I believe our roots make us who we are.
The roots I’m referring to are those sources of energy (known as our ancestors) who either remotely or intimately created us. These roots planted within each of us our personalities and our physical traits — traits such as our smiles, our anxieties, the size of our feet, our spiritualism, our sense of politeness and respect for others, to name a few.
The really interesting thing about these traits is that we can’t escape them and, an argument could be made that we shouldn’t escape them. They are who we are and to avoid them might be called being unfaithful to our sources of energy.
For those of us who grew up on the prairie, the wide open expanse of the area influenced us in many ways — from a tendency to feel isolated at times, to being weather watchers and to having the ability to stand on a prairie hill and let the wind blow ideas around us, again, to name a few.
One prairie item none of us could escape from was its soil and we learned how precious it was and to not take it for granted nor pollute it. The black soil was not to be disregarded nor disrespected. Many of us have generations of family bloodlines deeply embedded in the soil. We belong to it and it to us.
I was raised on a work filled 240-acre farm in Lincoln County. The farm’s soil was mostly rich and black but we had acres of gravelly, rock infested soil and you could tell where the harvest came from because the soil imparted its personality to the crop. Good land equaled good crops; gravelly soil meant not so good crops. But, that’s not all the soil did.
Our personalities reflected the land. We worked hard, grew strong with a sense of place — just as the crops reflected their sense of place. As their roots went deep into the farm’s soil, so did ours.
All around the world, soils tell us stories. They tell us how they were formed, what can grow from them and they provides us with a picture into the history of the place. How do they do that?
For anyone who’s gotten their fingers dirty from working in soil, you know it’s alive. There are things that can be seen (worms and bugs) and there are things that can’t be seen (microorganisms and nutrients). And when something is planted into a soil, the resulting crop tells us the story of that soil.
The French call it terrior and when grape vines are planted in any region around the world, a story is told. The vines grab onto the soil, dig deeply into it, ask it for food and the result is something that has been called many names by poets and writers but we know it as wine. And, that wine tells us the story of where its grapes were grown.
For instance, Schmitt Söhne Relax Riesling comes from the Mosel wine region in Germany. The region is defined by the Mosel River — a beautiful winding river that flows between steep slate covered hillsides. Standing by the river and looking up to the vineyards, you’d never think it would be possible to grow anything on such a steep hillside. Yet, the Riesling vines love the area and have enjoyed living there for centuries. Relax shows us this land — its taste is filled with minerality, its quite acidic with a nice sweet finish.
The taste of Relax reflects the slate soil of the area and for me, whenever I drink the wine, I can see the river and its hillside vineyards. The soil and its crop tells us the story of the Mosel River valley.
Going to South America, we can visit Deseño Vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina and sample a glass of its Old Vine Malbec. The area is watered by the snow melt of the Andes Mountains and the soil is a rich mix of minerals. The vines originally came from France over 100 years ago and they thrive in the mineral rich and cool climate of Mendoza.
Like the area in which the grapes are grown, the Malbec is full bodied, rich and very flavorful. It’s impossible to get a quiet wine from such a climate and this wine will not let you forget that fact. It’s an amazingly reasonably priced Malbec and it’s a pleasure to sip and think of the area and soil from which it sprang.
Another wine that tells where it comes from is Skeleton Grüner Veltliner from Burgenland, Austria. Again, it tells us something about its source — the temperate climate and hilly mineral rich soil of eastern Austria — with its tartness and extremely noticeable citrus flavors. This is a favorite of mine.
A final wine to consider is Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Gewürztraminer from Washington’s Columbia Valley. This wine is sweet and tells us the story of the beautiful river valley in that state –wine and land formed by glaciers, wind and rain. It’s a sweet story and you’ll like this spectacular wine.
Everyone of these noted wines exist because of the roots their vines put down in the various regions of the world. Every wine tells the story of its source — just like each of tells the story of our source.
Next week, come on spring!
As always, eat and drink in moderation but laugh with reckless abandon!