Autumn King, Scarlet Royal and Vintage Red, all newer late season varieties, will all see increased production this year for The Grape Guys in Cutler, CA, according to President Shaun Ricks.
Those are all “varieties that we have had in development, and we are getting more acreage,” he said. “Some acreage is in full production this year,” and other newer acreage will be in partial production this year. In addition, “There is some acreage that is first leaf” and will not bear fruit until future seasons.
“So we have these new varieties in all stages, but definitely coming on line for this year, and we are happy about that.”
There are many things the company likes about the varieties. Among other things, “we like the berry size, we like the lower cultural costs, and we like the production,” he said.
So far this year, the grape deal has been “very good,” with good quality and acceptable yields, Mr. Ricks said Aug. 8. “Now we are looking at the fall. I would say we are pretty optimistic that the season seems to be trailing along like 2009 which was, in my opinion, a very good-quality year” with correspondingly good movement and demand.
“I think those things are tied together,” he said. “When the grape is good, the movement is good. And when the movement is good, prices stay strong and product stays fresh. Everybody wins that way.”
Export movement for the early season has been good for the industry as a whole, but at The Grape Guys, “we tend not to export as much the first two months of the season,” Mr. Ricks said. “For us, it is more of a fall activity,” primarily with the seeded Red Globe grapes and the black seedless Autumn Royal varieties.
Earlier in the season, Flames, Summer Royals and Princess are seedless varieties “that frankly if we can sell them domestically we will,” he said. “We like to keep them a little closer.”
The Grape Guys grapes for the summer and fall period are grown over a wide area of California’s Central Valley from southern Kern County to northern Tulare County. “We are pretty spread out,” Mr. Ricks said.
However, the company’s growing areas don’t extend as far north in the valley as in years past. “We used to be as far north as Madera,” he said. “It was a leased ranch” that was all Thompsons. “We gave it back … and let a guy take that over that is basically a raisin guy.”
The company’s Thompson program is “much reduced” this year, Mr. Ricks continued. The ranch in Madera constitutes a good part of that reduction. “It was 180 acres. It’s a pretty big chunk of Thompsons that are not making it into the fresh market,” primarily because of the high price being offered for Thompsons this year by the raisin industry.