“Do you want to eat there? They have a cafe.”
He stops, backs up, and turns into the long drive to Sandhill Crane Vineyards. I’ve never eaten at a vineyard before. I don’t remember visiting a vineyard. We did drive north across the Golden Gate into wine country on our honeymoon, but I don’t remember anything but a big sequoia tree.
And I’ve never seen grapes grow.
I order The Moz–fresh grilled mozzarella and tomato with pesto sandwich. It arrives with homemade chips and a slice of watermelon.
We sit out on the porch and look over the wine tasting list. We have no idea, so the waitress explains how to taste, starting with dry wines to semi-sweet, sweet, and dessert. They have beautiful names and descriptions.
Blushing Crane: Fruit forward, pear and melon on the nose with flavors of ripe berries, watermelon and tropical fruits–and they donate 50 cents per bottle to a bird sanctuary.
A real crane flies by. We often see them in our own fields.
Blue Skies: Soft, floral mead made with local honey and blueberries. Each bottle includes a $4 donation to a nature conservancy that has strived to bring the bluebird back to Michigan. Its name is taken from a Thoreau quote, “The bluebird carries the sky on his back.” (This turns out to be my favorite.)
They’ve set up bluebird houses everywhere I look.
Sugar Snow: Made with maple sap from a local farm family, this soft, subtle unfiltered fortified wine is lightly sweetened with pure local maple syrup.
Miel Amour: A spiced pear honey-wine made with locally grown Asian pears, local honey, and a touch of cinnamon.
2008 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine: Produced from grapes grown in SW Michigan and made in the traditional way–with grapes frozen on the vine and picked (and processed) at night in the dead of winter.
So even fruit that seems forgotten holds a special use and sweetness.
We know nothing about the nuances of wine tasting. We know nothing about sniffing and twirling, but we sip and listen to the wind chime sing behind us, watch swallows sail and swoop. It’s a beautiful, breezy, warm and sunny day.
The people at the next table, they’ve tasted too much. They’re getting loud and a bit crude, so we decide it’s time to go.
“Walk out there,” the waitress points to our right. It’s pretty. The grapes are getting ripe.”
At first I don’t see them. But then, under the shelter of the leaves, I look closer, and they’re there. Clusters of them.
And I hear honey-sweet words.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good.” ~Psalm 34:8 (NIV)
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is poured out for you.” ~Luke 22:20 (NIV)
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing.” ~John 15:5 (NIV)
I remember the progression in this chapter from no fruit to fruit to more fruit to much fruit to lasting fruit. It’s a process that requires sometimes painful pruning.
“Love one another as I have loved you.” ~John 15:12.
It’s a lay-down-your-life kind of love. Because this life of love that He calls us to, it’s also a life of loss.
In our bearing under, He bears us over.
And in the laying down, He lifts us up.
When we remain.