Day Forty-Two: Reflections on Week 6 - Grapes, Wine, and Christianity
It's hard for me to
believe that I've been doing this 6 weeks.
I know, actually, that it's been longer than 6 weeks, but this is the
longest that I've spent time really trying to be so diligent about doing just
about anything, except for carrying a child.
Today, want share
something that is not really a reflection on how God has met me this week, but
rather it's a few things I figured out from a road trip that led me to a
winery, where I took a tour of their operation.
Our tour guide
shared several facts about wine and grapes that parallel some things about
Christianity that I would like to share with you.
a vintner ever plants a grape, he will send a soil sample away to have it
tested. He will get a profile page (or
pages) back that tell him what type of soil it is, what nutrients it has, and
what it needs. He will examine his land
to see where would be a good place to plant the grapes. All crops need a specific type of moisture;
grapes are no exception. All these
things must be taken into consideration before a grape vine ever goes into the
ground if the vintner is to have a good crop.
kind of wine you want to produce will be dictated by the type of grape you
plant. But a Merlot in Maryland will
taste different from a Merlot from California or France. Even more specifically, a Merlot from one
county in Maryland will taste different from a Merlot from another county in
Maryland. The reason: different types of soil produce different
flavor profiles in the grapes, which changes the flavor of the wine. Also, different nutrients in the soil will
change the flavor of the wine. The
vintner chooses which grapes he will plant in which soil. Some soil is rocky; some is sandy, and some
is shale-y. But grapes will grow in each
kind. A good vintner will only plant
grapes where they will thrive because he wants a good return on his
investment. After that, where the grapes
are cultivated determines their flavor.
how the vintner treats the grapes will also dictate how the wine turns out,
even to the point of whether the grape becomes wine or just grape juice.
vintners, there is a saying: “What’s
good for corn is bad for grapes.” When
grape vines are matured, the roots extend as deep as 40 feet into the ground
and spread out as far as 50 feet. This
is what makes the root stock so important.
Corn doesn’t do this. It needs
much more moisture because the roots stay so close to the surface that the
moisture evaporates sooner. For grapes,
with a root system that extends so far into the ground, they can hold onto the
water for much longer. They don’t need
copious amounts of rain to thrive. In
fact, copious amounts of rain is bad for grapes. To put an even finer point on it: drought conditions are actually good for
grapes. According to our tour guide,
drought conditions are good for wine because, though fewer and smaller grapes
are produced, the resulting flavor is more intense because it is more
concentrated within the grape. The wine
that comes from these grapes is often called “Reserve” because of the
wine can ever be pressed, indeed before a grape is ever picked, the vines must
be pruned. Yesterday, the tour guide
informed us that, after a new vine is planted, for the first few years, the
vine will produce no usable fruit. That
is not to say that the vine does not bear fruit. It does.
However, because the vine is still new and not strong enough to produce
fruit suitable to wine-making, the fruit is cut off and left on the ground to
decompose and enrich the soil.
Unfruitful branches are cut away as well. They must be.
Sap dedicated to the maturation of the vine shall not be wasted on a
branch that does not produce fruit.
Beyond that, even fruitful branches are pruned so that they will produce
better and sweeter fruit. Finally, the
canopy of the vines is also cut back so that the vintner can ensure the grapes
that have been trained to grow on the bottom wire of the frame can get the
maximum amount of sun. Without enough
sun, the grapes will mold before they ripen.
type of oak used to make the barrels used to ferment the wine will add to the
wine’s flavor profile, as well.
Furthermore, the insides of the barrels can be toasted. There are three degrees of toasting used on
the barrels at the vineyard I visited.
Low-toast, medium-toast, and high toast.
The higher the toasting on the inside of the barrel, the less of the
oaky flavor imparted to the wine. After
the grape is grown and pressed, and the juice is squeezed, it is set aside a
while to ferment in yet another place that will change its flavor before the
vintner decides it is ready to serve.
wines are made from grapes whose skins have been removed, whether the skins on
the initial grapes were red, purple, or white.
Then it is filtered and filtered and filtered, until the wine is crystal
clear and bright. Red wines have all the
skins, and are filtered less so that the skins and the tannins are not removed;
as a result, red wines are also cloudier than whites. A good vintner decides if he wants to produce
red wine or white wine, and puts the wine through the appropriate processes to
get the product he wants.
pretty striking parallels, if you look for them. Beginning with the Vintner.
good vintner, or vine-dresser, is educated:
he knows about his land, his soil, and the weather it gets. He knows about grapes. He knows about wine. He educates himself as much as possible
before ever planting a vine. He knows
which soil will produce the best quality grapes and, hence, the best quality
wines. He chooses the grape for the
soil. There is no accident. He knew the soil and the grapes before he put
them together. Just like God. He knew us before He formed us in our
mothers’ wombs. Not only did He know who
we would be; he also knew the family to whom we would be given. It was no accident I had the mother I did,
who had the mother she did, who had the mother she did, and so on, and so
on. I am precisely where I am supposed
to be because God designed it so, and He is not done. What I realize now is: Where God places you to grow you up is going
to determine the flavor you present to the world. Some people can better withstand the
influences around them without taking too much of it into themselves. Others cannot.
been around for several years. I’ve had
years of producing fruit. I’ve had years
of not producing fruit. I’ve had things
trimmed off of me that were painful to lose, but I can see now that they had to
go. Otherwise, I’d have never produced
the kind of fruit that God wants me to produce, and I know He’s not done with
have sat on the vine for years. I have
wished for action, wanting something to happen, to one day become wine that
everyone could appreciate, but still I’ve been left on the vine. Then…when I finally got picked, I found that
I had to be stomped and squeezed and pressed, and sometimes skinned, before I’d
ever become wine. So, not only was I
impatient on the vine, I was now in pain over the process. I found myself wondering how it could be that
I had wished for this thing that would cause me so much pain. Who in the world would sign on for this? Then, finally, I was juice. But still, I was not done.
I was placed on a shelf, left alone, stewing, sometimes for months or years,
until it was time to be released. In
fact, I feel like that now. There have
been times over this past 18 months when I’ve felt like I would just explode if
I wasn’t released. But, the Vintner has
come along and released some of the pressure that has built up, or it has
evaporated, dissipating over time, and I’ve simmered down, content that I could
make it another day.
had times of drought, too. There have
been times when I’ve cried out for relief and it has never come, and I’ve felt
like I would just shrivel up and die.
Then, when it was over, I found that my walk with the Lord and my
relationships with the people who walked with me through that time was sweeter
and deeper than ever I could have imagined.
remember, years ago, hearing a commercial for a winery (or a line of wines)
that had the slogan: “We will sell no
wine before it’s time.” A good vintner
tests and tests the wine while it is fermenting so that he can tell when it is
mature enough to be released to the world.
He knows the recipe he used and all the steps that would be involved in
getting the wine to just the right flavor and mouth feel. And only the vintner can make the ultimate
decision on when it’s time to bottle the wine and release its blessing onto the
world. I don’t know how long God is going
to have me and my family where we are. I
wish I did. But one thing I do know is
that God is not going to release me until He’s done with me.
another interesting fact I learned yesterday.
Upon entering the vineyard grounds, I noticed that, at the end of each
row of grapes at this winery, grew a small rose bush. Vintners grow rose bushes at the end of their
rows because roses and grapes need similar soils, moisture levels and
nutrients. As the rose grows, so grow
the grapes. If the rose gets a blight or
a disease, the vintner knows that he better treat the grapes in order to
protect the crop from that same blight or disease.
I was thinking about this point, I was trying to figure out if there is
anything in my life that serves as an early-warning system for other areas in
my life that may need some work. That’s
when something my pastor said from the pulpit, years ago, came flooding back to
me. He said, “if you are a pastor,
standing up here, trying to lead your flock and your family life isn’t squared
away, you need to step down and get that in order first. If you let that fall apart, nothing else will
matter.” Often, God gives us children to
help us to see what, inside us, he wants to work on or weed out because, inevitably,
our children will exhibit those qualities about ourselves that we find most
distasteful. They are our mini
barometers. And if you don’t have a
family, the thing you can use as a clue to what God wants to work on is what
quality in your fellow man that you “hate” the most. What is that one thing that you absolutely
cannot stand about people? What is that
one character flaw that most annoys you or drives you crazy? Most times, THAT THING is the very thing God
is trying to work on in you. You see it
because you recognize it, because you look for it, because you are often guilty
of that very thing. (Yes, I know this is
a blanket statement, but it seems to have played out in my life and in the
lives of nearly everyone I’ve shared this with.)
final thing before I wrap this up:
Wineries do not just pop up out of the ground. A grape plant here or there may spring up
because a bird eats some grapes and drops the seeds wherever. But row upon row of grapes will not spring up out
of the ground in nice, neat orderly rows.
Order does not JUST HAPPEN. Order
has to be designed. Furthermore, wine
also does not just happen. There is a
whole process that must happen in order for the juice from inside the grape to
become wine. A person with a passion for
grapes and wine and the know-how to make one become the other has to impose his
will upon nature and make it happen.
There is no accidental, coincidental wine.