Lessons From a Vineyard

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were privileged to attend a church conference near Niagara Falls, Ontario. No one complained about the location, that’s for sure.

Once there we discovered that the Niagara Region is well known for it’s vineyards and wine. It seemed only right to take a tour to learn about what it takes to grow good grapes for the wine industry!

Eventually we ended up at Jackson-Triggs, established in 1993 by Allan Jackson and Don Triggs, near Niagara-on-the-Lake. Their vision was so big they constructed a large state-of-the-art building for processing and bottling their wine. They also insisted that the structure be specifically designed to be able to handle tours. We were not disappointed!

There was so much I learned in just over an hour.

For example, vines are chosen for their ability to thrive in the specific area in which they are planted. Some are drought hardy and some are able to withstand cooler weather. The vine does the work of nourishing the branches. It is the anchor.

I saw a lot of vines – acres and acres of vines. The interesting thing was that all of them had grafted branches, different branches for different purposes. Some produced sweeter grapes and some produced larger crops of grapes.

Another thing I learned was that stress causes better fruit. This is accomplished in a number of ways. Pruning is the main way. The excess branches are cut off early, just before the growing season. The vine can then concentrate on nourishing the branches that are left. The fruit tastes better and is more consistent.

Grapes like a dryer climate so a bit of drought actually makes a great tasting wine. I suppose that’s why the year a wine is bottled from a particular area means something!

Talking about stress, I had a small apple tree in my front yard a few years ago. It might grow a hand full of apples a year. It looked tired and sick so one year I decided it had to go. I borrowed a truck and tied a chain to the apple tree and pulled. That tree would not budge. I didn’t want to wreck a borrowed truck so I gave up and let it stay for another year. The crazy thing is, the next year it produced buckets and buckets of apples. I guess stress really is good for producing fruit!

Jesus said that he is the true vine and his Father is the vinedresser. “Abide in me, and I will abide in you. Just as the branch cannot produce fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me” (John 15:4). Jesus goes on to say that the branches that don’t bear fruit he cuts off and burns.

My tour of the vineyard and processing plant really brought God’s Word alive to me. One more thing I learned on the tour. The guide told us that the better fruit comes from the branches that are closest to the vine. Wow! Do I need to say more? Get in close to Jesus, the true vine, and you will produce the best fruit.