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Monday, April 16, 2012

Sex in the Vineyard

Kitchak Cellars is Fighting a significant problem.

We are doing everything we can to interrupt sexual activity in our vineyard.

Yes, that's right.  We have a problem and we are working to interrupt the sexual activity... of the European Grape Vine Moth.

Mating Disruption Twist Tie for European Grape Vine Moth
Placing Twist Ties.   200 per acre. This last week we have been placing special twist ties in the vineyard. They are simple plastic ties like those you would find tied around a cord in the box of your newly purchased IPhone.  Except these ties are red and impregnated with a chemical that smells identical to the pheromones of the female European Grape Vine Moth (EGVM).

This is Farming. Grape growing is a much more complicated process that I would have ever believed when I was collecting wine and before starting Kitchak Cellars.  This is farming.  A lot of weather problems, a lot of pests and many, many things that can go wrong.  The European Grape Vine Moth (EGVM) is just one a good example.

Background on EGVM. Five years ago, the EGVM didn't exist in the Napa Valley.  At least if it did, it did so in very small numbers and no one knew that it was there.  The moth is only about 1/4 of an inch long.  So small it is hard to see. And, all of a sudden it appeared by the hundreds of thousands.  It feeds on grape vines and lays its eggs on the leaves and in the fruit.  When it does, the skin of the fruit breaks, the juice runs out and the clusters get moldy. I produces three generations per year!

Discovery and the Fight. In 2008 the crop in entire vineyards were lost while the Napa Valley Grape Growers and the Napa County Agricultural Commissioner were trying to figure out what the pest was and what to do about it. By 2009, with help from people in vineyards around the world, the moth had been identified and a protocol developed to fight the very invasive pest. Test traps gathered huge numbers in 2009 when the treatment started.  In 2010 the numbers had dropped substantially and by 2011 a very small number were caught in Ag Commission traps placed throughout the county.

A Key Element in the Battle. One of the key elements in the fight has been the twist ties.  Because they contain the synthetic pheromones of the females EGVM, the males are confused and cannot find a partner.  The entire reproductive cycle is broken and the moth now seems under control.  But, we continue to place the ties to insure that the problem does not come back.

Other activities this past week. We have now finished all of the pruning.  Also, every year we lose a few vines to gophers, and we are replanting those vines this next week. We have had some great guests in our tasting room and we continue to get more spring rain.  Our reservoirs and now full and we are ready for the rain to stop, but more is forecast for next week. WE won't expect more than a drop or two from May 1 until October 15. I also attended a seminar this week on stabilizing wine against both heat and cold and we will talk about that next week.
Bud Break + 2 weeks . Vines are growing fast
 Cheers, and remember.  Life is too short to drink bad wine.

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