By Sister Lois Anne Palkert, OSF
Since moving to Texas, I have learned many things about the Lone Star State. Texas claims bragging rights to their bluebonnets, Blue Bell ice cream, and barbeque. They are fifth in the nation in both wine production and consumption. My latest discovery includes the history and traditions around the harvesting of grapes
Each weekend in August, the Messina Hof winery near Bryan, Texas invites the public to gather and stomp grapes, enjoy wine tasting classes and dine on the Vineyard Cuisine.
The fun begins with an introduction by the CEO/Winemaker Paul Bonarrigo (a former employee of St Joseph Regional Health Center). Guests then walk through the vineyard to pick some of the grapes used to make one of Messina Hof’s award winning wines. The group is then led to the crush pad where the stomping begins. They “sign” their souvenir t-shirt with purple stomping feet...
The first weekend of the harvest Festival includes the blessing of the grapes. For the past 15 years Monsignor John Malinowski, chaplain at St Joseph Hospital in Bryan, has blessed the grapes, remembering the special place of honor held by grapes in the Old Testament. As the “first fruits” of the harvest, they were offered to God.
In the Armenian Church grape are given preference over other fruits to be blessed as the first fruit of the harvest, conditioned by a number of historical and religious circumstances. In Genesis 9:20 we read that, after the devastating flood, Noah planted a vineyard in the valley of the slopes of Mt Ararat. The fruit of the vineyard became the decoration of the Araratian valley…It was considered to be the noblest fruit and was called the KING OF THE FRUIT.
In the 1600s Spanish missionaries brought grape vines to Texas, but it was not until the 19th and 20th century that winemaking began to grow. Now, in Texas, winegrowers want wine to be fun, exemplifying Texas’ reputation for being friendly, approachable and easygoing. Winemakers extend the invitation to not only taste great wine, but also to be part of the conversation that surrounds it. And they claim that you do not need to know about wines to enjoy them.
So we are grateful to Mother Earth who has generously provided us with such a treasured gift. And with Francis we pray: “Praised be you, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us and who produces varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs” (and grapes that produce the wine that “gladdens our hearts” (Psalm 104:14).