Breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain. -T.S. Eliot
These are indeed the anxious times. After the scars of last year the poetry I grasped at during my life ignorant youth started to speak to me more plainly.
"Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?"
Most people would assume that fall and the time of harvest is when wine making is at its most tense. I have discovered this year that for myself, that is not so. During harvest you can create for yourself a veneer of control. The increasing flavor complexity and daily measuring of the fruit tricks you into thinking you can decide what will happen. You can imagine that your bank of knowledge and experience will guide you and the wine down some certain path. At least this is what you tell yourself to keep the task within some reasonable scale.
In the Spring, we are truly thrown to the mercy of Nature. What will be, what will come, the future that starts rolling towards you is all set in these early stages of growth. All one can do is look to the sky, feel the air, feel the ground, watch...hope.
The burgeoning growth and young buds, in all their vulnerability, are the basis of what the 2012 vintage will be. Last year, a terrible cold decended upon us during this precious time and much of the crop was lost forever, a vintage not to be. That fear is what makes one focus solely on the low when reading forecasts. There exists no cellar magic that repairs what is lost on the vine. This pushing forth of the first hints of green indicates that everything is being set in motion, and the winemaker is now purely a spectator, witnessing the miracle of the vines bringing life anew. How will 2012 be remembered? The most important first steps are toddling up and down our steep vineyard hills as I write this.
It surprised me how in the facing of this great unknown, I suddenly found understanding in poetry buried deep behind my minds layers of chemistry and enology. I tried in vain so often to understand these verses in college, but without life experience, they fell on intellectual deafness. My professor must have felt like a young parent, attempting to teach a lesson to a child that only time can truly deliver. For what did this line mean to me before I was tasked with producing wine from the alkaline soils?
"What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish?"
These great lines only grow personal meaning once they can be applied to something true from your own experience. The return of Spring is a call to revisit what you hold as truth. To shine light on your plans with an expanded perspective that comes with each successive vintage. This reminder prevents you from standing still, nature implores you to change with it. All is different from where we left it last fall. The winter retreat of the vines produce new character in these Spring shoots. You can sense it when you walk amongst them. They too are wiser, and will write their verse in some new style. What they capture and how they will explain it to us will be revealed in the poem of the wine they bring forth. That shall be the overiding goal of what we put in the bottle this year.
Shantih, Shantih, Shantih