Veteran Southern San Joaquin Valley table grape growers Ross and Ryan Spitzer have introduced a new table grape variety, Moonlight Seedless.

The Spitzers produce table grapes on 300 acres in the Arvin/Bakersfield area and at McFarland, farming as H. Spitzer and Sons, Inc. In addition to table grapes, they grow citrus, walnuts and carrots. They have been farming since 1978

Moonlight Seedless came from a block of Maroo Seedless grapes.

“One of our grape pickers found the vine in 1990 among the Maroos. It produced a grape quite different from the Maroo, and she brought it to our attention,” says Ross Spitzer.

It is a large, black/purple grape that he says has very good eating quality — and no seed traces.

The brothers took cuttings from the rogue vine, propagated them and grew out 32 vines. They were grafted to Crimson Seedless roots, “the strongest-rooted vines we have.”

Eventually, they developed a 32-acre vineyard, and last year 25,000 boxes were shipped from those vines, mostly into the overseas market. SC Fresh markets the Spitzer table grapes under the Top Hat brand.

The vines are cane-pruned. “We tried spur pruning, but that didn’t work,” Ross says

The variety yielded 800 boxes per acre last season from the young vineyards, and he expects mature vines to produce 1,000 boxes per acre. Another 30 acres have been planted. They are on double T crossarms of 52 and 36 inches.

Harvest timing is before Autumn Royal and after Summer Royal. Moonlight Seedless is a patented label.

“We’ve never done anything like this before,” Ross says. “It takes a long time, but it was an enjoyable process.”

The Spitzers also farm Crimsons, Flame Seedless, Thompson seedless and Princess Seedless table grapes.