[We tasted some of our wine last week. A Riesling. What we thought of it is in the next post.]
There it was. A bottle of wine from our vineyard on our kitchen table. Our wine. That we made. At long last. I couldn’t believe it.
You ever look at a “long-term project,” could be something or someone—like finally doing that remodel, the long-awaited high-school graduation of your more “difficult” child, that friend who simply never learns, making peace with an in-law or own parent…—and in a moment of realization, no matter how brief or lasting, you are simply thrilled by what’s there? “Ahh, look,” you might think, “all the WORK and TIME and EFFORT and SACRIFICE worked out. For all of us.” You pat yourself on the back, thankful that you never stopped believing. Or, if you did stop believing somewhere along the journey, it could go the other way, and you think, “[Expletive!] All that and for what? This?!”
I must confess: I was pretty excited by the fact that there was a bottle of our wine—OUR VERY FIRST BOTTLE!— sitting on our table, and secretly hoped I would be in my former category of long-term project reactions. But I am torn in this endeavor. I am. At times glowingly on board, I am a great believer, at others, I wish for my own quiet mountaintop to simply get away. But I am on no mountaintop, and there was our wine.
My excitement soon became replaced by thoughts of what it took to get that bottle there. Of course that little naked bottle knew nothing of it. But I did. What it represented, as joyful as the occasion was, still had a bittersweet shadow that clung to it: how our endeavor had taken its toll, on me, on us. How the laughter we once shared in our talks and dreams of the vineyard when we started all this had faded, how it had been replaced by toughened looks and sadness, feelings of resentment and loss—mainly mine. How it would be a long journey back to where we hope to be as a family, a couple; where I hope to be as me. And don’t get me started on the house, our little (yet sweet), crammed and crowded 900 square foot 19th century farmhouse that houses two adults, one 18-month old, an irrationally exuberant dog, and a grouchy cat, while the 160 acres our 35-acre vineyard is on is some of the most astoundingly open, and magical ground. Argh. I just thought there’d be more in my life at 41.5 years of age. Yes. That is what I saw standing in front of me, in that little yellow-green bottle.
Scott set out our dinner: a Scott-and-Stephanie-style charcuterie in high hopes for our wine—maybe not exactly like the little picture we have hanging of two Alsatian cats carrying a heaping load of it—but filling nonetheless, and just fine, I thought: blue cheese and salami, poached sausage, I had made a warm potato salad from my most favorite cook book (Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells), pumpernickel bread, pickles, and whole-grain mustard. And a stand-by wine, just in case. I pulled up my chair. “Here you go, little bottle,” I thought.
Scott poured the wine. I took my first sip. What a surprise. My internal whine was soon replaced by this wine. Its flavors waking me to our vineyard. To Mt. Hood watching over it. To the big sky. The quiet. The long walks I’ve taken on our property looking out over creation, on top of the world. The Riesling rows. I remembered the time long ago when I used to work in them. Remembered how I was struck by a bull snake protecting her clutch in the cool at the bottom of the vine on that hot hillside, when I reached an ungloved hand under some foliage to remove it. I remembered the happy moments, the full vines, bright yellow in fall, these four rows on that steep ground, already some of the most prolific on our hill. I remembered how my heart soars when I am there.
These are all the things I forget in my “misery,” in this tug of good and bad that exists on a fairly daily basis. (Scott says it’s something inherent in me, he wonders if I’ll ever be satisfied. I think I will (sounds convincing, doesn’t it?)). I mean, just above I say how I’d thought there’d be more in my life. Ummm. LaMonica! You have a roof over your head! Your health! A beautiful baby boy and wonderfully loving husband! And what’s more, you and Scott have a vineyard! Wine from it here on your table! And you want more?! I guess I do. I want to believe. I want to believe whole-heartedly. I want to know there is a spot for me in all this, too. Not just some wife feeling like she is schlepping along.
I suppose I’m like that kid in The Polar Express who wants to believe in Santa, how even on a magic train to the North Pole, seeing all the elves and reindeer are still not enough for him, until he convinces himself that he believes. Believe me, there have been many moments I, too, have wanted to believe, where I do, even, but like the kid, I didn’t want to be “taken for a ride” or “railroaded.” Afraid to put in the time and effort, and for what? Find out it’s not what I had hoped for?
A train whistles its lowly message in the distance. The grey wintered sky releases a snow that now fallen only hints at what it hides. The white is clean and fresh and waiting for tomorrow. We had opened a bottle of wine, our wine, from our vineyard, and loved it. I believe. I believe. I believe. I do. Don’t I?
[Please note: I know this is my second post where I draw from a movie. No, I'm NOT trying to steal Silicon Valley Bank’s Rob McMillan’s (founder of its Wine Division) MO of using movies to tell a story. For my writing, though, I do draw from what’s in my day-to-day, and, thanks to little Sam, 75+ viewings of Chris Van Allsburg's The Polar Express in movie-format since Thanksgiving is part of that. And if you ever get a chance to read one of Rob’s State of The Wine Industry Reports, I highly recommend it. And ALWAYS, of COURSE, read some Van Allsburg.]