A Sense of Place

Posted on February 21, 2012


Oregon Dirt by Jim Prosser

I find my thoughts returning to Terry Thiese’ Reading Between the Wines on a regular basis. Today when I was attempting to find a passage that I wanted to reference, I found inspiration in another. One of the chapters that Thiese laid out in his treatise is entitled “The Three Humors.” Theise feels that there are three aspects of the wine experience that an authentic wine should be in possession of and to break them down to their simplest terms, these are the three “cruxes”: spatial, sensual, and spiritual. For the purposes of today’s post I would like to focus on the first aspect of the three.

Thiese also interchanges spatial with specificity and states, “Wine should express an emergence from its particular origin.” He does not use the term “terroir,” but to me this is what he is getting at; a wine should have a sense of place. I read about this long before I felt that I had truly experienced this with wine. My first taste of truly feeling that I had a sense of experiencing wines that tasted like where they were from that was not style driven, but dirt driven was in tasting the Pinot Noirs of Willamette Valley. Perhaps that is why I am so fond of them and really perk up when I smell or taste a wine that contains the returning thread.

I have experienced a bit of what I am describing in Washington wines, but have not had the opportunity to taste through very many to confirm what I think I have tasted. What I have tasted so far does cause me to want to explore further. Conversely, I have tried many wines that are from these regions I seek to know more about that have no sense of place. They do not taste like Oregon, or they do not taste like Washington. Recently I was treated to a wine that was highly touted by the gifters that had a high price tag. What intrigued me was that it was a Washington wine out of Walla Walla that I had never tried before and I wanted to see if I could detect the thread I thought I had detected in other Washington wines. I tasted the wine and my immediate reaction was that it wants to be a Napa Valley Cabernet. It was a perfect example of style driven wine that did not seem to embrace where it was from or have a sense of place.

Naknek River, Bristol Bay Water by Stan Shebs

Thiese shared something in his “Specificity” passage that really speaks to me as a Bristol Bay fisherwoman. He was a panelist at a sustainable-agriculture conference and cited a statement made by a Native American woman during a discussion about “spirit of place.” This is what she had to say, “The salmon do not only return to the stream to spawn, they also return to respond to the prayers and hopes of the people who love them.” There are many who love the salmon in Bristol Bay and rely on them for their livelihood, sustenance, and spirits. I am among them and can attest to not only the sense of place that the salmon possess, but the sense of place that they give to those who partake in their return.

To learn more about Bristol Bay and the peril that the salmon face in future returns to their rivers of origin visit: www.savebristolbay.org and www.ourbristolbay.org


Posted in: Salmon, Wine