The Grape Guys in Cutler, CA, considers itself primarily a red grape house, in that it is “heaviest to Flames and Crimsons,” according to Shaun Ricks, the company’s founder and president.
The Flame crop this year has been “excruciating[ly]“ slow to come on this year, he said Aug. 4. “We expect to use the whole month of August to get our Flames in.”
But he does not anticipate that the Crimson crop will follow that pattern. “We don’t expect it to be late,” he said. “If anything, there will be more fruit coloring early on crimsons this year than normal.” So while the season may have had a late start this year, it will “not necessarily [have] a late finish,” he said.
“That might suggest some bunching up in the middle,” he continued, “but that doesn’t concern us. We’ve got really strong demand and expect the demand to stay strong through fall.” There are “a lot of good promotions” in place, plus “just everyday general movement [that is] very good right now,” not only on red grapes but on “all colors.”
Crimsons are “our biggest variety,” Mr. Ricks said. “We see mostly a full crop there. We don’t see a short crop.” It is “typically a fall grape,” but this year he expected to see “a lot of high-color Crimsons available” in the month of August.
“We will pack our first ones sometime around the middle of August” and the last ones, “if the weather holds, probably the week before Thanksgiving, so we stretch our season out quite a ways,” he said.
The Grape Guys has other late-season red varieties also. “We do have Vintage Red” as well as Scarlet Royal and Sweet Scarlet, Mr. Ricks said. Those are all young plantings, but they will be in commercial production this year, although not yet in big numbers. “We are probably a year or two away from getting full crops there.”
Mr. Ricks said he likes the new red varieties for several reasons. “We like the production. We like their size. We like the way they color.” But he does not expect to forsake Crimsons “for a few reasons. One of them is it is a good eating grape. A good Crimson with good size will always sell.”
Although heavy to red grapes, The Grape Guys has the other colors as well. “We have a Thompson crop that we will be harvesting in September, but it is down about 30 percent from normal due to diverting some of the weaker blocks to raisins,” he said. “So our fresh packout will be about two-thirds of what it was last year on Thompsons … but it is going to make for a strong green market throughout the fall, because I know a lot of people are taking advantage of record-high raisin prices” and diverting a portion of their crop out of fresh and into raisins.
Also in the green seedless category, the company has Princess, which “for us is going to harvest mostly in August [and] a little bit in September,” Mr. Ricks said.
The company has Autumn Kings planted as well, “but we don’t have a huge crop coming yet this year,” he said.
Another large fall variety is Autumn Royal, he said, but “we see that crop being anywhere from short to very short” this year. ”We have some fields that seem to have incredibly light yields. Other fields are normal to light,” but overall it is “mostly on the light side, and I think that is industrywide, from what I am hearing.” He does expect to have promotable volumes of Autumn Royals “for a period of time,” but “it is not going to be a big bumper crop that strings into the holidays.”
The Grape Guys also handles Red Globes, but “it is not a big variety for us,” Mr. Ricks said. “That crop looks … normal to light … and we have had some pullouts, too, so our volume is down on Red Globes.” He expected that “the market will stay fairly good” on the Globes.
The company’s ranches are located over a wide geographic area within the San Joaquin Valley. “We go as far south as Arvin” in southern Kern County “and as far north as Madera,” he said.