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Aw, Hail!

Brothers and sisters, gather round and hear me! I stand before you today, as I have many days before, with the demand that you elevate yourselves for a moment out of the toils and troubles of your daily lives.

I know. I know.

We are not accustomed, in this day and age of endless work, constant travails, and countless other demands on our time, to stepping away from all of this in order that we might contemplate the beauty and the terror of the world in which we live.

For many of us, a sacred glass of wine, enjoyed in quiet solitude or with those who mean the most to us, is the closest we get to a reprieve from the dust storm of our daily existence. And who among us has not simply enjoyed that glass, and all the magic it contains, with little thought or consideration for what serendipity of season and coincidence of climate conspired to forge that wine through the crucible of yet another vintage from the earth.

I am here today to tell you that we are all sinners. Each and every one of us with that glass upon our lips. We all commit the sins of ignorance and of complacency. For while we succor ourselves and take pleasure in the fruit of the vine, we do not often acknowledge that we partake of something that is larger than the workings of human hands and minds.

Brothers and sisters we are all recipients of great gifts from Mother Nature. In every glass we find, yes, the hard work of many men and women, but that is not all. Beyond the winemaking there is always something more, something that Mother Nature gives, and something, brethren, that she also takes away.

Nature speaks to us and through us every day. And whenever Nature speaks she speaks with power. Her language is at once both familiar and also far beyond the ken of mortal men and women. We do not know from whence the wind comes, only that it blows both hot and cold, and we are buffeted.

This week, that wind blew cold across the promised land. And from the heavens, ice rained down upon the most young and tender of vines, wreaking havoc. Without warning and without reason.

Cote Rotie. Alsace. Mythical names that we have praised with voices joined together in rapture. Today destroyed by hail.

A dark cloud has passed before the sun, casting our vintage in shadow.

As devoted followers of the vine, we must humble ourselves in the face of Nature's vicissitudes. This is not the first, nor the last time that the aims of man and the vagaries of weather have been at cross purposes. We must accept it, for there is nothing else to do.

But in our acceptance, let there be compassion -- compassion for those who toil in the path of the storm. Those who labor against the difficult odds of the world in service of the higher good. To these good men and women, whose lives and livelihoods are even now -- amidst turmoil, disappointment, and financial strife -- in service of the higher good, let us give thanks.

And let us also give thanks for the opportunity to cherish that which we might not have considered; to value what we might have just as easily ignored; to celebrate those gifts for which we too often receive without thinking.

Wine is a privilege and a sacrament, and we should never forget it. Join me in the silent enjoyment of a glass together, that we may lend our dearest thoughts to those in need.

Let us drink.


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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.