It’s midsummer and I’m waist high in tomato plants. My backyard vegetable patch, a circular garden that used to be an above-ground swimming pool, has exploded. The huge asparagus fronds have thrown a belly over the kale, the green beans race up the wire fence and the weeds push their way through the layers of hay that are supposed to suppress them.
This is the piece of land that once made me cry at the site of a virus that destroyed all of my cucumbers in a single night. It’s the land that made my five-year-old and I jump for joy when I discovered a ton of bulbous treasure under the handful of potatoes we’d thrown into the ground.
It is this property that has been with me in the last few months of isolation, and perhaps most importantly, it is the garden that has helped me connect more closely with my other passion: wine.
My wine journey started over a decade ago before my gardening trip did. I lived in a small apartment in London and withdrew from a life as an aspiring actress. My location made it easy and quick to travel to the great wine regions of Europe, and in those early years I visited wineries as often as possible.
My early memories of wine always relate more to the external aspect of winemaking than to the internal. This includes walks with winemakers through their vineyards. I remember listening to the excitement in their voices as they told a perfect vintage and the resignation written all over their bodies as they talked about a difficult vintage where a single hailstorm during bloom was half the time that year’s harvest wiped out, or a fungus or insect defeated them. I smiled or shook my head sympathetically.
While playing the role of a polite vineyard guest, I couldn’t relate to the viticulture experience.
It wasn’t until I started gardening myself – first a couple of pots of herbs on the windowsill, resulting in a pool-sized garden – that I began to appreciate both the joys and sorrows of growing plants. My garden is of course not nearly as big as a vineyard, not even a small one, and my risk is not nearly as great as that of a winemaker. (If my harvest fails, I go to the farmer’s market; I don’t lose a whole year’s livelihood.) But nowadays, when a Vigneronne shares its successes and failures in viticulture with me, I have real understanding and solidarity for a fellow planter, the permanent one Grace is at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Gardening has deepened my appreciation for the wines I love by connecting me more closely with those who grow them. And connecting in these times of isolation is something I crave almost as much as a bountiful harvest.
Published on October 18, 2020