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Colorado’s best to be recognized at Governor’s Mansion

By Dave Buchanan

If you’re headed to Denver Wednesday and have the evening free, you might grab the last $50 in your wallet and head over the Boettcher Mansion at 400 East Eighth Ave.

First Lady Jeannie Ritter, along with the Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund, the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board and the American Wine Society are hosting from 6-9 p.m. “A Celebration of Premier Colorado Wines,” featuring the award-winning wines from a Colorado-only wine competition in July sponsored by the American Wine Society.

The competition, judged by national wine experts, the International Wine Guild, the Denver AWS board and others, awarded 147 medals after tasting 213 wines from 35 wineries.

Those winners will be announced tonight.

Tonight’s proceeds will go to the Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund.

We’re fortunate in the Grand Valley to have access to so many of Colorado’s finest wines. Event such as tonight’s at the Boettcher Mansion continue to build an audience for Colorado wines, which is good for the entire industry.

And good for those of us who enjoy the results of the winemaker’s efforts.

Of course, for every celebration there’s inevitably a bug in the wine bottle, and this week’s special flying guest is a tiny fly that may cause great impact.

Because of the several damaging frosts suffered over the last year, many of Colorado’s winemakers this year are looking out-of-state for grapes.

That’s not uncommon since some varietals aren’t grown in commercial quantities in Colorado and there’s always California’s massive grape industry to help a winemaker put some juice in his or her barrels.

But there are fears that this year winemakers buying grapes from Oregon and Washington might bring an unwanted pest into Colorado along with those grapes.

The Spotted Wing Drosophila fruit fly is an invasive species that first was noticed in the Pacific Northwest late last summer.

Colorado already has several species of fruit flies, which you know if you’ve ever turned your back on a glass of wine and then turned back to see some unwanted guest doing the backstroke across your merlot.

The big difference between our resident fruit flies and the Spotted Wing is its larvae infest ripe and ripening fruits, unlike most fruit flies that feast on rotting fruit.

The Spotted Wing’s mouth is like a rasp, which allows it to cut through the skin of ripe fruit.

According to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, once the larvae hatch and begin feeding, the fruit completely disintegrates.

The department says it’s almost impossible to detect damaged fruit until it is too late.

Winemaker and consultant Bill Muscnung of Paonia, who spent years in the Pacific Northwest wine industry before moving to Colorado, is pushing for a moratorium on Oregon and Washington fruits.

He wants to hold off on bringing in that fruit for fears it will be contaminated with the Spotted Wing and until it can be determined what level of threat the Spotted Wing poses.

Because once it’s here, there’s no getting rid of it.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture says “Eradication is not a viable option. Control is the best chance Oregon has in protecting crop yields and maintaining markets.”

Colorado state viticulturist Horst Caspari said no one in Colorado is quite sure what to make of the Spotted Wing’s feared appearance.

“We don’t know if it will be a concern or not,” Caspari said. “It certainly seems a big concern for people in Oregon but we’re not sure what impact it may have here.”

It won’t be the first non-native bug brought into Colorado on plant material.

What’s saved Colorado from previous invaders is the climate, which isn’t as hospitable to the bugs that thrive in California’s benign climate.

Colorado’s best defense, said Caspari, is the long-standing vigilance of the state’s agriculture industry.

“We don’t want to have to adopt (special pesticide treatments) to deal with another bug,” he said. “If it’s a real threat, we’ll have to adapt our strategies to deal with it.

“In the long run, we hope we won’t get it, and the longer we keep it out of the state the better.”




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