The Dirt on Terroir
In the San Francisco Chronicle today I was reading about the trio of gentleman who have started “Terroir”, a wine bar and wine shop in a warehouse on Folsom Street in San Francisco. “Terroir” is focused on “Natural wines” that are described by writer Wolfgang Weber as “a sort of catchall term for organic, biodynamic and minimal intervention” wines.
You have to love a trio of guys like this, with so much passion for wine that they’d invest in opening a bar and shop that reflected that passion for “natural wines”.
However…(sorry boys), I think it a little unfortunate that in the course of positioning their new venture they denigrate American wines so forthrightly:
“Q. You don’t carry much domestic wine. Why?
Gerard: There’s just not such history in the States yet. I mean, yea, we feel overwhelmed by the commercialization of California wine, but it takes time, it’s a cultural thing to have wine be such a part of life, to spend centuries working a piece of ground. There hasn’t been the evolution,’
Ertoran: On top of expressing terror, our palate is not geared toward domestic wines.”
Take time for what? Is it really necessary to “spend centuries working a piece of ground” to make a “natural wine” or to produce a collection of wines from, say, California, that are clearly every bit as good as the “natural” wines that come out of France? Please! There are hundreds of wines in California alone that are produced with organic grapes, that are certified organic, that are made in a biodynamic fashion and that are produced with minimal intervention. But more importantly, these wines are every bit as good as the French and European wines in every respect.
I tire of this old refrain that “America must put a few centuries under its belt before it can claim parity of seriousness that the French and European producers naturally have.” It’s an absurd claim that derives from nothing more than fear and a well developed sense of marketing and brand positioning.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not as though the partners at the new “Terroir” are the first to make this kind of dismissive claim about American wines. There is a long tradition of it.
The fact is, it’s a cultural thing to be willing to open your eyes and make the wines of the New World a part of your life; to spend time gearing one’s palate toward an appreciation of all wines. There hasn’t been an evolution among Old Worlders toward this reality.
I sure am looking forward to visiting Terroir. It seem like a very cool place to hang out, browse, sip and talk. But I think I might bring a bottle of Bucklin Old Hill Ranch Zinfnadel with me under my coat and slip it across the counter for Gerard to try. Maybe I’ll bring him some Quivera wines. It would be nice to introduce him to the various vintages that Randall Grahm has produced too.