"Sharpshooter" takes aim on vineyards
It's a villain, all right, but this 1/2-inch-long insect is far from fiction. The glassy-winged sharpshooter, native to the Southern U.S., is now spreading through California from south to north. Already entrenched in Golden State vineyard regions from the Mexican border to Santa Barbara and the Central Valley, it sent shudders through the quality wine industry last week with its first appearance in the San Francisco Bay area: An adult was trapped in Livermore, and clusters of sharpshooter eggs turned up at nurseries in Sonoma.
What does this mean to wine lovers like you and me? It's an extremely serious concern. The glassy-winged sharpshooter is a carrier of the bacteria that cause the devastating Pierce's Disease, a botanical affliction that can wipe out entire vineyards within a year or two and that has no known cure. Uncontrolled spread of Pierce's could literally destroy the agricultural economy of entire wine regions, and it has already taken a heavy toll in Southern California's Temecula area.
Pierce's disease is nothing new. It has been a threat to California vineyards for more than a century and has been causing problems in Napa and the Santa Cruz Mountains regions for the past generation, where intensive efforts to fight it off with pesticides (or even organic farming techniques) have generally controlled its spread via the smaller and less wide-ranging blue-green sharpshooter. But the emergence of the glassy-winged species (Homalodisca coagulata) kicks the issue up a notch. It is seen as such a threat that California Governor Gray Davis has allocated about $15 million to fight it in 1999 and 2000, and the U.S. Congress recently OK'd a $7.14 million crop-insurance plan.
Moreover, the arrival of the pest in California's wine-rich North Coast is prompting state agricultural authorities to consider a ban on shipping wine grapes from one region to another, a move that could have direct consequences on the many wineries that make wines in one region from grapes grown in another.
Nor should vine growers around the world assume that this is just a California problem. Just as the root louse phylloxera spread to France 140 years ago and almost wiped out the vineyards of Europe, it doesn't take much imagination to come up with a scenario in which a few sharpshooters find their way across the oceans to wine-growing regions around the world.
If you would like to learn more about this threat, here's a link to the University of California's Online Media Kit about the glassy-winged sharpshooter and Pierce's disease: http://danr.ucop.edu/news/MediaKit/GWSS.shtml.
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German wines for summertime
Valckenberg 1998 Pfalz Gewurztraminer ($8.99)
FOOD MATCH: This spicy wine went very well with pork medallions in a goulash-style paprika and sour cream sauce.
Cooling red wine
But what's "room temperature"? If it's warm indoors even with the air-conditioner running, there is no harm in placing your red wine in the refrigerator for a short stay before dinner. Don't leave it too long -- 20 to 40 minutes on the refrigerator shelf is about right for most reds, up to possibly an hour for light and fruity styles like Beaujolais.
(This "oldie" is summarized from "The 30 Second Wine Advisor" of June 21, 1999. Happy Summer Solstice!)
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Vol. 2, No. 22, June 19, 2000