72: Strawberry Wine

72: Strawberry Wine

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

Strawberry Wine

Story by Matraca Berg

Song written by Matraca Berg and Gary Harrison

Recorded by Deana Carter

This song came from spending summers at my grandpa’s farm in Wisconsin. I have an aunt that is close to my age in Wisconsin and we used to hang out together. That’s where I met this fellow. I didn’t actually meet him on my grandma’s farm, but it sounded good in the song.

This is a song about first love. There is something about the summertime and being away from home in a completely foreign environment, which it was. It was very rural there. There is something so innocent about the way people pass their time there. There was a place called the Gravel Pit where all the kids used to hang out because there were no movie theaters. There was nothing to do. We used to sneak out through the cornfields to get to his car if we wanted to go out, and then we would go to the Gravel Pit.

Everything else in the song was completely true. We actually drank Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill wine. It was awful. The farm was sold as my grandparents got older. Their kids didn’t really want to farm. It’s just too hard to make a living farming these days.

It was really sad because I felt like I couldn’t go back there and revisit any of those memories. That was what the song was about. There is an innocence lost when you are a young girl and fall in love for the first time, but there is also an innocence lost about a way of life that will never be again, at least in our family. Everybody went off to college and that was that. I think I was longing for that farm and those times as much as I was lost love.

When the song became a hit, it was a pretty big deal in Luck, Wisconsin, to have a hit song about the area. My aunt still lives there, but she is a nurse, not a farmer. She actually built a house on some of my grandfather’s hunting property. The boy moved away, but I think his parents still live there.

My publishing company had a little guitar pull and invited record labels and producers and artists to come and listen to our new songs. There were Kim Carnes, Jim Photoglo, Tim Mensy, and me and some other writers. We set up a tent and Deana Carter was the only artist who showed up, so she heard the song first. She had already made her first record and kept this song in the back of her mind. It made the rounds to several other female artists and they all passed, including Trisha Yearwood and Pam Tillis. It just wasn’t right for them, so it was still waiting for her when it came time to do her second album. It was CMA Song of the Year in 1997 and nominated for a Grammy.

Strawberry Wine

He was working through college on my grandpa’s farm.

I was thirsting for knowledge and he had a car.

I was caught somewhere between a woman and a child.

One restless summer we found love growin’ wild.

On the banks of the river on a well-beaten path.

It’s funny how those memories they last.

Like strawberry wine, seventeen.

The hot July moon saw everything.

My first taste of love, oh bittersweet.

Green on the vine.

Like strawberry wine.

I still remember when thirty was old.

And my biggest fear was September when he had to go.

A few cards and letters and one long distance call.

We drifted away like the leaves in the fall.

But year after year I come back to this place.

Just to remember the taste.

Of strawberry wine, seventeen.

The hot July moon saw everything.

My first taste of love oh bittersweet.

Green on the vine.

Like strawberry wine.

The fields have grown over now.

Years since they’ve seen the plow.

There’s nothing time hasn’t touched.

Is it really him or the loss of my innocence

I’ve been missing so much?

Yeah. . .

Like strawberry wine and seventeen.

The hot July moon saw everything.

My first taste of love oh bittersweet.

Green on the vine.

Like strawberry wine.

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