Food, Wine, Terroir, and Place

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Hello from the foothills in the Sierra Mountains,

After another quick trip to WI, I flew on to Somerset, CA, a small town at about 2,300 feet in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. I am back visiting my friend, and renaissance person, Marco, his wife, Belinda, and their two wonderful children. My first visit to this place was six and a half years ago. In fact, I often wrote in a previous blog (mysummerclasses.blogsome.com), which has been interesting to read lately, perhaps insightful too.

During the past week, I have employed my colleague, Mark’s advice: “be the plumber” . . .  and it has worked well. I have managed contractors, worked on the aesethetics of the Miraflores Vineyard and Tasting Room, and worked on my own course material for the fall. In the meanwhile, things for a search committee have begun and I have been managing correspondence from three time-zones away.

Being back has been both relaxing and productive. I have gotten significant work done on my fall classes and I have also gotten some thoughtful work done on some of my own writing. One of the articles over which I have been pondering and on which I have been writing is about the “sense of place”. It is something I have mulled over for some time (actually years). It is both a personal and professional thing. I am indebted to a colleague who shared a book with me titled Aesethetics of Everyday Life. It has helped me structure something I have struggled with for perhaps a decade. When I think about the complexity of place, or what gives someone a “sense of place”. Is it physicality? Is it experience? Is it smell or taste? It is the weather? Is it a length of time? What I believe is it is combination of all of these things, but together they create a sense of attachment, a sense of pathos. What is that attachment or emotional appeal? Is it memory, either good or bad?

As I have been working this past week in the Herbert Zinfandel blocks of the winery, I have listened to Marco speak about terroir, a concept I remember hearing regularly in Peter DeSouza’s Wine and Spirits class at UW-Stout. Terroir is a combination of a number of things: soil, elevation, wind, rain, sun, temperature, care, grape varietal, and the list could go on. One thing that some have begun to consider is the actual wine drinker him or herself. Is this moving into a post-modern concept of terroir? Perhaps . . .

The past two weeks I have had the amazing opportunity to attend a wine and food pairings luncheon. Those who know me, know I love these opportunities. I love good food and the experience of dining. Last week, it was Chef Dan Moore of the National Hotel in Jackson, CA. Today it was three phenomenally talented sommeliers who call themselves “Three CorkDorks”. An amazing Apple Tartin to accompany the Bottricelli wine. Then speaking about memory. I remember an amazing student who tragically passed away in a fire when I taught at Stout. I remember telling her I was a CorkDork. She laughed hysterically. Thinking of you, April. I so appreciated you. It is her picture that graces this post.

What I know is the 10 days here have created new memories strengthed old ones and helped me relax and prepare. I am indebted to so many for making my life better. It is a combination of food, wine, terroir, and place. The next week will be hectic and in barely a week, the fall semester will have begun. In the meanwhile, I will finish my glass of Bottricelli.

Thanks for reading,

Michael

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