A glass of chardonnay can be just about anything a wine lover could want. Depending on where it's sourced, it can be lean, crisp and clear as crystal, or thick, buttery and full of creamy complexity. It can be bone dry or sweet as dessert. It can even sparkle. And yet, chardonnay is still just a grape. But if I chose to look no further than this little grape for a guru on how to live a full and productive life, I would find it the most perfect role model. Little did I know when I applied to be a wine educator at one of the finest wineries in the Finger Lakes region, I would be the one to receive the education. I learned a life lesson at the winery, and the teacher was chardonnay.
One slow winter day at the winery, as I read about the chardonnay grape, I was struck by its highly adaptable, malleable nature. It can be grown successfully both in cold, wet areas and hot, dry ones. It adapts itself to almost any region and type of soil, expressing in its flavor the uniqueness of its environment. In addition, it grows vigorously wherever it is planted, its overzealous canopy often needing extensive pruning. As I read, I found myself admiring how chardonnay lives its life and wishing I could be as adaptable as it. If chardonnay can easily leave behind the refreshing minerality of Chablis, France for the satiny, tropical flavor of Napa, for example, then surely I can leave behind all that I thought I was, in favor of whatever life and God need me to be right now.
Not only does chardonnay adapt its character and flavor to the region, it responds to the winemaker with just as much ease. The winemaker can ferment it in stainless steel or oak or a little of both, and the chardonnay gives her no trouble. She can ferment it in the méthode champenoise, and the result is a heavenly, bubbly delight. She can age the wine, and unlike most of its white wine brethren, the chardonnay responds with grace. If only I could respond to all that my own Maker asks of me with as much biddable ease as the simple chardonnay.
When I think of this little grape and all that it can do, all that it can be, I am awestruck. By having no preference of its own, it can be everything. By fully accepting its present circumstances and making the glorious most of where it finds itself, the chardonnay is able to continually reinvent itself. And all the while, it is never afraid of losing itself or compromising too much. It doesn't judge the soil or ask for accolades. I can only imagine how pleased God must be with this vine, how He must have crafted it as an example to us all. Grow where you're planted. Be vigorously in favor of whatever your circumstances are. Happily do what your Maker asks of you. This is the message of chardonnay.
Chardonnay, I bow at your leaves.