I was blessed with having lived in the beautiful Sonoma Valley for 10 years. That was at a time when the valley had a population of only about 18,000 people. Progress has since buried the quiet and peaceful country feeling of that bucolic part of Northern California. So much so that it is little more than a crowded suburb of San Francisco today. However, during my time there, I got to visit and become familiar with many treasured old wineries. The Buena Vista Winery, credited with being the very first winery established in California, with its history richly blended with that of the town of Sonoma, is but one example.
From a handful of wineries then, to the hundreds that thrive today, it becomes obvious that wine making is one of the important industries of California. It's interesting to note how a number of them struggled to survive the National prohibition era of only a few decades before. Many resorted to making low alcohol sacramental wine, which was allowed, and vinegar along with trading in a few other products...wink- wink.
The multitude of artisanal wines today is reflection of a departure from the belief that wine making is formulaic. Any worthy enologist will tell you that the artist's hand is at work in the winery. The same rationale is made for bread. We all know that it's nothing more than flour, yeast and a little water.... except of course the famous San Francisco sourdough bread which is reputed to be the product not only of skilled bread makers but of the unique fog shrouded atmosphere of the Bay Area.
There are a lot of lessons of life that can be learned from the wine maker and the vintner. Among them are the reverence for new life and a gratitude for its continuance. As the Sonoma grape harvest begins in the Fall, a blessing of the grapes takes place at the Old Mission. It's a moment of thanksgiving for Divine providence. It is also then that the new wine, the Nouveaux Beaujolais, is offered to everyone for tasting.
And, as most good wines are blended from two or more varietals, the wine maker teaches that a balance of good traits is important to the final outcomes in life as well.
We have heard in wine there is truth, but we should also know in wine there is patience. The process of fermentation and aging cannot be rushed. Our own maturity cannot be treated otherwise.
Lessons from the vintner are equally important. The proper pruning and training of the vine is almost Biblical in wisdom. Another element of the vineyard process occurs late in the growing season when the grape laden vines are deprived of their usual watering in an effort to encourage an amount of stress to the fruit. This helps build character in the fruit. That holds true for us as well. Surviving a period of stress in our lives can help to strengthen our character.
The real purpose of aging well is in sharing that essence with others. That works for wine too. Cheers.