 percent or a little bit less of our green [grape] profile for the year.”
Sunview also has various non-proprietary varieties, including Autumn Kings, for the late season. The Autumn Kings “will probably go “all the way through December and into January,” Boyajian said.
Sunview also has another proprietary variety that will be increasing in volume. That is a red seedless variety called Gem. It is not new, but “we have kind of gone up and down with it” trying to figure out how to grow it properly. “I think we have finally figured out after several years,” Boyajian said. Gem is “very elongated” and cherry red in color with high Brix and “very good flavor.” It is harvested during about the same time period as Stella Bella. “We export a lot of it right now, but we are going to put more in the ground to develop the domestic market for it, too,” he said.
Sunview has had some other varieties from its in-house breeding program that it has marketed over the years, but “after 18 or 20 years we got rid of them, and we have a whole selection of new ones coming up the pike,” Boyajian said. “It is too early to tell how successful they will be. They are in the final stages of evaluating right now.”