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Anthony Vineyards: modest increases in early grape varieties

Consistent with its steady, ongoing process of expanding table grape production, Anthony Vineyards in Bakersfield, CA, will have some modest increases in some of its early-season varieties in the San Joaquin Valley this year.

“We are always developing new acreage,” said John Harley, vice president of sales and marketing. “So it is just a consistent increase that is going to happen year to year. Some of this is in organic, some is in conventional.”

When The Produce News talked to Mr. Harley June 2, he was in the company’s Coachella, CA, office, selling the company’s desert grape deal. “We’re in the front side of our harvest in Coachella,” he said. “We are moving through it. It looks like it is going to progress nicely.”

In Coachella and in the San Joaquin Valley as well, cool weather has delayed the progression of the crops. “We are having a later start on Sugraones in Coachella due to the weather,” Mr. Harley said. Cool temperatures have been “holding back the sugars. ... I think we are probably about a week to 10 days later than what we normally would be as far as harvesting.”

But with the company’s Sugraones in the San Joaquin Valley not expected to start until around July 11-14, the lateness of the Coachella grapes has benefitted in minimizing a gap between districts. “We should be able to get through the Fourth of July” with Sugraones in Coachella, he said.

In red grapes, increased production this year of Scarlet Royals in Coachella, which come in later than Flames, will help the company bridge what would otherwise be a gap between desert Flames and the start of Flames in the San Joaquin Valley. “If we monitor what we are selling and harvesting on a weekly basis, I think we can get through [the transition] without any breaks or gaps,” Mr. Harley said.

In the San Joaquin Valley, Anthony Vineyards will have increased production this year in Flames and in Sugraones in the Arvin district. But it is “nothing major,” he said. “Maybe 50,000 boxes or so.”

The company’s Summer Royal production in the San Joaquin Valley will also be up somewhat, as will other later varieties. Most of the new production, however, will come in the fall, he said.

Demand has been “good on everything so far down here in Coachella, and it looks like that demand should continue on,” largely because of the shortness of the grape crop in Mexico. “They have a smaller Flame crop and a smaller Sugraone crop.” Also, “they have had a smaller Perlette crop thus far, which looks like it is winding up.”

In packaging, Anthony Vineyards continues doing “the same things that we have done,” Mr. Harley said. “We are packing the same boxes that we have packed in past years. We still do the two-pound clamshells and the three-pound and four-pound. We are doing some bi-color organic grapes” as last year, but “that program is increasing this year.”

Anthony Vineyards has “established all of our packaging with the G-10 number on it now,” he said. “We made that transition last year.”

The company is in the process of expanding its Bakersfield facility. “We are adding some storage room and a packing area,” Mr. Harley said. That project is expected to be about half complete by the time the San Joaquin Valley grape harvest gets underway.

Anthony Vineyards continues to see growth in demand for organically grown grapes. “We were concerned” about how organic markets would fare in a down economy, Mr. Harley said. “Last year, we saw kind of a flatline” in terms of interest in organics. But “this year there has been an up-click, which is good.”

Anthony grows conventional as well as organic grapes, and “there is no negative to growing grapes conventionally,” he said. But it has become apparent that “people that desire to buy organic products are going to continue to buy them no matter what.”

As Anthony Vineyards becomes more efficient in organic production, “it is allowing more of the retail trade to enter into the market and have a broader distribution of organic products,” he said.