According to a report of the Committee of the Grape Growers' and Wine Maker's Association of California, the drying of wine grapes on a large scale was begun during the vintage season of 1887, in which season about eight carloads in all were made and sold, the bulk of which came from the vicinity of Fresno; that year, the committee are informed, the growers netted about three and a half cents per pound. During the season of 1888 about 112 carloads were dried, packed, and sold, netting the growers from two and a half to three and a half cents per pound, depending on the quality of the fruit. The great bulk of that year's product has entered into consumption, but there yet remains unsold to consumers, we are informed, about ten carloads, which, it is expected, will be sold during the next three months. It has been observed by those handling this product that the largest sales of dried wine grapes in 1888 and 1889 took place at those points to which the first lots were shipped in 1887, which would show that as the product becomes better known it finds a readier market.

Dried wine grapes are prepared in a similar manner to raisins; that is they are dried in the sun, but do not require the same care in handling that are given to raisins. Wooden trays 2 × 3 are sometimes used, but it is by no means necessary to go to the expense of procuring trays, as it has been found that a good quality of coarse brown paper will answer every purpose, and this, with care, may be made to last two or three seasons. The drying was last season principally done on the bare ground, but there is much loss by shelling, as those dried are required to be turned; a pitchfork is used for that purpose. Brown building paper can be procured of city paper dealers in large rolls at four and a half cents per pound; according to the thickness, it will cost from one and three-quarters to three and a half cents per square yard. A thin, tough, waterproof paper is also made in rolls at about six cents a square yard. Wine grapes dry in from ten days to three weeks, according to variety and weather, and with the exception of Malvoisie, Rose of Peru, and Black Hamburg, from three and a half to four and a half tons of the green fruit are required to make one of the dried; these three varieties, however, being large, meaty, and a firm pulp, do not require more than from three to three and a half tons of the green fruit to produce one ton of dried, and are, therefore, the most profitable for drying; they also command better values in the market.

The grapes are sufficiently dried when, on being rolled between the thumb and finger, no moisture exudes, and also when the stems are found to be dry and brittle, so that they can be separated readily from the berries. After the grapes have reached the proper state of dryness, they are taken in boxes or sacks to the packing house, where they are stemmed and cleaned, after which they are packed in white cotton sacks, holding from fifty to seventy-five pounds each, and when marked are ready for shipment.

The stemming and cleaning of the dried grapes is done by special machines designed for that purpose, which leaves the fruit in a bright, clean condition attractive to purchasers. These machines are at present built only by James Porteous, Fresno, and are operated either by hand or power. The cost of a stemmer and cleaner complete is $80, f. o. b. cars at Fresno. Where several producers can do so, it would be advisable to club together and get the machine in this way. Much extra expense could be avoided and one set of machinery would serve several vineyards, possibly an entire district where time was not a great object; or some one person in a district could purchase an outfit and do the work by contract, going from place to place. The capacity of the stemmer and cleaner is from five to eight tons per day, when the grapes are in proper condition; and the cost or charge for stemming, cleaning, sacking, and sewing up the sacks is from four to five dollars per ton when the producer furnishes the sacks. Good cotton sacks, holding about seventy-five pounds, cost from eight to ten cents each, including the necessary twine.

Last year dried grapes were generally sold for cash, f. o. b., but it is probable that other markets could be secured by selling on consignment.

As to the advisability of such a course, each producer must himself be the judge. It is, however, quite certain that until consumers have an opportunity to try this product, the sales will necessarily be more or less limited, unless vigorously pushed by merchants and others interested in extending the markets for California products in the Eastern cities not yet tried. The varieties most suitable and profitable for drying, and especially for consumption in the Eastern markets, are the Malvoisie, Rose of Peru, Black Hamburg, Mission, Zinfandel, Charbono, Grenache, and in some localities the Carignan, of the dark varieties, and the Feher Zagos and Golden Chasselas of the white grapes; there are many other white grapes that are excellent when dried, but are too valuable for wine-making purposes, or are too small or deficient in sugar for use as dried grapes.

The same is true of the dark grapes, some of which ripen so late that it would be impossible to dry them in the sun, and the use of artificial heat is, at present prices, too expensive. Therefore, the varieties mentioned, which generally mature early, are found to be the most suitable for this purpose. This product is sold by dealers in the Eastern cities for cooking purposes, and as a substitute for dried fruits, such as peaches, apples, apricots, etc., in comparison with which it is usually much cheaper; while for stewing and for puddings and pies it answers the same purpose. The demand for this product will probably be gauged by the Eastern fruit crop; that is, the quantity that can be disposed of will depend upon the quantity of Eastern fruit in the market, and the prices will be largely dependent upon that of dried fruit.