It’s midsummer, and I’m waist deep in tomato plants. My backyard veggie patch, a circular garden where an above-ground swimming pool used to be, has exploded. The giant asparagus fronds have belly flopped over the top of the kale, the green beans race up the wire fence and the weeds force their way through the layers of hay meant to suppress them.
This is the patch of land that once caused me to burst into tears at the site of a virus that, in a single night, destroyed all my cucumbers; it’s the land that led my five year old and me to leap for joy upon discovering a trove of tuberous treasures beneath the handful of potatoes we plonked into the earth.
It is this plot of dirt that has seen me through the last months of isolation and, perhaps most importantly, it’s the garden that helped connect me more intimately with my other passion: wine.
My wine journey began over a decade ago, before my gardening one did. I was living in a small apartment in London, extracting myself from a life as an aspiring actress. My location made it easy and quick to travel to the great wine regions of Europe and, in those early years, I visited wineries as often as possible.
Always drawn more to the outside aspect of winemaking than the inside, my early wine memories include walks with winegrowers through their vineyards. I remember listening to the elation in their voices when they recounted a perfect vintage, and the resignation written on their whole body when they spoke about a difficult vintage in which a single hailstorm during flowering wiped out half of that year’s crop, or a fungus or insect got the better of them. I’d smile along or shake my head in commiseration.
While I performed the role of polite vineyard guest, I couldn’t relate to the grape growing experience.
It wasn’t until I started to garden myself—a few pots of windowsill herbs at first, which led to a swimming pool-sized garden—that I began to appreciate both the joys and the sorrows of raising plants. My garden is, of course, nowhere near the size of a vineyard, even a small one, nor is my risk anywhere close to that of a winegrower’s. (If my crop fails, I head to the farmers market; I don’t lose an entire year’s livelihood.) But these days, when a vigneronne shares with me her vine-growing successes and failures, I have genuine understanding and solidarity for a fellow plant steward at the constant mercy of Mother Nature.
Gardening has deepened my appreciation of the wines I love by connecting me more intimately with those who grow them. And connection in these times of isolation is something I crave almost as much as a bountiful harvest.
Published on October 18, 2020