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Castle Rock continues to boost production of proprietary red grapes

Every year, Castle Rock Vineyards in Delano, CA, increases production of its proprietary late-season red seedless grape variety, the Castle Rock Red. “Each year we have a little more volume with that, and this year we should have tremendous opportunity for distribution,” said Jim Llano, sales manager.

“We’ll see that in early September” this year, he said. Typically, the variety starts in late August, but as with most other grape varieties in the San Joaquin Valley this year, the Castle Rock Red is running later than normal.

Once started, the variety will “run all the way through” to the end of the California grape season, he said. “We will pack that probably for a good couple of months — September and October, and it is a great storage grape as well. It has some wonderful sugar. It is a solid grape. So we will be marketing that variety into November.”

The Castle Rock Reds are just one component of a strong fall grape program for the company.

“We will be starting Scarlet Royals at the end of August, and that will be packing through September,” Mr. Llano said. That is another variety in which the company has seen significant increase. “Also at that time period, we will be starting with Princess, probably around the first of September.”

Castle Rock will start Thompsons about the same time as well, but “that will be an abbreviated harvest for us.” As with much of the industry, “there have been a number of Thompsons taken out the past few years,” he said.

Around the first week of September, “we should be starting the first of our Red Globes,” Mr. Llano said. “Red Globes will be a critical variety for us for export to Asia and also into Latin America.”

He expected Crimsons and Autumn Royals both to start around mid-September.

Starting “hopefully in early October” will be Autumn Kings, “which will finish us out” with a late-season green seedless grape, he said. More acreage will be coming into production this year. “We have found … that the grape has received good acceptance. It is a large grape. It is flavorful, and it fills a wonderful opportunity for us,” falling, as it does, “right around that holiday season.”

Last year was the first year Castle Rock “really had something to offer” in the Autumn Kings,” and it was only a small volume. “We will certainly have more this year,” but not in the kind of volume the company has with Princess or Autumn Royal, he said. “Each year, we will see incremental volume increases” going forward.

Also, “we will have Calmerias in September,” and those will continue into November. “We have had a little bit of resurgence” of interest in that once -popular red seeded variety, not so much in the domestic as in the export market, he said.

“So as slow as things may have been during July” and during much of August, both for Castle Rock and for the industry, “September, October and November should be a completely different situation for us in terms of activity and volume,” he said. “This will also be a time that we will be participating in some promotions. It is going to be a time period, I think, for Castle Rock and for the industry to do the things that we would [normally] have been doing in August” but did not this year “because of the delays we have had this season.”