I like wine.
I’m not a connoisseur…a critic…nor an expert. I’m more of an enthusiast…one step removed from a wino only because the color, clarity, body, aroma and taste are more important to me than the alcohol content.
Not only do I enjoy drinking wine, but I also enjoy making wine. As a hobby, wine making is a nice mixture of creativity and science…with a healthy dose of patience and hopeful expectancy thrown in.
Although I’ve enjoyed making a few classic grape wines, I mostly enjoy making wines from local produce such as blackberries, peaches, or plums. The challenge is to produce a wine that captures the essence of the fruit…a taste of summer extracted into a bright clear liquid bursting with color, aroma and flavor that are the essence of the fruit from which they are derived…carefully preserved in a bottle.
When I give a bottle of wine as a gift, I’m not just giving a bottle of wine. I’m giving the gift of my patient hard work in meticulously cleaning and sterilizing all of the equipment, washing and preparing the fruit, extracting the juice, monitoring the fermentation process, carefully racking the wine through multiple stages of clarification, and bottling…all for the purpose of allowing the recipient to experience the essence of the fruit in liquid form.
When I taste my blackberry wine, I expect the aroma and flavor to pop with the unmistakable essence of blackberries. No, it’s not the same as eating a blackberry, nor should it be. The juice has been extracted out from the pulp. The acidity has been reduced by diluting with water. Sugar has been added to replace loss in the water dilution. Tannins have been added. The sugar has mostly been converted to alcohol. The clarification process has left a bright, clear, deep red liquid. These are fundamental chemical and physical changes…for the purpose of drawing out the essence of the fruit.
In my efforts to extract the essence of favorite local produce, I would truly be remiss if I excluded watermelons. Hope, Arkansas is the self-proclaimed Watermelon Capitol of the World. Local farmers take pride in producing excellent melons. And chilled fresh watermelon happens to be a favorite of mine!
Southwest Arkansas summers routinely see temperatures on the range of 110 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity close to 100%…heat exhaustion is a very real life-safety concern. On a hot muggy August evening, few things are more refreshing than a crisp slice of chilled watermelon. One bite of that sweet delicious melon heart bursts with refreshing flavor and rejuvenating liquids.
It’s good, y’all! 🙂
Needless to say, I do make and enjoy watermelon wine.
My first experience making watermelon wine was a bit disconcerting, though. The juice starts out a nice pink rosy color, as one would expect. And, of course, the juice tastes just like the sweet melon meat from which it is extracted. However, as the clarification process removes all the pulp particles, a pale green liquid is left. My first taste of watermelon wine was not at all what I expected. I was looking forward to that burst of flavor from a crisp chilled melon heart. What I tasted, instead, was melon rind. Initially, I didn’t like it at all. I now enjoy watermelon wine, but caution novices on what to expect. Although I sweeten the wine a little, the color and flavor that come through are still the rind. It is an acquired taste…closer to watermelon rind pickles than that fresh burst of sweet flavor in a bite of melon heart.
It turns out the essence of watermelon is the rind.
What is the essence of a man?
When the lifelong processes of sorrow mixed with joy, love mixed with loss, and disappointments mixed with accomplishments combine with natural aging processes to extract a man’s essence, what falls out as the precipitation of pulp particles, and what is extracted as the clarified essence?
I remember, as a child, admiring my Grandpa Mitchell as an anointed Bible teacher, while also timidly withdrawing from his harsh tone, impatience, and severe expectations…children are to be seen and not heard. Although I admired him, I was also frightened of him. Yet, as Grandpa aged…as he lost his beloved wife…as he suffered strokes and diminishing health…as he lost his independence and increasingly relied on others for assistance…he also lost that impatient edge.
Grandpa’s impatience and strict expectations precipitated out with his other losses, leaving behind an essence of patient love, grace, and thankfulness.
As the Master Vintner monitors the processes of my life experiences, I pray that when the process is complete, He will find my essence to be a reflection of His own character…His own image.