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Working the graveyard shift

Sometimes in my job as winegrower I am required, on short notice, to work the graveyard shift.

That happened in recent days when deer jumped the electric fence around my 2-acre vineyard and feasted on grapevine leaves and little fruit clusters. Problem is, I never witnessed this moonlight dining, between midnight and dawn.

My electric fence works well, mostly, but white-tail deer like to vary their diet and are remarkably opportunistic. They eventually find a way in — especially if entry is obscured.

And it is. Spring began six weeks early, so by mid-May, the field grass on our property below the vineyard was chest-high. Equipment to make hay is not mobilized typically until mid-June, so this year there is a month-long window for deer to hide in the tall grass by day and feast on grapes by night.

My back-up defense is a crop-damage permit and rifle. But it is unlawful to hunt at night. The last time this occurred, six or seven years ago, my neighbor, an avid archer, advised: “You gotta go where they live. Mark your territory. Make your point. They’re watching.”

So, just as I did year, I scouted out their resting places and traced their paths in the tall grass. The first two nights, I walked the perimeter of the vineyard, shouting, doing my best snarling-dog imitation, and well, marking territory.

On Night No. 3, a young button-buck flushed right as the moon rose — no damage that night.

But deer make adjustments, as well. On Night No. 4, at dusk, what sure looked like the same svelte yearling was nibbling a blueberry bush at the vineyard entrance. Before he could bolt, I had to take a low-value shot through tree limbs.

The blast reverberated around the valley. The buck sprinted off.

My last reconnoiter was at 4:30 a.m. A half-moon’s light revealed no new damage. Tonight I may learn if my point was made.

BizBuzz Best Buy Red: Chateau de Segries 2010 Cotes du Rhone (France). A long-time favorite, the Segries in an opulent vintage such as 2010 shows loads of licorice and blackberry flavors to go with its savory white pepper aroma. This is classic bistro CDR from a classic blend (Grenache, Syrah, Cinsaut, Carignan). About $10.

White: Woodbridge 2011 California Chardonnay (Lodi). There, I did it: recommended a fine-value California wine. Woodbridge Chardonnay has come for many years from older-vine plantings around Lodi, and I especially like the un-oaked, truly dry Chardonnay. Chilled, it is everything that basic wine from anywhere in the world ought to be, yet rarely is from California (especially outside the state). Light lemon and pear flavors with surprising subtlety match a wide range of summer foods. Often on sale for $6, its drinkability for the money is hard to beat.