Tuesday, March 18, 2014

And God Gave Wine



The Psalms tell us that the Lord gives wine to gladden the human heart. That is one scripture I have absolutely no problem obeying. All kinds of gladdening happen every time I open a bottle of wine. The image of clusters of ripe grapes that will be crushed, fermented, bottled, and poured into glasses makes my heart exult. I love learning about wine, smelling wine, looking at the bottles in my wine refrigerator, finding the perfect wine and food pairings, and introducing people to new wines.

If I never drank another glass of wine, I can honestly tell you that my passion would not change. Wine, for me, is not about the consumption of alcohol. The effect that it has on my body is insignificant in comparison to the meaning and the depth that it brings to my life. Wine has become a ruby, or straw, colored window into the past, into a rich and diverse history of men and women who looked into their wine glasses and found romance and poetry and beauty and God. It has become a pilgrimage companion, accompanying me to places in the world where vines are not just plants but sources of life, where place is not just where you are standing but who you are. It has become a looking glass into the future, as I have come to envision heaven not as an ethereal realm but a vast table where the wine will flow freely and the nations will laugh openly.

The thing about wine is that it was not made nor conceived of by humans. It was discovered.

To continue reading my post, called "And God Gave Wine" head over to Internet Monk, and spend some time there. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Once More Into The Breach

Around this time last year, I posted an entry called "Bud Break." Shoots were popping, renewing the life cycle of the vine that would issue in a harvest and inspire an artistry that would consummate in glasses of wine clinked over candelight. My winemaker friend Wes Hagen says that "Every wine deserves an hour, a table with delicious things, and two people in love." I was in a romantic mood last year, having fulfilled a starry-eyed dream of moving to wine country, and I felt the hope of spring surging through my veins.

It would seem that the cycle of my vines went backward after that, as the leaves fell, the shoots were sucked back into the branches, the sap descended into the ground, and the land went fallow. Six months later, I moved back to Los Angeles, defeated and depressed. I relinquished my plans and assumed that dreams were for others, but not for me. My theology took a turn toward the fatalist, my understanding of work devolved into a necessary evil.

Last week I was offered a great job at a winery in the Santa Ynez Valley, better than the ones I worked last summer. Yesterday I was offered a position as wine specialist in the Santa Barbara Whole Foods. I accepted them both. I am moving back. I am going to try this one more time. I may die trying, but if so, I am going to die pursuing my dreams.

My dreams have been chastened. I no longer have over-romanticized visions of living, working, and writing in wine country. I know that in order to fill a glass with world class wine you have to get your hands dirty and work your ass off. I know that the locals still listen to country music, vote for the Tea Party, and like guns. I know that life in a beautiful place can be spectacularly boring. I must approach it differently this time. And I will. I do not expect this to be a permanent relocation, but more of a stepping stone. I do not expect to become a radically different person. Though I know I will change, I am still the introverted soul who takes long walks in the dark, lost in solitary thought. Often I will raise my eyes to notice the person I walk past, whom I will now likely recognize in a small town, but not always.

I have spent too much of the last year trying to conform to the expectations of others, trying to be whom others wanted me to be. I have become all the more convinced that I must listen to my dreams, honor my questions, let my life speak, cultivate the faith that I have been given.

Dreams do not die, but they may be humbled and transformed.

As I said last year,
Buds are relentless and inevitable. They may look fragile when they first emerge, but they will not be denied. Even if a spring frost comes and freezes the nascent buds, new buds will shortly take their place. The vines will flower, they will produce leaves to make sugar and protect the flowers from the summer sun, and clusters of grapes will develop out of the flowers. Sugar levels will increase, acidity levels will decrease, and come the fall the grapes will make wine.

Buds will break. The process of growing grapes and making wine isn't in itself pretty or inspiring. When the grapes are crushed, the winemaker will have his hands stained with a red that resembles blood. But wine will happen. And it will fuel the power of love.