Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton
Today is my tenth harvest. It is fitting that the fruit is Sauvignon Blanc, as this varietal was the first I harvested a decade ago. As is customary, we raise our glasses for the tenth time as we toast what we hope to be another successful year.
In raising our glasses on harvest morn, we respect a tradition that dates back centuries – the custom of celebrating the arrival of the new harvest with a wine from a past vintage. I carry this tradition from Martin Ray, a sometimes difficult to approach Santa Cruz winemaker widely acknowledged as making some of California’s best post-war wines. Martin had learned the toast from his mentor, Paul Masson, who arrived from Burgundy in the 1870s to establish his eponymous Santa Cruz winery. Masson, undoubtedly, was continuing the tradition of vintners before him.
How far back does this go? I have little doubt the toasting of the harvest dates from when winemakers first cultivated wine – from the earliest days of civilization. It is this feeling of the eternity in the winemaker’s craft that overwhelms me this harvest day.
I know no words to describe my feelings. Even the greatest writers and poets have struggled through the centuries to express the eternal. Thoreau described it as if ‘to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future….’ A century later, Eliot called it, ‘the still point of the turning world…where past and future are gathered.’
That is how I feel today – like I’m standing between two eternities – at the still point.
My prayers to all for a safe and fruitful harvest.