2010 has been a good year for table grape production, says Jim Llano, sales manager for Castle Rock Vineyards at Delano, Calif.
“We’ve had good yields on most of our varieties and, depending on the area and variety, the quality of the grapes has been very good to excellent.
“We’re very excited about where the industry is with the quality of the grapes this year and with the varieties in our fall program, such as our cherry-colored Red Globe and our proprietary Castle Rock Red grapes.”
Castle Rock is now well into the transition from picking, packing and shipping the last of its summer grapes — including Flame Seedless, Princess and Thompson seedless — to harvesting and marketing its fall varieties, beginning with Red Globes.
The company, which has vineyards at Coachella, Arvin, Delano, Ducor, Lindsay, and Reedley, supplies grapes to its customers from May through January.
“Fall varieties account for more than 60 percent of California’s table grape production,” says Llano. “Red Globe and Autumn Royal are our main fall varieties for export markets, with Castle Rock Red, Autumn Royal, and Autumn King going to domestic markets.”
Autumn King is a new green seedless industry variety, and Castle Rock Red, a red seedless, is the company’s propriety variety.
“We’ve been very happy with Castle Rock Red sales domestically and in some export markets,” Llano says.
Depending on the weather, he expects harvesting of fall varieties to finish around the middle or end of November, with all grapes shipped by mid-January.
As with other packers and shippers, Castle Rock has been covering its grapes in the fall with plastic sheeting to help shield them from fungus-inducing rains. Some of the grapes had already been covered before the arrival of wet weather at the end of September, and the rest were covered in the first few days of October.
Black table grape varieties, in general, could benefit from more intensive efforts by the industry to promote their desirable qualities, Llano says. Although black grapes have been available in American supermarkets for the past 15 years or so, they aren’t as popular among consumers as traditional red and green varieties.
“Black grapes are undiscovered jewels,” Llano says. “We in the industry should be doing more to educate consumers about the wonderful eating experiences and excellent flavor profiles that some of the black varieties offer.”