A crowd estimated at 1,500 turned out Wednesday under mostly bleak skies for the 22nd Napa County Viticulture Fair organized by the Napa Valley Grapegrowers.

The 120 vendors of everything from chemicals and services to tractors reported much large crowds and interest than at the last fair two years ago.

Attendees from vineyards, wineries and suppliers throughout the valley and beyond listened to talks about vineyard issues in Spanish and English sessions on new pests and pesticide laws, replanting vineyards and energy.

The crowd at a talk on attracting birds rushed to grab one of the 45 bluebird boxes for their vineyards; the birds love to feast on juicy vine predators and don’t eat grapes. The session also discussed owls, which prefer small rodents.

The workers and managers also kicked the tires on shiny new vineyard equipment including new electric all-terrain vehicles from Xtreme Green Products of Las Vegas.

John Duarte of big Duarte grapevine nursery assured growers looking for reportedly scarce vines to plant that he has 20 million started, with many available now and next year and 2014 wide open to “any rootstock, any variety and any quantity” of vines to plant.

He also mentioned a new worry, the red block virus that seems to be transmitted by leafhoppers and may be difficult to contain. He added, however, “We’ll be chasing one virus after another until we get too old to do so.”

New custom crush facility in Pope Valley

Whiskey River Ranch Winery is a new custom winery in Pope Valley; it was formerly the Eagle & Rose Winery.

The new operation crushed 500 tons this year, said cellar master Tim Crowe. The grapes came from Pope, Chiles and Capel Valleys over the Vaca Range, but also from Napa Valley itself.

In addition to the usual crushing, the winery has on-site caves for barrel storage, its own lab and bottling line, and can help with compliance issues.

The address is 1844 Pope Canyon Road, For details, call 512-7640.

Group seeks $100 million for top vineyards

St. Helena-based vineyard and winery investor Richard Wollack has formed a partnership with local and Chinese investors to acquire and manage high-end vineyard property.

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Wollack, the founder and former managing principal of Premier Pacific Vineyards, is joining forces with the Hina Group, a financial firm in Beijing that has offices in San Francisco in creating the Hina Vineyard Fund.

The local other partners with Wollack are investor Skip Whitney of San Francisco and Frank Farella of the Farella Braun and Martel law firm who also owns Farella-Park Vineyard here.

Wollack says that Hina hopes to raise $100 million with high-net-worth people in Beijing and other Chinese cities, closing on one-quarter to one-third in the next two to three months. He expects the first property purchase in the first part of next year.

The investors will likely be most interested in existing vineyard property, but the fund may buy a winery as for wines for gifts or to grow a business.

Reach Wollack at rwollack@ppvco.com, 707-224-6565 ext. 207 or at 415-385-3535.

Email Paul Franson at paul@paulfranson.com