Monday, September 27, 2010
When we bought those two acres out in the country twelve years ago, we dreamed of planting a vineyard. There is something romantic about grapes.
My home state of California has a certifiable obsession with the vines. If you doubt it, take a drive on any one of our north-south Interstates and tell me what you see. If those doubts remain, look up the statistics on your favorite Internet search engine and check out the spectacular growth in volumes of California grapes the past couple of decades. Some say our obsession contributed to a “global glut,” which in our supply/demand economy simply means lower price. Enter Charles Shaw.
The romanticism of vineyard life captured in the 1995 romantic drama, Walk in the Clouds was enough to spark our own vineyard dreams. Our neighbors and close friends set the pace out there in the country just over the ridge. Back then, we gave some light assist to the planting and then the harvest one October after a allowing those Sangioveses couple of seasons to mature. And what a party it was. We’ll never forget when Pam showed up for the festivities dressed as Lucy Ricardo. We picked and stomped in the bright afternoon sun, just like Paul Sutton (Keanu Reeves) and Victoria Aragon (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon).
But our vines never made it out of the ground. College tuition and weddings pretty much consumed our vineyard budget. But the dream still lives.
I’ve been riding my bicycle out in the country in California’s central valley since February, and along with my octogenarian riding partner. From my saddle (with new eyes now that the cataracts have been removed and the new lenses sharpen the image), I’ve watched the vines and the almond trees progress through the season as we peddle our way down those long country roads. The yield is plentiful this year, both fruits and nuts. This miracle partnership between highly skilled and intentional farmers and the God of nature confirms a cycle of abundance once more. The only real danger out there is when those eighteen wheel trucks pass by. We cyclists roll straight on that narrow shoulder in single file. That tractor-trailer, diesel pulling hard, blows black smoke skyward trough barely muffled pipes. The hitched up wagons bear a heavy load. They are heading off to processing and then to market. It adds to one’s sense of focus as they roll by just a couple of feet away sweeping you up in a draft that increases your ground speed by five miles per hour or thereabouts.
So when I learned that our teaching pastor would offer a “Blessing of the Wines” at one of our Southern California wine-country’s fine wineries to kick off the 2010 harvest and celebrate with a wine stomp, I was first in line to get my ticket. We were there for the blue-grass music and the barbecue and the tasting and the stomp. There were several Lucy Ricardos in the crowd. But mainly competitors. The owner, who attends our church, set up a series of vats filled with dark burgundy grapes and at the starter’s signal, a barefoot stomper in each vat would crush grapes as fast as he or she could until a bottle filled up with the juice; the drain pipe and bottle eagerly worked by the stomper’s partner. The winner, an unlikely young woman with stained purple feet, strutted like a champion as the crowd cheered. She took home her prize: a case of Cabernet.
As the sun set over the mountains off in the distance and cast a golden glow over the deep green leaves on the parallel trellises and the vintner’s tower and the country villa rooflines silhouetted against the cerulean sky and the first bright planet appeared (Venus, I think) on the horizon, we rode a staked wagon in the evening breeze pulled by a growling John Deere around the vast property; row after row of prolific vines.
I put my arm around Carolyn. We smiled over dreams come and gone. And for a few moments we were there again, among the vines that belonged to us.
Like a walk in the clouds.
Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2010