A Sense of Place: Le Terroir

"I like to think about the life of wine.  How it's a living thing. I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained. I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes. And if it's an old wine, how many of them must be dead by now. I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I'd opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive. And it's constantly evolving and gaining complexity." -Maya in Sideways
In the cellars at Zaca Mesa winery
Le terroir is a most wonderful French concept.  Loosely translated, the term means "a sense of place," but in actuality, it is so much more.

Farmers throughout France understand implicitly that wine, coffee, fruits, vegetables, even cheeses, assume a taste which reflects their geography.  Grapes grown in Burgundy produce wines that evoke the soil and sun of that region.  Sheep grazing in the Loire Valley make chèvre which has delicate notes of the grass and rain there.  
One of my favorite spots in Santa Ynez, California
As a lover of food and a lover of France, this notion delights me.  When we eat, we travel and when we travel, we eat.  Good food, real food from the earth, sweetly summons its origins.  

My husband and I adore the Santa Ynez Valley of California, just north of Santa Barbara, for its terroir.  As we taste pinot noir and syrah and viogner throughout the valley, we truly do get a sense for the land.  After we return home and open one of our souvenir bottles, we are transported to cool, misty mornings and sun-drenched hillsides with ripe grapes on a vine.  The aroma and taste of the wine reminds us immediately of that place and that time.  

Every time you uncork a bottle of wine or brew a cup of coffee, allow your nose and palate to experience fully its provenance.  Really take time to savor and you'll be carried away. 


  1. Incidentally, Sideways is one of my FAV films, an homage to the Santa Ynez Valley and to California wines. An excellent "pairing" with this film is Bottle Rocket, also about California wines. Much to enjoy in both films in terms of storyline and le terroir.

  2. Just for the sheer fun of it, one night I watched Sideways in French -- on the select language option. Unbelievable, how French the film becomes! Miles is the consummate French wine snob. Love the pairing of the two men -- the wine snob and Haden Church, the bubble-gum-chewing-wine-swilling friend. When Miles goes into rhapsody over Pinot Noir and the difficulty in producing this wine, its subtlety and so on, he is, of course, talking about himself. Love this romp through the Santa Ynez valley.


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