OPN Connect Newsletter 319 · May 11, 2023

Organic Table Grapes to Reappear in Late May

After a prolonged gap, organic table grapes should hit the market again in late May, and promotable supplies from both California’s Coachella Valley and Mexico’s Sonoran Desert will be available in June.

Anthony Vineyards organic red seedless grapes

Cal Organic May 2024

Mid-to-late spring is always a difficult time to source organic table grapes as South America’s winter production is limited and tends to run out of supplies in April. This year’s gap is even larger than usual as cool weather has produced a spring grape crop that is running considerably late.

“It looks like we will start with organic reds from Coachella sometime during the week of May 22,” said John Harley of Anthony Vineyards earlier this week. “The crop is coming, but it’s coming slowly.”

John Harley, Sales Manager, Anthony Vineyards

Earthbound Farms May 2024

Like many of the other California crops this year—including stone fruits and many vegetable commodities—rain and cold weather has delayed production. “We’re running a week to 10 days later than normal,” Harley said. “Unfortunately, in terms of promotable supplies, we are going to miss the Memorial Day Weekend. The good news is that we will have plenty of organic grapes for the 4th of July, and there will be promotional opportunities by mid-June.”

Organic red grapes typically start about a week earlier than organic greens in the Coachella Valley, but this year the gap between the colors will be much shorter than usual, if it exists at all. “At this point, the organic greens seem to be coming on quicker than the reds,” Harley said. “We’ll see if that holds up as we get closer to our start date.”

“The crop is coming, but it’s coming slowly.” - John Harley

Once organic grapes start coming, Anthony Vineyards, which is headquartered in Bakersfield, CA, is expecting more California organic volume from Coachella than last year. “We have increased our acreage, and we have a very good crop this year,” Harley said. “We are excited about this year’s crop.”

Driscolls May 2024

There should not be a gap between the company’s volume from Coachella and the start of its organic production from the San Joaquin Valley in the summer. “We should be harvesting organic grapes in Coachella through July 15 as we have increased our volume of the newer, later varieties such as Autumn Crisp,” said the longtime grape industry veteran. “And we have some of the earliest vineyards in the San Joaquin Valley as we have vineyards in the southern end of the valley.”

Divine Flavor organic cotton candy grapes

True to this year’s pattern, Harley said those San Joaquin Valley grapes will hit the market about 10 days later than in 2022. “Last year, we started in the South Valley on June 20. This year, it looks like we are going to start around the first of July.”

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The weather doesn’t recognize the border, so Mexico’s grape growers are faced with a similar delay. Michael DuPuis of Divine Flavor, based in Nogales, AZ, said it would be toward the end of the week of May 15 before the company expects to harvest its first organic grapes of the season. He added that June will see many opportunities for promotion of both organic and conventional grapes from Mexico.

Michael DuPuis, Quality Assurance and Public Relations Coordinator, Divine Flavor

“Volume is going to be super heavy in June,” DuPuis said. “There will be promotable volume the first week of June, and the peak will hit sometime in mid-June.”

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Divine Flavor specializes in organic grape production, and DuPuis said the company will be among the last grower-shippers to have organic grapes from the Sonoran Desert.

“There will be promotable volume the first week of June, and the peak will hit sometime in mid-June.” - Michael DuPuis

“We have vineyards in the most northern district of Caborca, which allows us to harvest until the very last day of the season. We have that late window and the late newer varieties, which does allow us to stretch our season out until at least mid-July and possibly until the end of July,” he said.

Pandol Brothers green grapes

The later, high-flavor organic varieties that Divine Flavor will get from its Sonoran vineyards in late July should hit the market before those same varieties are being produced in big numbers in the San Joaquin Valley, giving the company an opportunity to supply its customers for a bit longer.

John Pandol of Pandol Brothers in Delano, CA, agreed that it will be a welcome sight when the first organic table grapes hit the market again later this month. “As organic Chilean grapes lose organic status because of the current US import fumigation treatment, which may or may not be changed this year, the organic grape shelves are empty … Mother Hubbard’s Produce–the cupboards are bare,” he quipped.

John Pandol, Director of Special Projects, Pandol Brothers

Because of the gap, Pandol said "the first wave of organics always gets vacuumed up by the market to refill the distribution channels. Then about the first week in June it settles down into normal supply patterns.”

About half of Pandol’s Sonoran growers produce organic grapes. “Our first organic grapes should start May 12 and continue through June 30, shipping into July. The variety mix on organic grapes is about 40 percent public varieties and 60 percent proprietary varieties.”

“The first wave of organics always gets vacuumed up by the market to refill the distribution channels. Then about the first week in June it settles down into normal supply patterns.” - John Pandol

The company handles organic greens, reds, blacks, and specialty varieties. Industrywide, Pandol estimated that organic production from Sonora represents well over 15 percent of total volume.

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