Cal­i­for­nia farm­ers have been cul­ti­vat­ing grapes for well over two cen­turies. The fresh grape boom struck the golden state in 1839 when a for­mer trap­per from Ken­tucky, William Wolf­skill, planted the state’s first table grape vine­yard in the once Mex­i­can colo­nial pueblo now known as Los Ange­les.

An agri­cul­tural entre­pre­neur, Wolf­skill was the first farmer to ship fresh grapes to North­ern Cal­i­for­nia. From there, the idea was expanded and the first twenty two pound box of Cal­i­for­nia grapes shipped to Chicago in 1869, via the then “new” transcon­ti­nen­tal rail­road.

The gold rush may have ended, but the grape rush con­tin­ues. Today, over 99 per­cent of com­mer­cially grown grapes in the United States come from Cal­i­for­nia.

With over 70 vari­eties grown, and more on the way, these vari­eties include seed­less and seeded grapes in the green, red and blue-​black color cat­e­gories.

The Cal­i­for­nia table grape har­vest sea­son typ­i­cally begins in May, but more than half the crop is shipped from Sep­tem­ber and after­wards. Out of the 65+ com­mer­cial vari­eties of fresh table grapes, 49 of them are avail­able dur­ing the September-​through-​December time period, includ­ing 14 major vari­eties. That’s a lot of late, great grapes.

At a crop value of $1.76 bil­lion in 2018, Cal­i­for­nia table grape grow­ers har­vested more than 116 mil­lion boxes of grapes, send­ing them to con­sumers world­wide.

Cal­i­for­nia table grapes are grown in two dis­tinct areas, the Coachella Val­ley and the San Joaquin Val­ley. These val­leys offer the opti­mal grow­ing con­di­tions for supe­rior qual­ity grapes.

Unlike many fresh fruits, grapes are har­vested fully ripe. After they’re picked, they do not become sweeter, so har­vest tim­ing is crit­i­cal to good fruit. Mother Nature plays a cru­cial role in tim­ing.

Sugar con­tent, color, bunch and berry size and uni­for­mity are all mea­sured before har­vest begins. The field work­ers who decide which grapes to har­vest are trained pro­fes­sion­als with years of expe­ri­ence.

Once picked, fresh grapes are eas­ily dam­aged by rough han­dling, warm tem­per­a­tures, exces­sive mois­ture and decay-​causing organ­isms. Grape bunches are care­fully inspected and then imme­di­ately packed by hand into ship­ping con­tain­ers – often right in the field.

Shortly after pick­ing and pack­ing, the field heat is removed from the fruit in cold stor­age facil­i­ties. Grapes are stored at tem­per­a­tures between 30F and 32F. From this point until they reach their des­ti­na­tion – mar­kets through­out the world – the grapes will be main­tained in a care­fully reg­u­lated envi­ron­ment to assure they arrive in just-​picked con­di­tion.

There is still plenty of time to enjoy the sweet, juicy, qual­i­ties of late sea­son grapes. On a cheese plat­ter or lunch sack, they are picked and ready to go.

To read the full Mar­ket Report, includ­ing this week’s mar­ket update, see below or click here.