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Sundale Sales continues to expand physical facility as grape volume grows

TULARE, CA — Sundale Sales Inc., the marketing arm of Sundale Vineyard, here, is continuing its expansion of its physical facilities to accommodate ongoing growth of the company’s grape volume and to allow for expansion as that growth continues into the future.

Sundale Sales is a partnership between Sean Stockton, the company’s president, and the Kinosian family that owns Sundale Vineyards.

“We’ve moved into [a recently completed] new office, a 5,500-square-foot facility,” Mr. Stockton told The Produce News in late May. That follows a major cold storage expansion the previous season. Currently under way, he said, is “a third-phase multi-million-dollar expansion on the cold storage” as well as the addition of a house pack facility and fumigation chambers. “We took out about nine acres of vineyards to expand the cold storage and our whole facility.”

The company has been in a growth mode since its founding in 2006. On the production side, that growth has come, and will continue to come over the next couple of years, largely in Autumn King, a late-season green seedless variety, and Scarlet Royal, a late-season red seedless variety, augmenting the varieties already being grown by the Kinosian family. The company also has new plantings of Sugraone, an early-season green seedless grape, which are in their first year of production this season and will give the company a stronger position on the front end.

On July 7, The Produce News visited the expanded facility and talked with Christy Salazar and Pete Giotta who are on the sales desk at Sundale.

The facility improvements have been in the planning stage “for many years,” said Ms. Salazar. Todd Kinosian, one of the owners, “put a lot of emphasis in figuring out what our needs were going to be for the future. It really has been a multi-year design.”

The new offices were built into the front of the cold storage facility, said Mr. Giotta. “It was planned to be a part of it.” From the new second-story conference room, “you can actually stand up here and look into the cold storage” through a large picture window.

Immediately beneath the conference room are new inspection rooms with access into the cold storage.

Externally, the new offices are architecturally attractive, giving the facility a much improved curb appeal.

Currently under construction is a new 28,000-square-foot addition to the facility that will include storage, pre-cooling, fumigation chambers for export and a facility for custom packing. It is expected to be finished by peak season.

This season, the company will probably be packing some “stand-up logo bags,” said Mr. Giotta. In addition, “we continue to do clamshells, and with the house pack facility, we are hoping that is going to allow us to do a few more of the bi-colors and tri-colors and some of the other [custom] packs that people need in smaller volume. It will give us the option for the late season” to put some grapes away in totes and then put up “the specific packs we need” later, rather than packing them all in advance and “maybe having it in the wrong pack” when the late-season orders come in. “It provides some flexibility in the late deal.”

In the past five years, “we have about doubled the capacity” of the cooler as well as the sales offices and have also roughly doubled product volume, he said.

“It is exciting to see the growth in the building and the additional acres planted, also,” said Ms. Salazar. “I think we started with just under two million boxes the first year.”

For the 2011 season, the company is estimating a total volume of between 3.6 million and 3.8 million boxes, and “we may even get to four [million boxes] if some of these younger plantings end up being more prolific” than projected, said Mr. Gaviota.

He expected the harvest this year to start around July 19 with Flames and Summer Royals with just a small volume of first-year production on new Sugraone vineyards. Princess was expected to start around Aug. 5, Scarlet Royals and Red Globes around Aug. 15, and Crimsons and Autumn Royals around Sept. 5, and Autumn Kings in late September or early October.

This year, the company is projecting around half-a-million boxes of Scarlet Royals and at least 750,00 boxes of Autumn Kings, although “I think it is actually going to be more than that, the way it is going,” he said. “We have a lot of young plantings.”

Sundale now has a new web site “up and running,” Ms. Salazar said. “It has a growing calendar on it and has access to picture archives” that will be constantly updated throughout the season to “keep customers up to date” on “what we are doing.”