“All things in moderation, with a few glorious exceptions.”
– Robert Mondavi
During my summer sabbatical, I have been exploring the relationship between the creative arts and the soul’s search for God.
By “creative arts” I mean at least music, poetry, visual arts, architecture–the culinary and viticultural arts as well. Last week, Debbie and I traveled to Nappa Valley to take in the wonder and beauty of this small particle of God’s good creation and we were not disappointed. This world famous wine region is home to more than 250 wineries making it one of the most densely concentrated winery locations in the world. Today the Valley’s culinary reputation is also attracting visitors from around the world with cooking schools and exceptional restaurants – part of the reason more than 5 million people visit the Valley every year.
One of the immediate impressions that struck me from the beginning of our time in Napa, was the intentional integration of wine, food, and art at the wineries we visited.
The Robert Mondavi Winery proved to be a wonderful example of this integration. As soon as you approach the winery, you are confronted by the fascinating sculpture of St. Francis by Beniamino Bufano (a similar sculpture exists at the west entrance of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco). We also found exceptional art collections at the Hess and the Clos Pegase wineries. With so much to do and explore you could spend weeks in Napa and just scratch the surface. But even a scratch of Napa is like a foretaste of the great eschatological banquet–beautiful vistas, cabernets and chardonnays at the peak of their perfection, and culinary creations that cause you to break out your camera in astonishment before you take the first glorious bite.
It’s interesting to me that there are many references to wine in the Bible and that most of them are quite positive. I’ve heard the arguments that what Bible talks about is not really wine, but some form of grape juice. It makes you wonder if such folks have forgotten basic science. Grape juice, left for any amount of time in a non refrigerated space will automatically turn to wine. What the people of the Bible did not have was the technology to prevent grape juice from turning into wine. At any rate, what the Bible does proscribe is drunkenness and like anything we put into our bodies, moderation is an essential practice. Falling into a “chardonnay coma” is not exactly the way to savor and relax over a good meal with friends. The disease of alcoholism is rampant in our culture today and we need to be careful with our own vulnerabilities and those of others. The Psalmist captures a more appreciative way:
“You cause grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for people to use.
You allow them to produce food from the earth—
wine to make them glad,
olive oil to soothe their skin,
and bread to give them strength” (Psalm 104:14-15, NLT).
The integration of fine wine (in moderation), nutritional food, and the creative arts, provides an intentional way of helping us live more deeply into the goodness and wonder of being alive in God’s full world. Wise is the community of faith that incorporates them in distinctive and faithful ways offering “the gifts of God, for the people of God.”