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Home Winemakers Warned About Moth

Compliance agreements required for movement of grapes to, from or within quarantine areas

by Jane Firstenfeld
Brehm Vineyards grape crush
Brehm Vineyards, a Petaluma custom-crush facility that sends fresh and frozen must to home winemakers across the continent, will accept only grapes that are certified in compliance with EGVM quarantine restrictions.
Napa, Calif. -- The potentially destructive invasion of European Grape Vine Moth (EGVM) into California’s prime winegrape growing regions means that home winemakers in affected areas face the same restrictions as commercial grapegrowers and wineries with regard to movement and treatment of grapes, equipment and green waste.

Napa County Agriculture commissioner Dave Whitmer told Wines & Vines today that his office has been in contact with some local home winemakers seeking the required compliance agreements to receive grapes within the county. Although commercial stakeholders in Napa already have provided hundreds of compliance agreements, Whitmer said he and his colleagues had not realized how many amateur vintners would be affected by the strict quarantine measures. “We certainly did not know how many or who they are,” he said. “They are not within the regulatory group we normally deal with.”

The major concern, he emphasized, is with moving fruit, bins and machinery around at harvest. Whenever movement happens, there is a risk of moving EVGM as well, he stressed. “We’re trying to do everything we can to control this pest. We don’t want to see it spread within or outside of the county.”

Whitmer continued, “Asking the home winemaking community to be aware of these issues, get compliance agreements and have the right information to mitigate the risk would be enormously helpful” to the fight against EGVM, which already has instigated quarantine controls in Sonoma, Solano, Mendocino, Merced, Fresno, San Joaquin and Yolo counties as well as Napa. Each county provides its own compliance agreements.

“There is no cost involved, just the time it takes to do it,” Whitmer said, adding that the forms can be faxed or e-mailed. “If they’re growing, hauling, harvesting or receiving fruit in a home winemaking situation in Napa,” his office has jurisdiction. But, he added, “If you’re going to be purchasing fruit in Napa, and moving it to Sonoma” or the reverse, or for transactions involving other quarantine areas, only a single compliance agreement is needed.

Whitmer noted that he and his counterparts in the other affected counties are working in concert with the United States Department of Agriculture, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). “Ag commissions are working together to reduce paperwork and, most important, to have the compliance documents and know the risks,” he said. Grape bins and disposal of green waste, he emphasized, pose especially high risks.

Winery receiving areas and sorting tables are a particular weak spot, he said. Whitmer recommended that all winemakers talk with their growers to assess their risk: Have EGVM been trapped in their vineyards?

Since California's harvest is later than normal this year for most varieties and locations, there is still time to prepare before crush so that home winemakers, too, can help defend California’s vineyards from this fast spreading and dangerous pest.

One simple alternative

Peter Brehm, who runs 1,200-case White Salmon Vineyard, Underhill, Wash., founded Brehm Vineyards, Albany, Calif., some 35 years ago, according to Michael Crews, Brehm's harvest coordinator. At its Petaluma, Calif., facility, Brehm crushes some 100 to 300 tons per year of North Coast grapes, shipping fresh and frozen must primarily to home winemakers across North America, Crews said.

Brehm’s facility is compliant, Crews said, and the company also is a “compliant hauler” and disposer of the post-sort, pre-crush green waste produced on-site. He said Brehm had prodded some of their grapegrowing suppliers to secure compliance agreements, and that all have now taken the initiative to do so.

Small-quantity producers and home winemakers who do not want to obtain all the necessary agreements “can circumvent the regulations by having their grapes crushed at a compliant facility within the quarantine zone,” Crews confirmed. Once grapes are crushed, there is no longer a risk of spreading EGVM.

Brehm's facility is rare in that it provides solely grape crushing and pressing as opposed to fermentation and other services offered by typical custom-crush situations. Crews said that because Brehm is fully compliant, “Our existing clients don’t have to worry. The biggest thing is that most home winemakers aren’t even aware” of the EGVM situation and the risks they take by remaining noncompliant.
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