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Could Bad Vibrations Thwart Sex Lives of Vine-Threatening Leafhoppers?

Plus, Bordeaux's Château La Croix falls victim to wine thieves, and Monticello Vineyards' Jay Corley dies
Photo by: YERPO/WIKIMEDIA/CREATIVE COMMONS
Science may have uncovered a new method to disrupt the mating rituals of American grapevine leafhoppers.

Posted: January 21, 2016

European scientists have revealed a method for thwarting the reproduction of American grapevine leafhoppers (Scaphoideus titanus) by using vibration to disrupt the insects’ mating rituals. The American grapevine leafhopper arrived in Europe in the 19th century, hitching a ride on American rootstock, on which it feeds and spreads a bacterium that has caused an epidemic of the deadly, incurable vine disease flavescence dorée.

Growers are legally required to spray pesticides multiple times in affected regions, which angers organic and biodynamic growers. But no other method exists to eradicate leafhoppers, which use vibrations rather than pheromones to attract a mate—and which got the Italians thinking. “We had the idea for the first time in 2006, just observing that scaphoideus males disrupt their rivals by means of special disruptive vibrations,” Dr. Valerio Mazzoni told Unfiltered.

A scaphoideus courtship begins with the male sending vibrational signals that cause the plants on which they sit to tremble. The female sends her own vibrations in response, which allow the male to track her down for a hook up. The fact that rival lotharios disrupt the other’s courtship with bad vibes hinted at vulnerability vintners might exploit. Ten years of research later, Dr. Mazzoni, Dr. Andrea Mucchi and Slovenian researchers Dr. Jernej Polajnar and Dr. Meta Virant-Doberlet, found that when they attached electromagnetic “shakers” to the wire supporting a row of vines and played “pre-recorded rival noise,” the male leafhoppers could not find the females.

No leafhoppers, no flavescence dorée.

This ingenious “green” invention has attracted potential investors and shed a spotlight on the little-known specialty of insect vibrational communication. “USDA California asked us to collaborate for enlarging the method to the glassy-winged sharpshooter,” said Mazzoni.


Thieves Strike Bordeaux's Château La Croix

Is a new criminal gang on the loose in Bordeaux? On the night of Jan. 14, thieves stole the delivery van of a Pomerol cabinetmaker and drove to Château La Croix, owned by the Janoueix family. They forced open the door to the cellars and stole 1,500 bottles. The wine was labeled and boxed, ready for shipment, and worth an estimated $55,000.

It was a bold target: Château La Croix is hardly isolated. The 25-acre estate is on the main drag of Catusseau, the Pomerol hamlet where you’ll find Michel Rolland’s lab, small businesses and restaurants. But the culprits escaped unnoticed. “It happened very fast,” Francoise Janoueix told Unfiltered. So far, she said, the Libourne gendarmes had launched an investigation but neither the thieves nor the wine had been found. The van, however, resurfaced 7.5 miles from Catusseau in Abzac. It had been torched, any lingering DNA destroyed.

Unfiltered couldn't help but notice the similarities to a string of crimes in Bordeaux in which the culprits used the same modus operandi. Those villains were finally caught and hauled before a judge last year. The two ringleaders are serving time.


Monticello Vineyards Founder Jay Corley Dies at 84

Jay Corley, founder of Napa Valley's Monticello Vineyards, died Jan. 11 after a yearlong struggle with cancer. He was 84.

A farmer at heart and an entrepreneur in spirit, Corley moved to Napa in the late 1960s, launching a 50-year career that began with a vineyard and later a winery. He named the winery Monticello Vineyards after Pres. Thomas Jefferson’s famous Virginia estate.

Born July 30, 1931, in Evanston, Ill., Corley moved west to attend University of Arizona and then graduated from Stanford. After visiting Napa in the late 1960s, and meeting pioneers such as Robert Mondavi, Corley became convinced of the valley’s future in wine. He established his vineyard in 1969 in Napa Valley's cooler southern end, now known as the Oak Knoll District, growing grapes for Domaine Chandon’s sparkling-wine operation. When he first surveyed his land, he saw a prune orchard peppered with black walnut trees. But he saw a vineyard with the potential to make classic wines. In 1981, after more than a decade of growing and selling his grapes to other wineries, Corley built the winery at Monticello Vineyards and began to produce his own estate-grown wines.

Corley served on the board of the Napa Valley Planning Commission, which oversaw land-use decisions and helped preserve Napa’s agricultural identity. Corley is survived by his wife, Joan, brothers Todd and Paul, his sons Kevin, Kent, Mark, Michael, Stephen and Chris and his daughter Carolyn and their families, along with 12 grandchildren. A celebration will be held at Monticello Vineyards from 1 to 4 p.m. on Jan. 30 in Napa (RSVP at CorleyFamilyNapaValley.com). In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Jay Corley Memorial Fund at the North Bay Cancer Alliance. The fund will assist low-income cancer patients in Napa. Checks can be sent to North Bay Cancer Alliance, 185 Sotoyome Street, Santa Rosa, Calif., 95405, attn.: Jay Corley Memorial Fund.

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