Kevin Merrill

Kevin Merrill

The temperatures last week were a little more like we’re used to in January, with a few chilly evenings followed by frosty mornings. It’s supposed to warm up with daytime temperatures nearing the 80-degree mark. Our vines don’t know whether to wake up or go to sleep.

One morning last week, the temperature in Santa Maria was around 60 degrees at 8:30 in the morning. I needed to be at the vineyard we manage near New Cuyama by 10 a.m. I threw my jacket in the truck and headed out on Highway 166. Not too much traffic, thank goodness, and I was able to admire the green hills and take my time getting out there.

I kept watching the outside temperature gauge in my ruck fall from a high of around 65 degrees down to 45 degrees as I made my way east. I got out of my truck at the entrance to the vineyard to say hello to our onsite manager, Paul, when I was greeted by a strong, cold wind from the west. I quickly grabbed my jacket, which did little to keep the cold wind at bay.

I noticed a light dusting of snow on trees at the very top of the mountains, left by the weak storm front that passed through the area the day before.

There is no office or other buildings at this site. In fact, that was one of the reasons for my visit. I was meeting with two contractors to go over the plans for a new shop building for the vineyard. The cold wind continued to howl from the west as I brought the large, rolled-up set of plans out from inside my pickup and placed them on the open tailgate of my truck.

As went over the plans I kept tugging at the collar of my jacket, trying to keep my head and ears warm. I thought, of all the days not to bring a jacket with a hood. The winter months have been so mild at home, I had forgotten how cold it can get out there. After our meeting ended, it took me about five minutes to warm up inside my truck with the heater on.

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An hour later the winds calmed down, and the sun warmed things up quickly as Paul and I made our rounds through the rest of the vineyard. By the time I left at noon, the temperature was up around a pleasant 65 degrees.

I think the high in Los Alamos that day was close to 70 degrees, great weather for our pruning crews. Later that evening my wife Karen and I went out to have dinner in Casmalia. As we went into the restaurant I could feel that cold wind starting to blow from the west, heading toward New Cuyama. This time I was smart enough to throw a warmer jacket into my truck.

Keep your fingers crossed that those winds will help bring some much-needed rainfall to our area soon. And remember, keep a warm jacket handy in your truck, especially if you are heading out to New Cuyama.

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 kmerrill@mesavineayrd.com

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