Kevin Merrill: Remembering when at the Rancho la Vega adobe
On the Farm

Kevin Merrill: Remembering when at the Rancho la Vega adobe

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Kevin Merrill

As we approach the end of the month of June, our vineyard crews continue to start work on wet foggy mornings that give way to sunny warm afternoons, typical for this time of year. Most of the crew start the day out wearing a water-resistant poncho as the vines are pretty wet from the morning fog. The ponchos come off around 10 a.m. and are hung on the end posts along the edge of rows to dry out. Things are moving along quickly in the vineyard; we are not that far away from harvest now.

I was walking through a block of chardonnay a week or so ago when I received a message on my phone saying longtime grape grower and winemaker Bill Mosby passed away. Bill and his wife Jeri purchased the Rancho la Vega adobe back in 1976. The adobe was built by my great, great grandfather Don Roman de la Cuesta back in 1852.

Our family owned the property up until the early 1960s. I can barely remember visiting my great aunts Micaela and Ynez when they lived there. My grandfather Sam told me countless stories of when he grew up there and later when he farmed and ran a dairy near the adobe. It has always had a special place in my heart.

It was special to Bill and his wife as well; they did a lot of work restoring the adobe which was in pretty bad shape when they bought it. On several occasions over the years I as able to visit with Bill. Always gracious, with a calming demeanor and a soft smile, I recall he had the kindest eyes.

My brother Dana and I were able to catch up with Bill six or seven months ago. He gave us a tour of the adobe and the vineyards surrounding it. I remember climbing a hill behind the adobe riding in a Kubota RTV through the vineyard. At the top of the hill was a small chapel. Bill took us inside for a tour and told us the story behind having the chapel built. It overlooked the adobe and vineyard below, I tried to envision the property below us when my grandfather grew up there over 100 years ago.

After our special visit to the chapel we made our way back down to the adobe where my wife Karen and Dana’s wife Marsha were waiting, sitting on the porch looking out over the grapes on a beautiful afternoon. Bill invited us into the small kitchen where we all enjoyed a glass or two of his famed Italian varietals.

As I was enjoying my glass of wine, I recalled the story my grandfather told of the Chinese cook that worked for our family and got sideways with members of a Tong from Santa Barbara. Believing the members of the Tong were going to come to the ranch and kill him, my grandfather hid him for several nights in a small cellar in the kitchen floor of the adobe. The Tong members never came, Bill told me they had to fill in the cellar as part of the restoration of the adobe when he and his wife purchased it.

I’m glad we were able to spend a beautiful afternoon with Bill on the vineyard and home that was so special to him and will always be a small part of us as well.

Kevin Merrill of Mesa Vineyard Management of a board member of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau and Director on the Santa Barbara County Fair Board. He can be reached at


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