Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Vines (11/21/05)
TITLE: A taste of heaven
By Melanie Kerr
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He purchased the land from an old cousin of his some thirty years ago. Jonas has been a fisherman and was ignorant of all things connected to the wine industry, but an eager student. Obsessed was how most people in the tiny village described him, as he laboured long hours hewing out terraces on the hillside.
He purchased cuttings of grape vines from markets strewn across the island and occasionally travelled on hazardous journeys across the sea to the towns north of Rome to increase the variety of his vines.
They were his children. Lovingly planted, laboriously nurtured and carefully pruned.
His first venture into winemaking was not a success. Scarlet liquid spilled from wineskins into the cups at the local café. Harsh and bitter, men spat it out on to the ground. A wild cat sniffed suspiciously and sprang away.
"Jonas, go back to your fishing boat!" The men laughed and the clapped him on the shoulder.
That was then, a step along the path of learning. Year by year, the quality of his wine improved. Merchants and traders would harass him with impossible orders, convinced that his wine was like the nectar of the gods.
Jonas shook his head. He drank just a mouthful each year, smelling the wine in his cup as he swilled it around. He let his taste buds savour the subtle hues of fruit mixed with the gentle spicy overtones of buttery vanilla.
One summer, while Jonas was away on his travels, a glow on the horizon alerted the village to something disastrous happening on the hill. Jonas' vines had caught fire, burning voraciously. Collecting brooms and blankets, and buckets of water his neighbours spilled out of village up on to the hill. The fire was too well established, eating hungrily at the wood, snapping and cracking, hissing and spewing sparks in to the air. For hours, they slapped the flames, arms scorched and hair singed as they tried to rescue the vineyard. As the evening darkness bled into the sky they knew the battle had been lost.
The stumbled back to the village, arms weary, faces black and broken with grief. The vineyard was destroyed and they reasoned that Jonas might too be destroyed to see the black ash and cinders that remained.
For days, Jonas wandered up the hillside, kneeling down to finger the black stubs of all that remained of his vineyard. He never spoke, just shook his head, and sat down gazing at nothing in particular.
"Did I ever tell you about the best wine I ever tasted?" Jonas sat down, out side the café, a small coffee cup nestling in his palm. "I used to live in a small town, on the edge of the Sea of Galilee. One day, a friend of mine just upped and left his boat. He said that he had found something better to do with his life. Is there anything better than fishing? I went to talk to him, but his father told me that he had gone to a wedding and wouldn't be home for days. The wedding was just a few miles away in a village called Cana. I went on the off chance of having a word with John, not expecting to get invited, but the host was generous. I caught glimpses of John, but decided that a wedding was not the right place to talk business. There was music and dancing and the tables were just loaded with food. But it was the wine that I remembered. I sometimes think that I can still taste it on my lips even today. It was the deepest red, like the colour of blood. The very first sip had an almost bitter tinge to it, and then there was a glorious explosion of sweetness that filled the mouth. It was better than the kiss of a woman!"
Jonas laughed self-consciously.
"I thought I could make that wine. Every year, every sip, I have longed for it to be that same taste, and it never has been. Perhaps only God can make wine like that and I am not God. Perhaps I always was just a fisherman."
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