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Voice of the Vine: vineyards & butterflies, wine ed bill passes, France tour, Wine Library submissions, Cheers! (May 2015)

Posted by | May 29, 2015

Vineyard natural habitats assist with butterfly comeback

Washington wine grape vineyards experimenting with sustainable pest management systems are seeing an unexpected benefit: an increase in butterflies.Danausplexippusadult copy

Over the years, loss in natural habitat has seen the decline in numbers of around 50 species of butterflies in eastern Washington. But in a recent Washington State University study published in the June issue of the Journal of Insect Conservation, researchers found that vineyards that create nearby natural habitats have three times the number of butterfly species and four times more butterflies than conventional vineyards.

WSU researchers recorded 29 separate species in “habitat-enhanced” vineyards, compared to nine species in conventional vineyards. In terms of raw numbers, they counted on average 20 butterflies in habitat-enhanced vineyards compared to five in conventional areas.

A fluttery side effect

David James, an associate professor in WSU’s Department of Entomology, wrote the paper with colleagues. He said butterfly increase was not the goal of the return of natural habitats. Instead, growers want to reduce pesticide usage.

Native plants grown alongside a Walla Walla vineyard attract and sustain butterflies as well as natural enemies of pests.
Native plants grown alongside a Walla Walla vineyard attract and sustain butterflies as well as natural enemies of pests.

To help control pests, they plant native sage-steppe shrubbery in and around their vineyards. These native plants, such as desert buckwheat shrubs, attract “good” insects like parasitic wasps, James said.

Wasps feed on mealybugs and other “bad” insects that can be harmful to the vineyards. But as a side benefit, these vineyards are seeing the return of other inhabitants that had declined when natural habitat was removed.

“Conservation of butterflies is becoming an issue because all species are declining,” James said. “The habitat has been taken away by agriculture. This is a way of giving back. We’re showing that an agricultural industry can live alongside the natural ecology and help preserve and conserve it.”

This method of conservation may be exclusive to Washington, since vineyards in this state already face fewer pests and use fewer chemicals than vineyards in states like California.

“We’re fortunate here to have the perfect place to be able to have this sustainable option,” James said.

Why butterflies?

The increase in butterfly numbers isn’t directly beneficial to vineyards. Butterflies don’t eat any pests or have any direct economic benefit. But they naturally live on the returned native plants, both as caterpillars and as adult butterflies. They also have immense aesthetic appeal to people, are important pollinators and are an important part of healthy ecosystems.

A caterpillar of a monarch butterfly feeds on milkweed in a WSU Prosser vineyard in June 2014.
A caterpillar of a monarch butterfly feeds on milkweed in a WSU Prosser vineyard in June 2014.

James said the viticulture industry is unusual in agriculture because many vineyards and wineries invite people onto the property to enjoy the product.

“To have butterflies flying around could be part of a tourism drive and an attraction for visitors,” he said. “In these days of organic production and not wanting pesticides on food, butterflies can be a symbol of that. To show butterflies flying around vineyards has great aesthetic and commercial appeal.”

Career coming full circle

James has been working on pest management in grapes and other crops for several decades. But his interest in entomology started with butterflies. He’s written a few books on butterflies, including “Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies” about species that live in Washington. But he’s rarely been able to study them professionally because they don’t have a large economic impact.

“It’s very rare to get a job that involves butterflies. They weren’t even under threat when I started my career,” said James, who wrote his Ph.D. dissertation 30 years ago about the monarch butterfly. “But to now combine practical pest management work with butterflies is remarkable. And I think it will only grow as we continue to see the benefits of natural pest management around the world. Nature conservation and agriculture will be intimately linked in the future. The Washington wine grape industry is a pioneer of this movement.”

Funding for the work came from Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, the Northwest Center for Small Fruits Research, and the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers.

– Scott Weybright

Bill for enology, viticulture programs signed into law

Gov. Jay Inslee signs House Bill No. 1004, April 23, 2015, allowing students in four-year viticulture and enology programs to taste and spit wine in class.
Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill No. 1004, April 23, 2015, allowing students in four-year viticulture and enology programs to taste and spit wine in class.

Governor Inslee signed House Bill 1004 into law April 23, 2015, allowing students under 21 enrolled in enology and viticulture programs at four-year universities to taste — but not consume — wine as part of their instruction. The bill previously passed in the Senate with a vote of 38-6, and it passed through the House with a vote of 94-4.

All students in the Washington State University Viticulture and Enology Program will now have the ability to smell, taste and spit wines to hone their sensory skills, which is an integral part of wine education curriculum. All students, regardless of age, may not swallow wine tasted during class.

Similar legislation was passed in 2013 that authorized community and technical colleges to apply for special tasting permits for students enrolled in wine-related programs. HB 1004 simply amends current law to provide the same authorization for regional and state universities.

Since 2010, WSU Viticulture and Enology Program Director Thomas Henick-Kling, Sensory Science Professor Carolyn Ross, and the WSU Attorney’s Office helped to shape this bill and have supported it as it made its way through the legislature. Previously, underage students would taste something that replicated the sometimes harsh mouthfeel of red wine, like grape juice with a dash of hot sauce.

Travel journal: Southern France winery & vineyard tour

This article details the highlights of an international winery and vineyard tour in Southern France from April 19 to 30, 2015, that was organized by the Washington State University Viticulture and Enology Program. Read on for information about joining us for the next trip!

An April tour was the perfect way to experience Provence, an area well known for its wine, incredible food and cultural offerings. Our group of 26 travelers gathered at the Hotel Roi Rene in the beautiful and historic city of Aix-en-Provence, which served well as the hub for the 12-day tour.

A gift of WSU viticulture and enology student-made Blended Learning Riesling for the host at Chateau La Coste.
A gift of WSU viticulture and enology student-made Blended Learning Riesling for the host at Chateau La Coste.

Washington State University collaborated with the Institute of American Universities (IAU) College in Provence to plan and produce the trip. IAU faculty and staff, including Wine Studies Professor Amy Mumma and college President Carl Jubran, warmly greeted our group by hosting a welcoming evening featuring Provençal wines and hors d’oerves. It was a very tasty hint of many wonderful wines and times to follow.

In wine production, Provence usually evokes images of lovely dry Rosés, but the area also produces some stunning red wines. In addition to tasting wine and visiting with winemakers about their production techniques, we learned about the different regulations of each Appellation d’Origine Controlee. For instance, the red wines that come from the coastal appellation of Bandol are mandated to be at least 51 percent Mourevedre, with some wines being closer to 90 to 95 percent Mourevedre. In the mountain appellation of Luberon, we tasted wonderful blends of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Cinsault. The wines in this region must be blends of several grapes. The wines in Chateauneuf du Pape also are blends only, while in Hermitage the only red variety allowed is Syrah.

The trip also included a number of cultural opportunities, such as strolling the medieval streets and avenues of Avignon and Arles and learning about their histories. We also visited the exciting coastal cities of Marseilles and Monaco.

>>View the Southern France Winery and Vineyard Tour photo album on the WSU Viticulture & Enology Program Facebook page.

Sign up to join future regional and international tours

Since 2010, the WSU Viticulture and Enology Program has been sponsoring an annual tour to various important wine regions of the world. These trips provide industry-involved people the opportunity to travel together for continuing education as well as enjoyment. Thus far, we have taken groups to New Zealand, Chile and Argentina, Italy, Australia, and France.

If this interests you, consider joining us for our spring 2016 trip to northern Spain and Portugal – Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Rueda, Toro, and more. We will again be partnering with an educational institution that leads wine tours. And we also offer three-day regional tours. This fall, we will be visiting winemakers in Paso Robles, California, Dec. 2 to 4.

If you are affiliated with the wine or grape industry, or plan to be affiliated, and would like to receive information about these educational tours, please contact Theresa Beaver,, to have your name put on the email list.

-Theresa Beaver, WSU V&E Certificate Program Coordinator

Submit wines to the WSU Wine Science Center Library

The Wine Science Center at WSU Tri-Cities will open next month and make history as a world-class research facility. The Washington State Wine Commission would like to invite all Washington vineyards and wineries to be a part of this monumental achievement for our industry.

Washington vineyards and wineries are invited to submit two wines for display in the Wine Library at the Wine Science Center at WSU Tri-Cities.
Washington vineyards and wineries are invited to submit two wines for display in the Wine Library at the Wine Science Center at WSU Tri-Cities.

Because this world-class facility is the result of an industry-supported initiative, and funded by the industry, we are requesting help creating a Washington State wine display in the Wine Library. We are requesting a maximum of two different bottles from every winery or vineyard in the state.

The Wine Science Center will accept bottles until June 2. The wines will be on display for visitors and students alike in the beautiful Wine Library. This opportunity is open to all vineyards and wineries, and there is no cost to submit your wines. To be displayed, wines should meet the following criteria:

  • Historical significance, one of the primary purposes of the Wine Library is historical reference and display.
  • Unique and tell a story, such as a commemorative bottle signed by the current winemaker or one that displays handwritten tasting notes on the bottle.

Wine must be submitted online and arrive at the Wine Science Center no later than June 2. Registration and shipping information is available here. If you have any questions regarding submission for the Wine Science Center, please contact Stephanie Lyon at

– Stephanie Lyon, Communications Coordinator, Washington State Wine

Cheers!champage close-up

Highlighting WSU V&E student, faculty and alumni achievements

Sarah Hedges Goedhart, who graduated with a Certificate in Enology from WSU in 2010, was promoted to head winemaker at Hedges Family Estates.

The following Viticulture and Enology students showed their work in the Undergraduate Research Symposium at WSU Tri-Cities on May 5:

  • David Balsz, Nick Mackay, Joe Sperry, and Ryan Strom with “Qualitative Analysis of Volatile Compounds between Oak Alternatives and Barrel Wine using Gas Chromatography”
  • Justin Blake, Suzanne Kaye, Brooke Kietzmann, and Thomas Spotteck with “Evaluating 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole (TCA) in Wine Cork by Solid-Phase Microextraction & Gas Chromatography-Electron Capture Detection”
  • Colin Hickey, Daniel Hottell, Maxx McGoff, and Jarrod Pack with “Analysis of Wine for Brettanomyces by Solid Phase Extraction and GC-MS”

>> View the WSU Tri-Cities Flickr photo album of the Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Do you know a WSU student, faculty member or alumnus who deserves a cheer? Submit their achievements to Voice of the Vine Editor Erika Holmes at!