All of our table grape varieties are in some point of veraison now, which is the stage when red grapes gain color and green grapes shift from grassy green to a creamy green color while the berries begin to soften and ripen. The crop looks good, and we are on the cusp of kicking off harvest season with Flame red seedless grapes. This month we have been keeping an eye on the overnight lows – hot days and cool nights assist the ripening process, but with overnight lows in the mid 70s, the vines sometimes lag behind in ripening.
In the month of July, we dealt with near record heat spikes and prolonged periods of abnormally high temperatures. We’re taking precautions to keep our employees safe, teaching them about heat stress and proper hydration. The heat has limited the hours we can safely operate outside, increasing the importance of proper harvest planning. Growers and shippers that haven’t finished thinning are delayed, with further impacts yet to be known. We haven’t seen excessive heat damage, but there are issues our quality team is watching, such as staining, which may be caused in some part by high heat. We expect minimal damage to our grapes, as many of our grapes have gone through veraison, making them less vulnerable to heat damage. We now have a fuller protective vineyard canopy cover than we did a few weeks ago, when some exposed grapes were burned.
The stone fruit season is about 60% of the way through from a temporal perspective, though just about half of the industry’s volume for the season has now been harvested. There have been many challenges this season, including worker and material shortages and some very hot weather. Luckily though, none of this has translated into poor quality of product in the finished box. It’s been a near-vintage season for quality and flavor, with good visual characteristics. Other than some issues with smaller fruit in the beginning of the season, the finished product has left little to be desired.
You’ve heard us talk about thinning before, but there’s truth to that old saying: a picture’s worth a thousand words. This is why we thin our stone fruit. Fruit that is not thinned (pictured on the right) remains small and doesn’t reach its peak size and flavor potential. Crowded clusters of fruit dilute the nutrients received from the tree, and also block adequate sunlight and air flow. Thinning results in fruit with better size and flavor (pictured on the left), and also protects the tree from damage like broken limbs due to too much weight hanging in one spot.