A drive past a vineyard at this time of year, with the grape vines bare and dormant, might make the casual observer think all is quiet for the winter. For growers, winemakers, researchers and other in the know, though, those vines just might be the only members of the grape and wine community not on their way to Sacramento for the annual Unified Wine and Grape Symposium, an intensive, three-day gathering that is part school, part reunion and, of course, part celebration. I look forward to spending some time with all of you this week as you delve into the art, the craft and the business of grapes and wines.
A related event is taking place in Sacramento today, with considerably less fanfare but plenty of significance for the grape growers and winemakers across town. Andy Walker, a researcher and professor of viticulture and enology with UC Davis, is uncorking a vintage that is exceptional in one very important trait: its grapes were picked from vines bred to be resistant to Pierce’s disease. Members of the Pierce’s Disease/Glassy-winged Sharpshooter Board and Task Force will raise a glass with Professor Walker — not to declare victory over the disease, but to mark an occasion that no 0ne could foresee a little more than a decade ago, when sharpshooters were found spreading the disease in Southern California vineyards. The new vines aren’t yet ready for prime time, but they do show that the agricultural community’s steadfast pursuit of research is bearing fruit. More about ongoing research and other facets of CDFA’s Pierce’s Disease Control Program is available online at http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/pdcp/
Several years ago, it seemed as though the Unified Symposium was dominated by sessions and keynote addresses about Pierce’s disease and the glassy-winged sharpshooter. That is no longer the case, and that in itself is further evidence that growers are confident in the continued progress of researchers toward a solution to this pest-disease complex. While we are proud of the work that these researchers have done, I want to caution growers and vintners alike against complacency; Pierce’s disease remains a threat, and it deserves our continued vigilance, both in the fields and in the research labs.
I encourage symposium-goers to enjoy this year’s installment – and to remember just how far we have come together.