California vineyards endure varied response to September weather

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California vineyards endure varied response to September weather

California vineyards experienced a variety of rainfall amounts in early September, leaving growers with radically differing views of table grape damage, Mimi Dorsey indicates Sept. 22. “It hit some places very hard.” Dorsey, who is the export manager for Giumarra Vineyards in Bakersfield, said some Giumarra vineyards were protected by plastic and were fine. Other shaded vineyards had plastic blown off, and the crop was still fine. 

But she indicated other growers would have varying stories.

Fresh Fruit Portal confirmed that point of view.

David Watson, Fresh Farms’ senior vice president sales and marketing, speaking from the firm’s headquarters in Rio Rico, AZ, said California temperatures between 110 and 115 F lingered for more than a week. 

And then, for five or six days, it poured rain on the stressed vineyards.

On a Sept. 20 telephone interview, Watson said California heavy rains had just ended that day.

October California grape prices will be up. November California grape prices will also be up, Watson predicts. 

Some California growers may extend their deal until the first of part of 2023. But Watson does not expect “enough for retailers to fill their bellies.” 

There will be some California shippers with Autumn Kings who will have supplies until Christmas, “but those won’t have the legs to get to the East Coast.”

Nor will California have the late volume to compete with the Peruvian deal, which will start in late November.

A radically different point of view 

John Pandol, director of special projects for Pandol Bros., Inc., Delano, CA, had a much different view of September events in California vineyards. He had heard others report heavy damage to the crop, but Pandol is sticking to a different story. He insists the total California grape harvest for 2022 will be very similar to 2021, which was in the range of 95- to 100-million boxes.

Grapes that were ready for near-term harvest would be harmed. But bunches not due for harvest for another six weeks should be all right, Pandol says. 

In a Sept. 20 phone conversation, Pandol noted that, historically, the middle of California’s grape shipping season is late September. He observes there is still far to go this season.

Pandol tags September rains as spotty, which raised the overall humidity. “Now, it’s kind of a mixed bag.” He said some cleaning may be needed to clear split berries. But the rain won’t cause more than a one or two percent shift in total production this season, Pandol said.

A Fresh Farms salesman in Visalia, CA, Aron Gularte, expects probably fewer supplies than is typical. This will bring rising markets, with California grapes shipped through November.

“The uncertainty is how much supply will be available. That is the unknown factor,” Gularte added. 

International grape markets

Whatever late-season production will come from California vineyards, Pandol foresees a challenging market with international conditions strong for heavy offshore grape shipments to the U.S. Currency is cheaper in the U.S., which makes this a more attractive destination for Peruvian and Chilean growers.

“There will definitely be more offshore grapes, like last year,” Pandol said.

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