Kevin Merrill

Kevin Merrill

It’s the quiet before the harvest storm here on the vineyard.

We are applying the last of the mildew/botrytis preventative sprays on our Chardonnay. Bird netting is being applied over the Pinot Noir vines to keep the pesky starlings at bay. Our harvesting equipment is being given the once-over in our shop to make sure everything is ready go.

Rental tractors used by our hand-picking crews are being delivered and dropped off in our yard. Our 4x4 picking bins are being cleaned and stacked for our hand crews to fill. The giant over-the-row harvesters are getting their final tuneups in our shop in Templeton before they are brought down to go to work.

Recent warm days will help bring the sugar levels up in our grapes. I anticipate starting to pick Pinot Noir during the second week of September, a little later than last year. We will probably be picking Chardonnay into October, depending on the weather. Indian summer temperatures could speed things along.

Last Saturday morning I decided to take our dogs out for a walk through the vineyard since the crews and tractor drivers were off. I try to give folks who work on the vineyard a few weekends off before harvest begins so they can rest up before the busy days and nights are upon us.

The dogs love to run through the vines ahead of me, looking for an occasional jack rabbit or a covey of quail to stir up. We always had dogs on the ranch when we were growing up and they were all part of the family.

I was a little wistful last Saturday morning because we lost a member of our family last week. Holly, our little chihuahua mix, went everywhere with the kids on the ranch and was the first one out of the house in the mornings to help the kids feed or jump on the Kubota RTV for a ride. Holly succumbed to a fast-moving blood disorder that showed a few symptoms in the morning and by the afternoon when we took her to the vet it was all but over. I never saw a faster demise.

Holly was one of those special dogs that really loved everyone in our family. You could almost see her smile when you came in the room or met her outside. She loved riding in my pickup, and although she was the smallest of our three dogs, she held her own with her big brother PJ, our Queensland mix, and Sammy, our small flat-coated retriever mix.

Our son Clayton used to take all three dogs for a ride on our Kubota and inevitably Holly would get the outside seat. There were more than a few times when Clayton took a corner a little too fast and Holly would slip off the seat and take a tumble onto the ground. She always got right back on and the ride around the ranch continued.

Holly used to love to run under the brush chasing birds in the hills when she would go on walks with me. So, we picked a spot in the hills above the vineyard near the brush to be Holly’s final resting place.

We will definitely miss our little friend Holly, but will remember her special personality forever.

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Kevin Merrill of Mesa Vineyard Management is a board member of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau and a director on the Santa Barbara county Fair Board. He can be reached at kmerrrill@mesavineayrd.com

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