The day after tomorrow I will be taking my son to college two states away. It isn’t so much the distance as it is the transition that is somewhat unsettling. The most comforting thing I’ve found to get through this impending change comes from the animal kingdom. What would a mother buffalo say to her boy if he left for college? Part of the difficulty of transitioning a child into college has to do with stewardship.
Stewardship plays a big role in the world of wine. A vineyard site must be carefully chosen, looking at the climate, the soil and the culture of the area. In a new wine region, the grape grower will experiment with different varieties to find the right match for the terroir. All of this is a big investment in both money and time. Vines don’t produce until third leaf, that is three years after they are planted. The wines from that first harvest won’t be ready for market until a year or so after harvest. The soonest a vintner can begin to see any return on investment is at least four years, and often it is longer. During those years, the vines must be carefully tended, planted, pruned, and cared for in many ways including defending the plants against pests, mold, and bacteria, managing the canopy for optimal sun, and managing the plants so that they have the optimal yield, which usually means a smaller yield in order to produce flavorful grapes.
The constant care continues in the winery after the grapes are harvested. The vintner will make many decisions at each point in the process from harvesting, pressing, fermenting, aging, and finally to bottling. Each decision along the way will effect the flavor and body of the final outcome, the wine. It is a very focused labor much like parenting, the most important stewardship of all. As with wine, each decision we make along the way effects the final outcome. The final product, the good citizen we hope he or she will become is not the result of a few great and sweeping choices, but a million small daily decisions that accumulate over 18 years. The real difference between the stewardship of wine making and the stewardship of parenting is that the winemaker will never turn that responsibility over to the grapes themselves. Yet, we parents must hand over the reins of stewardship of our children to our children themselves as they become young adults. We just hope that we have made mostly good daily decisions and that our children continue to care for themselves as well as we hope we have cared for them.
So, what would that mother buffalo say to her boy if he left for college? Bison.