The weak economy should help bolster prices for San Joaquin Valley wine grape growers, says veteran grower Dave Loquaci, Madera, Calif.

His Madera Ag Services grows mostly Barbera, Grenache, Muscat, Ruby Red and Zinfandel wine grapes, while Thompson seedless, Selma Pete and Fiesta are the main raisin varieties.

“The wine segment of the grape market has been strong and the demand for the types of grapes grown in the Valley has been very good,” he says. “Sales of moderately-priced bottles have been excellent, and there’s also been a definite expansion in the market of bag-in-box and lower-priced table wines.”

His view of the raisin market, however, isn’t quite so clear. “It remains to be seen how the raisin deal will shake out this year,” Loquaci says. “Last year raisin sales were very strong and demand at the wineries for green raisin grapes was good. So, demand for raisin varieties should remain fairly strong this year. But, I don’t want to be too optimistic.”

While he waits for the prices to shake out, vines look pretty good early in the season.

“Growth on some of the raisin varieties, mainly Thompson Seedless, appears to be really delayed where vineyards are short of water or weren’t irrigated after harvest last year,” he says. “If growth is delayed, of course, yields will go down.”