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Crown Jewels will have early grapes out of two SJV districts

FRESNO, CA — Crown Jewels Produce Co., here, which markets an assortment of California fruit through the spring, summer and fall periods, will have fresh California grapes available from the San Joaquin Valley throughout the season.

The company’s earliest grapes from the valley will come out of two areas. “We have a few grapes in Kern County” at the southern end of the valley, said Atomic Torosian, a managing partner. “They are primarily Flames and Princess, and a few early Thompsons.” He expected the Flames to start around the first week of July, which is later than normal due to the cool spring weather.

“Our earliest deal will be out of Three Rocks, out here on the West Side,” he said. Three Rocks is about 45 miles west-southwest of Fresno. “We have a Flame deal out there that will start around the 28th of June, and at this point in time, they look real good, all things considered,” he said May 31.

The “all things considered” had reference to “the growing conditions that this early fruit has withstood,” he explained. “I think we are going to see some hit-and-miss quality overall the first week or so.” Also, “there is going to be a little mixed size to some of the fruit because of cool growing conditions.”

Mr. Torosian said that he has heard of some growers having more serious size issues on a few of their earliest blocks elsewhere in the valley “because we have had such a difficult growing season the last 30 days. It is not normal. When it is 10 to 12 to 14 degrees below normal week after week, it is going to show.”

But he expects that those problems will be evident only in the early season. “I think once we get into ... mid-August, we should be OK,” he said. “Mid to late season we should be fine.”

Crown Jewels will be packing more clamshells in its grape program this year,” Mr. Torosian said. That will mean “more two-pounders, three-pounders, and even a few four-pounders.”

All of the growers in the industry are “looking at new varieties” and phasing out or cutting back on some of the older varieties, including the Thompsons which have long dominated the green grape market, “although there will still be a spot for Thompsons,” he said.

“We, like everybody else, are looking at new red varieties and maybe a few green varieties like Luisco. I think that is going to be a home run,” Mr. Torosian said. But most of the new varieties being planted are mid-season and late-season varieties.

For the early season, Crown Jewels has basically Flames and Thompsons, “and that is about it,” he said. “We don’t have any Perlettes anymore” and currently have no Sugraones in the San Joaquin Valley.

Crown Jewels does have both Perlettes and Sugraones in its Mexican grape program. The company’s Mexican grapes are shipped out of Nogales, AZ.

“As a matter of fact, we are packing a bunch of [Sugraones] today,” Mr. Torosian said. “The Perlette deal is just about finished in Mexico, and that leads us into Sugraones, and we are halfway harvested on Flames out of Mexico as an industry. I look for the Flame market to firm up in about a week or 10 days.”

From Mexico, Crown Jewels moves right into its San Joaquin Valley grape deal. “We bypass Coachella,” he said. With the late start in California, he does not expect much of an overlap between the Mexican deal and the early San Joaquin deal.