Castle Rock Vineyards cold storage facility in Delano, Calif., would normally be humming with activity this time of year with workers filling as many as 25,000 to 30,000 boxes with fresh table grapes.

This year, though, production is running at only about half that level, as harvesting and packing crews wait for the rest of the grapes to finish ripening.

“It’s a situation many of us haven’t seen before,” says Jim Llano, sales manager for the grower shipper with vineyards in Coachella, Arvin, Bakersfield, Delano, Ducor, Lindsay and Reedley, Calif.

“It’s been a very unusual year in terms of production and varieties coming off in their normal time periods,” Llano told GrapeLine, an e-newsletter distributed by Western Farm Press and sponsored online by Chemtura AgroSolutions. “Prices have been healthy and demand has been better than in the past two years.”

Meanwhile, crews continue picking early-season varieties. After finishing the Sugarones, they’re on track to complete Flame Seedless fields followed by Summer Royals.

Llano told GrapeLine he expects production to begin picking up in September as varieties like Thompson seedless, Scarlet Royal and Crimson Seedless reach maturity.

“I’m looking forward to early September, when we’ll be packing multiple varieties and volume within in the industry will finally start to pick up,” he says. “As more fruit becomes available in September and October, exports will also increase.”

Smaller Sonoma County crop

Development of the Sonoma County wine grape crop is running late, production of some key varietals is off significantly, and quality is still up in the air.

That’s what veteran grape grower Phil Enzenauer told GrapeLine.

The fourth-generation farmer owns Enzenauer Vineyard Management at Healdsburg, Calif., growing Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Petite Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Champagne and Carignan grapes in the Anderson Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations.

“Right now, we’re probably two weeks behind,” he says. “If the weather stays cool and foggy, I don’t see us catching up.”

“The weather was miserable when vines were supposed to be setting buds for this year’s crop,” he says. “Who knows what the 2011 crop will be like? This year, we have had the same weather as last year to a T, except for the heat wave we got last year — which we may still get.

He describes Chardonnay grapes in his Dry Creek vineyards as “lots of chicks and hens.” Because of such a wide variation in berry size, he expects Chardonnay tonnage there will be 15 percent to 20 percent less than normal.

Learn of what the veteran grape grower had to say in the archives of GrapeLine.