I can’t believe how fast time flies. Fall is already here and I am definitely ready for the change of seasons. This time of year is so beautiful; the air is getting crisper, the leaves are changing and it is time to get things ready for coming winter. We have a garden with a grape arbor covered with ripened grapes that are ready for harvesting. As I clean up and tend to it, I am reminded of a meaningful experience.
The grapes on the arbor in our garden
Our ripened grapes are ready for harvesting
My husband and I are part owners in a winery called Cana’s Feast in Carlton, Oregon and as a result, I have learned a lot about grapes in the last several years. One particular October, we visited our winery for the “crush”. The term “crush” as it related to wine production was new to me since I was a novice to wine-making. I became aware of what it takes to make a flavorful tasting wine…it’s all about a good grape.
I learned about the different conditions it takes to ensure bountiful, delicious fruit and I was able to experience firsthand how to separate good grapes from bad ones. The crush involves picking and crushing the grapes which is more complicated than I had realized. Grape vines need to be pruned correctly. They need to get just the right amount of water, and to grow best, they need southern exposure so they get the most sun. I learned that the flavor of the grape comes from the skin: the thicker the skin, the more deep rich flavor it has.
I learned that the flavor of the grape comes from the skin: the thicker the skin, the more deep rich flavor it has.
Some of the best grapes in the world come from Red Mountain in eastern Washington and these are the grapes our winery uses. It’s orientation to the sun, the cool air coming down the valley at night, and the effects of the fine particles of soil on the grapes contribute to them being the best grapes around. What makes this location really unique is when the afternoon winds come up and blow the fine dirt towards the vines which sandblasts the grape skins and thickens their skin. The daily adversity these punished grapes endure makes them extraordinarily full of flavor.
The Red Mountain Vineyards in Benton City, WA
In the warehouse of the winery where the wine is actually made were giant vats. The vats are huge Stainless steel cylinders affixed with ladders to access them. On this visit to the winery we were given the opportunity to experience firsthand the crushing of the grapes. We had been instructed to bring a set of clothes we didn’t mind potentially ruining and I had wondered what exactly we would be doing. I soon found out—we were invited to climb the ladders of the vats and literally get into the mixture of crushed grapes. Not wanting to get that dirty, I chose to be a supportive bystander and I watched my husband climb into the purple sea of crushed grapes. It looked like a giant pool of grape juice! He lowered himself in helped himself to a taste or two of the fermenting grapes.
He looked like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He had a purple mustache encircling his mouth and he commented how delicious it tasted. I too had to agree as I was given a cup full to try for myself. It was so interesting to watch and learn what it really takes to make wine.
I was intrigued how it all started from a grape—a good grape. A grape grows from a branch that is connected to a well-tended vine and is provided the right conditions to grow. This memory reminds me of one of my favorite scripture passages from the book of John:
Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you’re like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
These verses and my winery memory have touched my heart and remind me of some important lessons which I hope will encourage you too:
Remain in Him. Tending to my little vineyard in the garden and recalling our visit to the winery are great reminders to me about the importance to stay connected to the Lord.To remain in the Lord means to abide in Him spending time with Him by reading His word in the Bible and taking time to talk to Him in prayer.For my life to bear good fruit (my thoughts, words, and actions), I must be connected to the Lord.It brings forth the best in me.
Being “crushed” brings about goodness. Just as the grapes are crushed to make the best and most flavorable wine, being “crushed” in this life by struggling through adversity and enduring those hard times brings us to a new place. God uses everything for good in our lives especially our suffering. We are strengthened and able to pour forth empathy and experience to help others. We see God at work doing new things.
Jump all in and taste and see that He is good! As I stood on the sidelines watching my husband jump in to the vat of crushed grapes I couldn’t help but think I was missing out on experiencing it to the full. As I ponder faith and a relationship with Jesus, I think that’s what it takes: a leap of faith and belief to just simply jump in and taste and see that He IS good! “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” (Psalm 34:8) He has abundant life for us and an amazing plan and is waiting for us to dive in and experience life with Him to the full! I will never be able forget the simple childlike look of contentment on my husband’s face as he tasted the juice on its way to being wine. It was good.
That is my hope and prayer for all of us: That as we ponder this grape analogy and enjoy a sip of wine this season, we are reminded of the importance of staying connected to the Lord and experiencing the goodness and abundant life that He has for us.
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