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My deer friends

Part of my late-summer job, a big part, is to keep unwelcome visitors out of the vineyard. But, preoccupied with other matters last month, I fell behind.

Eventually I saw their damage, and wanted to strike back — brutally strike back. Yet, it’s hard, since I know the families, having lived around them and seen their children coming up.

Truthfully, even the adults are not the types I want in the vineyard, but, as I say, they live in the area, and really, I bear them no malice. They developed certain habits in my absence, trespassed on terrain their kin ran. It’s kind of my fault. One has to mark territory; if not, well, maybe I didn’t look serious about protecting it.

So, all last week, I rose in the dark and walked my perimeter. Once I spied the upper group just beyond the fence, sitting in the soybeans 20 steps away, a brush-line in between. I charged under the cherry tree through blackness and spider webs to scatter them.

Deer are creatures of habit, and they like tender grape leaves, grape tendrils and growing tips and fruit. In 20-odd years as a grower, I can count on one hand the deer I’ve seen in the vineyard in daytime. But, in the shadows at dusk, the white-muzzled doe and her two yearlings watch my habits in the lower vineyard, calculating the effort I’ll make to challenge them. They will trespass all season if not discouraged. But they have plenty other things to eat elsewhere, too. They know that. I know that.

They jump my electrified fence all the time but, with spring-like legs that are also very thin, deer don’t like emergency exits on uneven ground. One I saw a leg snap like a twig.

Only a 10-foot-tall steel fence, three-quarters of a mile long, would keep them out. My limitation is that would be some feat to build on my hilly terrain. Plus, an ugly fence makes me guard and prisoner.

So, we tolerate each other. Usually after a week or so of invading their spaces at night, my point is made and the adults stop bringing their children to snack on grapevines.

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Red: Tres Ojos 2011 Garnacha (Calatayud, Spain). Grenache, of course, also makes some of the world’s best red wines, and though I usually prefer it blended, a la Cotes du Rhone, at a spontaneously organized tasting recently (okay, it was a party) this one stood out for its layers of subtle floral and dark fruit aromas and bittersweet chocolate twist. They were all good barbeque wines, full-bodied, with big blackberry flavors. But this one had real complexity, too. $8.