Welcome to Year of the Bat 2011 - 2012

Year of the Bat is sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS). Please join us today in promoting bat conservation, research and education around the globe.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Bats of Napa

We all know, now that Year of the Bat is underway, that our industrious fly-by-night bats pollinate fruits and flowers that we enjoy - and help bring us that most famous of fiery liquids, Tequila. But who would have thought that bats and bat conservation may soon be seen as essential to holistic viticulture?

Napa Valley - photo courtesy of www.pachd.com

The trend-setting California is leading the way, with numerous Napa Valley vineyards incorporating insect-eating bats into sustainable farming practices. Doug Shafer of Shafer Vineyards, home of the award-winning Shafer Cabernet, puts it this way: “You can spray powerful chemicals to rid your vines of these particular insects, but we prefer to rely on the natural eating habits of songbirds and bats.” 

Representatives of the local Audubon Society say that the use of bats, owls and songbirds as part of sustainable farming on Napa Valley wineries is "seriously on the rise." One of Sonoma's largest bat colonies is resident at Russian River Vineyards, more than 1,000 strong. Visitors and neighbors enjoy the twilight eco-attraction of dinner, wine and watching thousands of bats take to the skies in search of insect prey. After this nightly eco-service of bats, vineyard owners witness a strong decrease of insects that chew down precious vines. A good bat-feast definitely paves the way for a biodynamic wine.

Along with their eco-tourist value, bats never cease to perform nightly insect patrol at Shafer, Russian River, Frog's Leap and other Napa wineries that harvest "the world's most celebrated grapes." Years ago, a fashionable vineyard strived for the "stripped down" look: rows and rows of vines, but no grass, no weeds or no signs of wildlife. Today, vintners are even "partnering" with owls, songbirds, hawks and bats to cultivate their vineyards and vintages. Bat boxes are a frequent sight on Napa vineyards. Some wineries are even setting aside unharvested land to preserve and encourage wildlife. (A "wildlife consultant" can now make a good living in the famed Napa region!)

 Napa Valley - photo courtesy of www.pachd.com

So the next time you uncork a bottle of Napa, new world or organic wine, give a toast to bats. Et alors? Any other vineyard takers? We've heard that rose in on the rise in France, so maybe other changes are in the air, as well. If French wine-makers want to follow their Napa friends by welcoming more bats to the terroir, Year of the Bat is all for it.  

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