Longtime Coachella Valley grape grower and packer Tudor Ranch Inc. has undergone some cosmetic changes in the sales and marketing of its fruit, but below the surface everything will remain the same.
“We will basically have the same sales team,” said George Tudor, who is the principal owner of the operation. He noted that the salesmen at the shuttered VBZ Vineyards in Delano, CA, have started a new sales firm and will continue to sell Tudor’s grapes. “And we still have Tastyfrutti (International Inc. in Philadelphia). Andy (Economou) has been coming out here for more than 20 years to sell the deal and he’s coming again this year. We will have the same salesmen and expect to have the same customer base that we have had for years.”
About half a dozen years ago, Tudor Ranch added a sales and marketing agreement with VBZ as an adjunct to its longtime relationship with Tastyfrutti. But recently, it was reported that Vincent B. Zaninovich & Sons (VBZ Vineyards) sold its more than 6,000 acres near Delano to one or more firms, including The Wonderful Company, and exited the table grape deal.
Members of VBZ’s sales team — Chance Kirk, Justin Gonzales and Joseph Tudor — subsequently established Silver Canyon Sales and will continue to sell Tudor’s grapes occupying the same role that VBZ had, according to George Tudor. Kirk, who is the CEO of Silver Canyon, said he will be director of retail and foodservice sales, while Gonzales will handle export and retail sales, and Joseph Tudor, who is George Tudor’s brother, will be director of operations. Besides grapes, Silver Canyon is expecting to handle other commodities, including Tudor Ranch’s dates and lemons.
As far as the Coachella Valley grape deal is concerned, George Tudor is expecting to start harvesting and shipping grapes in earnest between May 15 and 20, which is about 10 days later than last year. He expect s the company’s grape volume to be up a bit this year, both because of better growing conditions and the establishment of younger, stronger vineyards. He explained that over the past four years, Tudor Ranch has been following the trends and replacing some older varieties and vineyards with newer, better-yielding cultivars.
“We have replaced some vineyards past their prime with newer vines,” he said. “And just like people, young grapes tend to produce better.”
Tudor said about 400 acres have been replanted and he expects about 25 percent more volume from those vineyards. Kirk added that they will be selling both Valley Pearl and Ivory grapes for the first time this year. Both are green grapes. “We also are expecting about 15 percent more flames because of some new plantings.”
Tudor Ranch is also re-introducing a label this year after a long hiatus. “Once again we are going to be packing grapes under the VMT label,” said Tudor. “Those are my dad’s initials. We haven’t used that label in about 20 years.”
The label will be marketed alongside the Mecca, CA, grower’s Brother’s Pride label, which has long been its standard bearer.
Kirk said the grapes look great this year and he is expecting a “high-quality year” with volume hitting its stride in the second half of May. He credited one of the coldest winters in recent memory giving the vines plenty of chill hours, which tends to lead to robust production of good-quality fruit.