Sunday, September 7, 2008

The harvest is plentiful but the workers few.

This week I had an opportunity to work in one of the vineyards Owen Roe draws from.  All of the cellar workers have been preparing for the coming onslaught of harvest.  Once the grapes come in from the dozens of vineyards, we will suddenly be sorting, crushing, and pressing hundreds upon hundreds of tons of grapes to make into 18 or so labels of wine.  So, suspecting this coming fury and finding ourselves in "the deep breath before the plunge," we decided to visit a chardonnay vineyard and prune grapes in the quickly diminishing Oregon summer sun.  Our goal was simply to prune and tend the grapes so as to make the best chardonnay we possibly can for this season.

The work in the vineyard consisted of going down the many rows of grapes and pruning off the "shoulders" of the clusters.  The shoulders are two smaller bunches at the top of the main cluster of grapes.  Grapes ripen from the bottom of the cluster up.  So, the shoulders have to be discarded because they rob the main cluster from valuable late season energy, thus lowering the overall quality of the cluster as a whole.  Each vine shoot has, or should have, two clusters of grapes.  The scenery was breathtaking.  The hills are carefully lined with countless carefully planted rows of grapes.  The lines of vines gently cascade down the rolling hills and culminate in a browned valley below.  The valley extends for miles into the distance and ultimately leads up into taller hills that fade to purple and dark blue, rising to touch the pale blue sky.

The grapes were still very green, not mature at all.  I found myself taking my fill of the unripe grapes so as to get a feel for how the grape develops into what will become wine by this time next year.  I like the idea of being able to taste the progression of the wine.  After I had eaten a good number of grapes I had pruned off the vine, my bosses remarked to each other, "you know, it's always funny when people first come out to the vineyard because they always eat a ton of grapes."

"Why is that funny?..." I asked.

"Well, grapes are a natural laxative and high in acid.  So, a short while after eating a ton of grapes, the new workers can be seen waddling off to the port o john grabbing their (butt) and grimacing in discomfort and urgency."

Clearly I had made a huge mistake.  To make matters worse, we had Mexican for lunch after our visit to the vineyard.   

Yesterday, in celebration of my last weekend of freedom until Thanksgiving, Jerry, my boss, took me golfing to a public course near Portland.  Jerry and his wife co-founded a Catholic school in Portland a few years back called Ecce Veritas, "Behold the Truth".  The school was having a fundraising golf tournament and Jerry took me as his guest.  I had forgotten how horrid I am at golf and Jerry and I both appreciated the lesson in humility.  The guys we were playing with commented, "Wow Andy, you have a great swing ... I wonder why the ball goes in completely the wrong direction..."  The warm Oregon sun, cool breeze, cheap beer (PBR) and hot dogs made the trip well worth it.  The highlight for me was when my golfing partner, after a couple beers, was driving our golf cart.  We were going up hill and the cart was slowing down so the guy said, "We need more power crystals captain, we need more power!"  Then he made a noise like a submarine preparing for dive.  Overall, it was highly enjoyable.

This week, the grapes come in.  Here we go.


I leave you with a quote from our beloved John Paul II.  Something to think about in light of current events.  

"For this reason, America, your deepest identity and truest character as a nation is revealed in the position you take towards the human person.  The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the most defenseless ones.  .... If you want equal justice for all, and true freedom and lasting peace, then, America, defend life!  All the great causes that are yours today will have meaning only to the extent that you guarantee the right to life and protect the human person.  

Every human person - no matter how vulnerable or helpless, no matter how young or old, no matter how healthy, handicapped or sick, no matter how useful or productive for society - is a being of inestimable worth created in the image and likeness of God.  This is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition of her survival - yes, the ultimate test of her greatness:  to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenseless ones, those as yet unborn."

JP II - Sept. 19, 1987


Anonymous said...

We had grape vines that produced well when I was a youngster, and we ate alot of grapes in September, but one rule of thumb to remember, never combine with Mexican food.

Natural athleticism runs in the family.

Great la papa!

Christopher J said...

Do you guys get to stomp on the grapes with your bare feet with your trousers rolled up to your knees? That's how I picture you spending the coming weeks... Enjoy!