Adventures of Janey Grapeseed

A Labor of Love, a Taste of Joy in Life

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True Roots

“Merlot should be Merlot”, I answered, peering over the top of my progressive, rimless lenses. My teacher persona got his attention for a moment.  As he doubled over with laughter I got to thinking, “Did he understand what I was explaining?”

The statement unlocked goes something like this: A vine will be in the fruit what it is in the root. Just like a person will be characterized at the end or in the middle of their life by what they really were at the beginning. Truth will be just as true at the end as it was at the beginning and falsehood just as false. I might as well say, “A daisy flower only comes from a daisy seed.” But since we were talking about wine, Merlot seemed to fit better.

Any grape growing on its own roots will be distinctively that grape all the way into your glass. Hence, the injunction, “Merlot should be Merlot”. Every root stock grown vine will give life to the behavioral equation: wine vine plus source plant equals new variation of vine and source plant. Good winemakers and growers pay attention to this subterranean detail because the condition and type of the roots will tweak a crop’s behavior and thus impact the finished product – the wine we love so much.

While grafting wine grapes onto sturdy, disease resistant root stock can be a good thing, vines at Weaver’s Hill are grown on their own roots. I chose to do this on purpose, hoping to discover E block character by observing their natural behavior then training them in harmony with their unique inclination to produce a great crop. They, in turn, will live according to who they are, just like my human children. That is to say, they accept their beginnings, determine to grow well and live with the results.

I decided early on that I would encourage my children to be individuals and they are. One is athletic, one is musical, one is social and one is artistic.  As I observe them, I recognize how much like the other people in our family they are and how my own childhood affected theirs. While I can’t change their roots, I can make a solid effort to ensure their roots grow in good soil with the life giving nourishment of faith and love. Then my hope will not be disappointed. Their lives will make really great wine… so to speak.  No matter what changes occur in politics, technology, culture or living space, these four will not only be happy with who God designed them to be at their core but also smile through each season of personal growth .

Parents, as good stewards of humanity, need to pay attention to their own roots as well as their child’s roots. How did we begin our journey? Where did we begin? What nourished us as we began to grow? Was that beginning damaged? What got in the way? Was the ground fertile?  Did struggle make us stronger, deeper, better, or worse in any way? Does DNA make a difference?

In an earlier conversation with the same host, the question, “What should Sauvignon Blanc taste like?” came up. The answer: it should be true to itself. However, variations occur because of growing location, climate and differences in cultivation.  In terms of flavor profile, some Sauvignon Blanc is herbaceous, some tastes more like lemon and still others are like drinking liquid tomato vines instead of fermented grape juice. Lemongrass flavors are generally found in Sauvignon Blancs grown in the Sates and tomato characteristics in wines from New Zealand. To me, the answer to Sauvignon Blanc flavor, is found in Mr. Pendergast’s garden.

Intrigued by nature in my youth, this old man’s garden fascinated me. To my second grade self it was a huge piece of land and overflowing with green plants of every size and shape. His place stood out in contrast to our neighborhood’s plain lawns and sparse trees situated on small city lots. The one and only time my friends and I ventured in (as a group because we were scared to death of him) was beyond amazing—not quite heaven, but close… very close.

Along his northern border, which we passed every day on our way home from school, was a cyclone fence. Weaving in and out of angled wire, decorating the edge of the sidewalk was a delectable spike shaped green treat. Lemonade met herbs in an ecstasy that could be mine for the plucking. Ahhhhh, lemongrass (Cymbopogon citrates). It’s the thing that childhood memories are made of –and –so it would seem- adult flavor preferences. This fragrant and medicinal culinary grass planted into one old man’s world unlocked a child’s discovery, enjoyment and forever afterward determined that child’s flavor preferences. Who’d have guessed one small act would be so momentous?

In point of fact, the nature of Sauvignon Blanc has nothing to do with lemongrass, tomatoes or childhood taste experiences; Sauv Blanc is a grape. It looks like a grape. It grows like a grape. It ferments like a grape. Its true self is much more than a flavor profile. It is much more than its roots, yet its roots will have their say in whatever tastes are savored from its wine.

Now that I am responsible for a vineyard, when I look for a good crop, a tasty crop, what will I get? Proverbs 20:11 says, “Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right”. Maybe my children growing on Weaver’s Hill have good roots…maybe they don’t. They certainly all had potential to grow. How well they conduct themselves in the vineyard will tell me a lot.

The jury is still being presented with evidence. When the wine is made they will sequester themselves and taste it. They will call each vine to account. Their grower and her choices will also be judged. Thank God judgment day, tasting day, comes after harvest, fermentation, cellaring and bottling! Amen?

May your roots be well established in faith and love. May your life have the complexity and age-worthiness of a truly great wine.

Copyright 2010 Christine J. Webster