Sunday, September 12, 2010

Making Wine and Memories

Earlier this summer my grandpap and I decided to dabble in making our own wine, or basement brew as he calls it. Over days and evenings we've crushed up fruit, stirred, strained, stirred some more. Me holding the funnel while he carefully, slowly poured the liquid into various sized and shaped bottles topping them with pin pricked balloons. 

Saturday afternoon found the two of us sitting in opposite chairs on my deck with a couple of five gallon buckets between us, and basket upon basket of peaches covering the table. We sliced into the heart of the fruit, the juice sometimes squirting us in the eye or running down our hands. Sometimes in companionable silence, sometimes talking. His weathered, steady hand with a lifetime of experience sliced two, sometimes three, peaches to my one.

We conversed about my grandma and I laughed at his impression of her reaction when he came home with more peaches she thought she was going to have to can, we chatted about upcoming apple butter making plans. He told me the story of when he was a teenager about 14, the time he and his older brother discovered their father's homemade wine then set about siphoning out most of the drink and how his father thundered down the stairs outraged that there was hardly any wine left. I learned the history of an antique five gallon stoneware whiskey jug that has sat on his fireplace hearth since my childhood. Inherited from his great aunt, its something his grandfather or great grandfather used to make wine, using a dried corn cob to seal it off instead of a cork. My grandpap went on about how to know when peaches are ripe, the different varieties, and how he knew the man who's trees provided the fruit we were slicing. I asked about his upcoming roadtrip to Colorado and he explained how he washed his clothes with a special soap to mask his scent from elk and other mountain creatures. We laughed at my dog who would occasionally trot over to lick the juice from the deck floor or just sniff the air taking in the scent of the fresh fruit.

The end results of our efforts is great, but the memories I'm making with my grandpap are so much better. Since I've long out grown looking for tennis balls at the dam or skipping stones into the river, making wine together with him this summer has been a special treat. The things that belong to just the two of us have diminished as I've gotten older and other grandchildren have come along. Each of the stories and tales he's shared have been like pieces of buried treasure I want to savor and hold on to in hopes that someday I can share them with someone else in future years; perhaps while slicing peaches for some homemade wine.