“May God give you heaven’s dew
and earth’s richness—
an abundance of grain and new wine.” ~Genesis 27:28
Today was a new day. I think we all need a new day more frequently than we take it. It cleanses the palate and restores the soul to awakening. Not necessarily a new day as in restoring any broken yesterdays, but the simple pleasure of being able to try something brand new.
I admit, I didn’t have high expectations. It sounded like four hours of mundane work. Volunteer work. I’ve had jobs where the tasks were the same, day in and day out. I get bored. I thrive on variety and challenge. It was not something I felt particularly passionate about, and it wasn’t on my bucket list. But I think maybe those are the ones we end up cherishing the most. So despite my hesitations, my curious attraction to the yet to be discovered won out, and I agreed. Plus, I love making new friends, and this seemed like a prime opportunity. Surely I would make at least one with an entirely new group of people.
As the tires of my Dad’s truck rolled over the gravel road, through the tall trees, and crested the corner, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. We parked and saw Ed, our family friend, come out to greet us. We were welcomed inside and greeted by the rest of the volunteer team, about a dozen in all. The owner, a kind older gentleman with a grandfatherly air about him, took our coats and explained the process to me. He was evidently highly knowledgeable in this business. “Your station will be here with Beth.” Did I meet Beth? I had the privilege of sitting down next to this wise old soul since Beth was late. My adventure as an apprentice winemaker was off to a nice start!
As the complex machines and all of our hands began to work together, my mind was intrigued. A fascinating process, truly. After the wine is properly aged in oak barrels, it is transferred to a giant tank. It then goes through several filtration machines before being ready to bottle. The owner explained that the filtration system is finer than a red blood cell. It is that crucial for the high quality of the wine. The empty bottles are turned upside down and inserted onto levers that fill them with nitrogen, which is heavier than oxygen. Apparently oxygen is the enemy of great wine. The bottles are then transferred to the bottling room where two more sets of hands set them onto the machine that fills them and corks them. Then comes my job (it’s an excellent title…you may want to prepare yourself): “bottle wiper.” Yep. Sounded easy enough. We’ll get back to that in a minute… After that, the capsule is added to the top of the bottle by another person and sealed by yet another with a heater similar to a hair dryer. The filled, sealed bottles of wine are then boxed onto crates for later labeling and shipping to members of the largest wine club in the state.
I have a new awe for Jesus turning water into wine in John 2. After seeing this process of bottling wine in action today, I think about all these steps Jesus bypassed. Many phases of wine-making are ones I did not even see today. First the vines are planted, grown, tended, pruned, and after several YEARS finally the grapes are harvested. Then the grapes must be pressed and turned to liquid wine, and aged. The best wines are aged for many more YEARS. Then it is finally filtered down to a cellular level. In the Biblical story, the king tastes the wine and declares that this wine Jesus made in an instant miracle was of the best quality. A progression that takes years took Jesus a moment. The perfect Winemaker is also the Maker of time!
So my task was simple: take the hot rag and wipe off traces of excess wine on the outside of the bottles. Surprisingly this a two person job since the bottles come at you so fast. Definitely had a couple “I Love Lucy at the chocolate factory” moments. Thankfully, it never got that bad so we managed to stay on track.
Sitting in my position, I soon discovered it was the lively conversation of the people near me that made this a delicious experience. After an informative, pleasant chat with the fascinating winemaker, my new bottle wiper partner showed up. Beth is a vibrant woman who talks the pace of an elated five-year-old, yet has enough stories to share for at least twice her fifty-something year life. An absolute joy! Some friendships click within the first five minutes. This was one of those. Between grabbing and wiping bottles, and dipping our rags, we chatted endlessly for the duration of several quick hours. I was even offered the invitation of a snowshoe trek close to her mountain home in my near future!
When the bottles stopped coming, our lively group stood sipping samples of the winery’s specialty blends, including the raspberry Merlot we had just bottled. To boot, we enjoyed a luscious lunch prepared by the owner’s wife, no doubt a culinary expert to match her husband’s wine-making expertise.
As Dad and I pulled out of the trees onto that gravel road, the sun of this new day warmed my heart. Even with my speculations, I took a risk and tried something brand new. I got a taste of the art of wine-making, something I had very little previous knowledge of, and definitely no prior experience. Best of all, I was given the gift I desired more than a new experience–some new friends. And to me, that tastes sweeter than the wine that sat next to me on the way home.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” ~Psalm 34:8
What new day sweetness are you going to taste?