When my husband and I went to Sonoma Valley in early summer to visit vineyards and
taste wine, the vines were already filled with clusters of round, green grapes waiting to mature in the summer sun. Long wire trellises ran in perfect, neat rows along the contours of rolling hills and in straight lines along valley floors supporting the heavy, growing grapes.
We toured one vineyard in a horse-drawn, covered wagon. The older man leading the band of chatty tourists had worked in that vineyard for more than twenty years. A young man accompanied him, along with a black and white dog that sat upright between them on the bench at the front of the wagon. Occasionally the dog turned to face an eager young boy perched on his father’s lap so he could be petted.
The horse clopped up and down the vineyard as the tour guide spouted facts about vines, wines, and the superior quality of Sonoma grapes. At one point on the tour, he stopped the wagon, pulled the brake and turned around in his seat.
“A couple years ago the owners decided to replant this whole area of the vineyard,” he said, waving his hand. “It’s very expensive. There are miles of wire used for the trellises, and new rootstock can be pricey, depending on the source. Most of ours come from vines that are more than a hundred years old.
The rootstock or root ball is an important part of having a fruitful vineyard. It’s chosen because it is resistant to the blights common in our area, things like molds and certain insects and diseases. A superior vine stock gives strength and health to the branches so it will produce high-quality grapes. Our owners were very careful when they chose the rootstock for this vineyard.
But, the root doesn’t determine the type of grape that will grow on the vine. The vinedresser decides the type of grape he wants to harvest and chooses that type of branch to graft into the vine stock.”
I asked, “You mean various types of grapes can be grafted into the same vine and you get different types of grapes?”
“That’s right,” he smiled. “For instance, a Merlot grape branch can be grafted to a Shiraz root ball, and it will bear Merlot grapes.”
“Interesting,” I mused.
“The owners called in a special crew of vinedressers to replant the fields with new root balls and to graft the new branches to the vines. After planting, they carefully made cuts into each vine and trimmed the branch in such a way that it fit perfectly into the vine. They were so careful. They wanted to make certain each graft worked.
I watched one of the vinedressers grafting the plants, and before he placed each branch into a vine, he put the sliced end of the branch into his mouth. I asked him why he did this. He said, ‘It’s called the vine-dresser’s kiss.’”
My mind began to wander. I imagined another Vinedresser kneeling beside the Vine, willing to cut it and let it bleed so he could graft us in. I envisioned him kissing each branch—kissing me as he chose me to be grafted into his Son. And as he knelt beside the Vine, I could imagine him wrapping the branch securely to it, making sure that it would remain in Christ and bear fruit.
A kiss is an intimate thing. It is a show of love, compassion, and tenderness. It can also be a demonstration of passionate love—a preparation for further intimacy and the hope of fruitfulness.
But I forget his kiss. I don’t intentionally forget, but in my wild, unpredictable, and sometimes painful life, God’s uncontainable love shouted from the cross becomes a whisper. I can’t hear.
Remember the Kiss
Every day I need to remember the Vinedresser kneeling beside the Vine, kissing the branch and wrapping the two securely together. I must remember I was chosen—just as a bridegroom chooses a bride and kisses her in the promise of union and fruitfulness in their marriage. Love—eternal, powerful, sacrificial love is mine, and it was demonstrated in the true Vinedresser’s kiss—the cross.
By his kiss we are grafted into and remain in Christ—pruned, tended, and urged along by the eternal faithfulness and wild love of the Vinedresser.
And that’s something worth remembering.