Sep 302015
 
Grapevine skeletonizer

Photo Credit: University of California

There’s good news from the Napa AG Commissioner’s office this week. That grapeleaf skeletonizer that they found in one of their traps may have been an isolated find, rather than a precursor to a larger infestation. Since we’ve worked for years with Greg Clark and the Ag Commission in Napa to keep the Glassy-winger Sharpshooter out of the county, and we were part of a successful campaign to get rid of a small population of European Grapvine Moths, this is really good news.

This excerpt from the Napa Valley Register:

Vineyard pest find may have been fluke

A leaf-consuming grapevine pest with a Halloween-like name apparently ended up being only a brief visitor to Napa Valley this summer.

A single western grapeleaf skeletonizer moth showed up in a vineyard sticky trap along Tubbs Lane near Calistoga in June. But further trapping has yielded no more of this invasive species.

“Good news,” county Agricultural Commissioner Greg Clark said.

The skeletonizer has caterpillars that devour leaves, leaving behind the veins and creating a kind of leaf skeleton. Less leaves let in more sun that can sunburn the fruit. The caterpillars can also feed on grape clusters and cause bunch rot.

Caterpillars have been known to defoliate entire vineyards in other parts of the state.

“This is a very serious pest,” Jennifer Putnam of Napa Valley Grapegrowers said after the discovery.

Napa County responded to the Tubbs Lane find by putting out 25 additional traps within a 1-mile radius.

Perhaps the lone moth hitchhiked to the area on farm equipment, Clark said. There doesn’t appear to be an infestation because the traps likely would have picked up additional moths.

Still, the county will continue to monitor the area for three years.

“We want to be vigilant,” Clark said. “We never know when a pest is going to be introduced, one that is significant and harmful to the environment, wine grapes and our economy.”

In 2007, the county discovered a grapeleaf skeletonizer moth in the Mount Veeder area west of the city of Napa. That appeared to be a fluke, too, with no other moth turning up.

The grapeleaf skeletonizer is a native of Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico and was discovered in California in 1941. It is established in parts of the Central Valley. Unlike the glassy-winged sharpshooter or European grapevine moth, an infestation of grapeleaf skeletonizers doesn’t trigger a state quarantine.

Nor does the skeletonizer have the grape industry doomsday reputation of the glassy-winged sharpshooter, which spreads vine-killing Pierce’s disease.

“It is a destructive pest,” Clark said. “It is relatively easy to control using a variety of materials.”

But that costs grapegrowers more money. Napa County has the grapeleaf skeletonizer on its list of unwelcomed insects.

“For those of us who don’t have it and don’t want it, if we trap and find it early, the ability to eradicate is certainly a viable option,” Clark said.

Sep 292015
 

One Good Day

I met Peter Nowack at the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference. I instantly found him witty and sarcastic. Needless to say, I liked him immediately. Not long after our meeting, Peter received a rather dire prognosis–Stage 4 prostate cancer. Most of us (probably me included) would crawl up in a corner and wait for the inevitable. Not Peter. He began a crusade to help others in similar situations. He launched an initiative called One Good Day and a website (OneGoodDay.org), which led to a non-profit to help those with incurable cancer to enjoy “one good day”. Over the past couple of months, I’ve worked with Peter to help him with his communications about the organization. Below is a press release from today:

Bay Area Cancer Survivor Starts Non-Profit to Benefit Others with Incurable Cancer

OneGoodDay.org empowers lower-income adults with incurable cancer to have “one good day”

September 29, 2015 (San Francisco/Oakland, CA) – What would you do should Life hand you a death sentence? Diagnosed with incurable cancer, long-time Bay Area resident, Peter Nowack, has launched OneGoodDay.org, a charity committed to improving quality of life for lower-income adults with incurable cancer by offering micro-grants so that these deserving individuals might enjoy “one good day” with loved ones when they need it most.

“As someone with incurable cancer, I’ve learned that the best gift I can ever receive is one good day with family and friends,” says Bay Area resident Peter Nowack, Founder and Executive Director of OneGoodDay.org. “I started OneGoodDay so that lower-income adults with incurable cancer would be able to realize their own “one good day” – a day that has profound, personal meaning.”

“One good day is different for every adult facing incurable cancer,” says Nowack. “It might be a reunion with a distant relative. A special meal with one’s all-grown-up daughter or son. A walk on the beach with your life partner. Or one last adventure with a friend you’ve known for a lifetime.” Nowack notes that OneGoodDay is not about bucket lists, getting the keys to the city, or meeting the President. “It’s about small stuff. Human-scale stuff. Stuff that touches the senses,” Nowack says. “The kind of stuff that makes a real difference on a deeply personal level.”

Diagnosed in October, 2014 with very aggressive, incurable Stage 4 prostate cancer, Nowack wants to commit the measure of his days to making a difference for others in similar situations. “Terminal cancer is not limited to the wealthy, well-connected, or well-insured. Lower-income individuals often lack the resources to provide for basic needs, let alone things that will boost their quality of life.”

“People with incurable cancer deal with physical and emotional challenges every day,” says Dr. Ashok Pai, an oncologist in the San Francisco Bay Area. “We clinicians do our best to slow down the advance of the cancer, and can help patients deal with their symptoms. OneGoodDay.org has the real potential to improve quality of life for lower-income adults with incurable cancer every day.”

Media outlets interested in interviewing Mr. Nowack, hearing his story, and learning more about OneGoodDay.org may reach him directly at pnowack@onegoodday.org.

OneGoodDay.org is seeking financial support to grow its outreach to lower-income adults and their caregivers in the oncology community, and to issue more micro-grants to deserving patients with incurable cancer. With sufficient funding, OneGoodDay.org can touch the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lower-income adults with incurable cancer. Individuals interested in making donations may do so by visiting http://OneGoodDay.org. Companies interested in supporting OneGoodDay.org should contact pnowack@onegoodday.org.

About OneGoodDay.org

Founded in 2015 by long-time Oakland resident Peter Nowack, OneGoodDay.org is a 501(c)(3) charity committed to improving quality of life for lower-income adults with incurable cancer. OneGoodDay issues micro-grants so that these deserving individuals might have the means to enjoy “one good day” that will make a real difference, at a deeply personal level.

Sep 282015
 

Pepe Galante, father of modern wine in Argentina

This week we’re spending a bit of time with Pepe Galante, the father of modern winemaking in Argentina. Of course, one of the charming things about Pepe is that he claims in all seriousness that this title belongs to his mentor, Francisco Oreglia, the author of the first books to focus specifically on winemaking in Argentina. Oreglia was Galante’s instructor at the Enology School at the Universidad Juan Agustin Maza (UJAM)—and he immediately recognized Galante’s skills and enthusiasm. He offered Pepe a job teaching at the school right after graduation, and Pepe still loves that part of giving back to the industry.

What impresses you the most when you meet Pepe is how quiet and understated he is—even a bit shy. For someone who has traveled the world and brought Argentine wines to the attention of the world, he still comes across as someone who takes each day as an opportunity to learn something more. In fact, when he talks about the young winemakers in Argentina today, most of whom have been his students, he talks about what they can teach us, not the other way around.

And then you taste his new wines from the spectacular new project in Argentina: Salentein. They are simply wonderful wines. Yes you expect great Malbec and delightful Torrontes. But you don’t expect world-class Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc. Or superb Shiraz from San Juan.

Makes for a pretty darn enjoyable evening—drinking wines like that alongside a living legend.

Sep 242015
 

iSommelier from iFavineA few weeks ago we were contacted by iFavine about a new wine decanter called the iSommelier that might revolutionize wine service in restaurants.  We were intrigued.  We were also pretty darn skeptical.  It seems that every few years somebody has a “great new technology” that is going to change the way we serve wine.  And yet…When we met the international team of people who are working on this project, we got more interested.  In the first meeting we met people from China, Holland, and France.  And they seemed remarkably sane and reasonable.  In fact, we really liked the Ifavine team. So we set up a tasting with a group of our local Master Sommeliers and Masters of Wine to see this thing in action. It’s slick—even glamorous—with delicate blue lights and lots of glossy surfaces.  It even comes with a remote control.  And when we started using it to taste some wines, the results were pretty darn clear.  In the words of one of the Master Sommeliers, the thing obviously does what it says it does: it adds oxygen into the wine. We tried it on four different wines, including an Austrian Riesling, a California Chardonnay, a Barolo, and top Napa Valley Cabernet.  In each case the wines structure was softened by the iSommelier.  In most cases the delicate aromatics of the wine seemed less obvious after “decanting” with the iSommelier, and the wine was a bit simpler but with more direct fruit and more approachable tannins and acidity.  Just what you’d expect from a wine that had been allowed to breathe for an hour before serving.  Except that it had happened in something under one minute with the iSommelier.  And we all agreed that for many wine drinkers in the USA, this was a very attractive option.

Don’t be surprised if you start seeing these in top steakhouses around the country.  If you do, check one out for yourself on a nice bottle of young cabernet.

Sep 162015
 
The Lake County Valley Fire has devastated homes and businesses.

(Photo by Stephen Lam/ Getty Images)

Tough news coming out of Lake County these days.  According to CalFire, the “Valley Fire” has consumed over 75,000 acres and 1,900 structures, many of those homes. Over the years, we’ve worked with a couple of different wineries up there, and the grape growers as well.  We have friends, clients, and neighbors all over the county. And for a few years, I lived in Middletown, right in town, near the High School. It’s hard to look at the photos to see what’s happened up there.  The house we used to own, a 100+ year old farmhouse that I remodeled extensively, is gone.  We’ve lost touch with who lived there now, but the house itself had character and charm—even if the kitchen floor had enough slope to it that you never had to look for an olive or a grape the fell on the floor.  They always rolled to the same corner.  It won’t be back.

We’ve agreed to do some pro-bono work for the Lake County Winegrape Commission to try to help out a bit.  We’re sending out press releases, directing media inquiries, and helping focus attention on the relief efforts.  It’s not enough.  It can’t be enough.  If you want to help, please join the Napa Valley Vintners, Andy Beckstoffer, and so many others who have stepped up to help.  You can donate by going to this link:  http://www.lakecountywinegrape.org/news-events/valley-fire-relief-fund/