Friday, January 29, 2016

Wine Growing In Community

“On that day the mountains will drip with sweet wine,
and the hills will flow with milk.
All the dry stream beds of Judah will flow with water.
A spring will flow out from the temple of the Lord,
watering the Valley of Acacia Trees.”

“…the trees said to the grapevine, ‘You come and be our king!’ 13 But the grapevine said to them, ‘I am not going to stop producing my wine, which makes gods and men so happy, just to sway above the other trees!’”

Wine doesn’t flow from rivers or drip down from trees like maple syrup.  Producing good wine is an art form; an intricate process beginning with grape stock and ending in the bottle on your counter.  Wine Folly identifies five basic steps in the process: pick the grapes, crush the grapes, ferment the grapes, age the wine and bottle it.  They leave viniculture out of the picture altogether although without the vineyard these five steps won’t happen.  Beyond all this---without a gifted vintner cultivating in community---quality wine doesn’t occur.

Wine makers along California’s Central Coast continuously cite collaboration as key to the final product.  How do you do it?  My wife and I asked the same question at different wineries.  The surprising answer was that each relies on the talent and gifts of others to bring together their desired wine.

Wine producing is crazy expensive!  There’s the cost of the crop, the harvest and publicity---to simply name three.  A 2007 article “estimates are that it costs $70 to $275 per acre to machine harvestgrapes (not accounting for the cost of a machine, which can range from $150,000 to $300,000). Picking by hand, which takes much longer, can run to $750 per acre at super-premium properties.  A fascinating article on mechanical harvesting states, “For a used self-propelledmachine with gentle picking rods the unit costs are between $85,000 and$200,000.  There is a transportation cost to deliver the unit; and a trailer to transport the harvester will need to be purchased.  The height of the harvester requires a special drop trailer that can easily run $10,000.  In addition to the purchase costs, there are also annual costs.  It is assumed 300 acres would need to be harvested in order to reach a pay-back position on the unit.”

A winery owner in Avila Beach shared with us that they co-op with other wineries to pay for and use the Harvester.  Another owner (from a group of owners invested in one winery) communicated that for some of their wines they use portion of someone else’s vineyard---which they have complete control over---rather than having to own the entire vineyard.  Finally, the wineries on Highway 46 in El Paso (46 East) have banded together to promote their wines in a number of creative ways that gains exposure for all of them.

One of the most god-given drinks (We will drink it in Heaven) is often created by vintners working in tandem with so many other players in the wine-growing community.  Why do so many other businesses neglect this type of beneficial network?  And in our individual lives why are we so intent on going Lone Ranger?  Something to contemplate this winter?  Perhaps in discussion with friends over a bottle of wine.  And as you lift that cup think about what it took to bring it to you.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Lead Singer

You know I’m a fan of the band Third Day.  They downsized in 2008 when guitarist Brad Avery left the group.  With the loss of Brad they lost an edge.  He was only one of their guitarists; not their lead singer.

Hawk Nelson did it.  REO Speedwagon, Journey and The Newsboys all did it with great success.  The Christian band Sanctus Real will probably let us know today.  Each of them has changed lead singers. 

In so many ways the frontman is the band.  Quick think Maroon 5!  You thought Adam Levine, right?  Queen?  Freddie Mercury.  The Stones?  You get it.  Each of these lead singers imbued the band with their unique sound.  Beyond the sound their worldview and personality saturates each melody the band plays.

The gestalt is the musical group.  How that comes together is driven by the lead singer whom is usually also the lead songwriter.  Listening to Jars of Clay; beauty and angst have their fulfillment in the voice of Dan Haseltine; but it’s the individual pieces that create the whole.

Finally it’s the sound.  When I hear Peter Furler I know it’s The Newsboys (okay, okay he’s done solo stuff—but you know what I mean).  When you hear U2, the guitar rhythm and Bono are unmistakable.  It’s a whole package.  Until you change it.

I’m glad Sanctus Real will keep performing and writing music.  It just won’t be the same without Matt Hammitt.  Perhaps they could call themselves Sanctus Real Part B (Sanctus Real the flip side?)

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Wanderlust: Blessing or Curse?

Is wanderlust a blessing or a curse?  I don’t understand the lack of hunger to explore.  It extends beyond that; music and the arts; museums and live theatre.  Why am I so hungry to plunge into these when others have no interest?  I envy their contentedness—at a shallow level.  I find I am most content when I have calendared the next seminar; get-away or road trip!  Sometimes I wonder if the problem is me and not them.

Am I looking to be filled?  Does adventure equal ego?  Is it all my flesh looking to the next new thing?  Is it topographical ADD?  Certainly there is some synchronicity of personality involved.  It maybe that this tangible want for more is just one side of the coin.

Here’s the flip.  It’s that same wiring (good or bad) that keeps me from being content with the status quo.  Here’s a short list of things that the wanderlust fallout impacts: my hunger for God (“Like the deer pants for the water so my soul pants after You…”), my performance at work (good service should mean pushing for better) and how I date my wife (wanderlust drives me to creative dating.)  Those are some positives. 

So what purpose then?  At the core is the desire for stillness, peace and worship.  Perhaps this is best typified through the words of John Erastus Lester, a reporter and visitor to Yosemite in 1873; 
“To attempt to describe the grandeur of this scene (from Inspiration Point) would be folly; to tell of the feelings of awe, of humility, or reverence, which are here aroused, is all that can be done.  He who tries to believe there is no God is here at once converted in the twinkling of an eye; and his feelings of reverence and veneration, blended with love and beauty force him to a worship at once pure and creedless.”
The partial answer---and perhaps the answer in full---is that the quest for beauty is the quest to taste of Heaven.  In the end it remains C.S. Lewis that said it best; 

"These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols,breaking the hearts of their worshippers.  For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”