Our family spent the most pleasant autumn day imaginable working the vineyards with (and of) our neighbors Danny and Michelle. I didn't know - I simply could not have known-- how very sweet wine grapes taste because I had never picked and eaten fresh ripe grapes, warm with the sun. The Marquette grapes Danny planted and tends thrived this year, I understand, because the drought.
Let me tell you about Danny- he is creative, hard-working, innovative and full of ideas that he makes happen. He is probably a bit like me in having more ideas than ability to fulfill them. I don't know if he stops long enough to appreciate all the beauty he and his family have created out here on the prairie--a lovely Spanish stucco and tile home that deserves a story all by itself. A three acre vineyard with trusses and draped with soft fabric--all of it with the backdrop of rescued farm outbuildings and prairie habitat and wetlands behind. This little piece of heaven is named Juanita's Vineyard, after Danny's mom who I knew as Nita.
Nita, a nurse, was one of the first people I met here in Big Stone County. She was the first responder who showed up at my house after my big fall and put an oxygen mask over my face as I was going into shock. Just so you know, Nita had retired from being a first responder by the time she showed up to take care of me. She came because she was a caring, loving neighbor and beloved member of our community. Losing her too early was a cruel blow to the many people whose lives she had touched with her sweet and caring ways. Her husband said he would have enjoyed seeing her win a million dollars, just to watch how fast she gave it all away. The world needs more people like her.
And so, both the grapes and the people who grow them are of good stock- with an unexpected sweetness that you may not guess can be tended and nourished out on this sometime harsh prairie land.
Danny and Michelle brought over a fresh bottle of their wine yesterday- one week old and 14+% alcohol. It was the most delicious wine I have ever tasted- heavy, warm, sweet, rough, sunny, rich, earthy, good, kind, and soul satisfyingly sweet. Each glass was filled with memories, love, grief, goodness, and neigborliness. With a bouquet that will linger the rest of my life.