8/23/2011 AM Live Ag Report

KERMAN, Calif.

Workers picking grapes in a Kerman vineyard started early in the morning to beat the hot summer sun. The Thompson seedless grapes are immediately moved into a truck and delivered to a local winery. At $250 a ton, these bunches will be made into sparkling wine.

Nat DiBuduo heads Allied Grape Growers, a marketing cooperative. He says growing consumer demand for wine has spiked so winemakers like Robert Mondavi are buying up more Valley-grown grapes.

"All the big players are here from Gallo to Constellation's wine group. Delicato, Sutter Home, even Beringer are in here buying grapes in the Valley," said DiBuduo.

Dibuduo says this year's crop is late because of the cold, wet spring. Raisin grapes will be set on trays next month, but a few growers may end up selling their grapes to wineries instead. Some growers are worried, because the later the raisin drying season, the more chances of rain.

"They are considering going to the winery to have a better quality crop for the wine rather than a poor quality for raisins and they're worried about possible rain issues towards the end of the season where they won't get the raisins dry," said grape grower Leland Rebensdorf.

DiBuduo: "That's a nervousness some raisin growers are expressing to us in their evaluation."

Raisin growers who are thinking about selling to wineries still have a few weeks to make up their mind.

The final winter wheat fields have been harvested in California. The Federal Agriculture Department reports the state's harvest ran two or three weeks behind last year's.

The most recent crop production forecast anticipates California farmers will produce more than one-million tons of winter wheat. That's a 16 percent increase above last year's total.

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