Invasive moth just one California problem

• From SFgate.com:

A huge swath of [California] Wine Country, including vineyards where some of the world's best grapes are grown, was quarantined this week after an invasive moth was discovered.

The European grapevine moth has already destroyed at least one vineyard's harvest and damaged other prime vineyards in the Napa Valley, prompting the California Department of Food and Agriculture to place under quarantine 162 square miles of land, mostly in Napa County but including parts of Sonoma and Solano counties.

"This is a serious threat to grape growing, not just in Napa County but throughout California," said Greg Clark, the assistant agricultural commissioner for Napa County. ...

The grape-gobbling pest has long been the scourge of winemakers in Europe, but the discovery of moth larvae in a Napa Valley vineyard in September marked the first time the insect had been seen in the United States.

[Go here for the full story.]

Meanwhile, Business Week's Dan Levy writes:

"That sound you hear is not the uncorking of a cabernet, it's the popping of California's wine country bubble.

"Crumbling land prices and a newfound popularity of cheaper wine may turn 2010 into a vintage year for Napa Valley foreclosures. As many as 10 premium wineries and vineyards in the area -- home to the nation's priciest grapes -- will change hands in distressed sales or foreclosures this year and next, according to an estimate by Silicon Valley Bank (SIVB). (In 2008 there were none.) Property loan defaults in January were up fourfold from a year ago. Says Bill Stevens, manager of the bank's wine division: "We have 250 vintner clients saying this downturn is the worst in 20 years."

Suffering the most are newer arrivals, some of whom made their fortunes in real estate and finance.

[Go here for the full story.]

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