Wine Poetry: Terroir by Phil Coturri
Terroir is an Expression of Place
an expression of place
enhanced by organic practices
soil enlivened from extensive cover crops
breathe flavor and intensity into fruit.
vineyards surrounded by gardens
the complexity of arugula,
to the bane of the farmer,
lending to exactness of flavors.
the expression of the views
the owl sees
in the morning light as it perches
in an olive tree.
explosion of flavor with each sip of wine
that defines its origin.
chickens the bane of the farmer
let loose in the vineyard hopping up
to steal a sugar-laden berry.
life in the soils
life in the flavors
of Stone Edge Farm.
the expression of the roots
embracing the alluvial stones
bringing minerality to the wine.
the cool bay breeze in the evening
after ninety-degree days
that brews the development of ripe flavors.
the flavor of soils defined by respect
not by abuse.
flowers blooming year round
inviting bees and beneficial insects.
Terroir is controlled or enhanced by humans,
we don’t control it
we guide it
to an expression of flavor.
the decisions we make
daily in the vineyard
how we prune
how we train
how we thin the crop so each cluster hangs with integrity
ripening in dappled sunlight.
the decision to harvest
send them to the winery.
let the alchemy begin.
Reprinted with permission from “Stone Edge Farm Cookbook”
In 2014, something happened in Chicago at the IACP 2014 conference that set tradition on edge: a self-published cookbook won the cookbook of the year award. The author, a lanky man with salt and pepper hair and the widest grin you can possibly imagine set his mast toward the front of the room and sailed on, surprised! So full of glee! John McReynolds, the culinary director for Stone Edge Farm accepted the award on behalf of the Sonoma winery and ever so briefly mentioned the journey that brought them to self-publish their stunning coffee table cookbook full of photos and recipes that might just make you want to head to Sonoma for a long weekend. I caught up with him between sessions, curious to hear more, especially after I found this beauty of a poem written by Phil Coturri, the viticulturist at Stone Edge Farm (and a bit of a legend in Sonoma County for his dedication to organic farming) printed in the cookbook. Seeing poetry incorporated into cookbooks is something that makes me endlessly happy and hopeful that more opportunities might arise for culinary and literary cross-pollination.
In “Terroir,” like the grapevines flanking the sides of highway 101 in Sonoma, I appreciate Coturri’s use of concrete poetry, letting the form guide the eye as it curls toward a long line or dips into an abbreviated one, all shoots and tendrils. Terroir reverberates throughout the poem almost as a mantra as if saying it often reminds the reader and writer that “we don’t control it / we guide it / to an expression of flavor.” When talking to people about tea and notably, terroir, often it is described akin to wine. The place, climate, and condition of the soil all seeps into the final cup, showing how terroir extends beyond the vine. What this bit of wine poetry does well is instruct the reader into the nuances that make up terroir as if we too might join Coturri on a hot Sonoma afternoon in October during crush, as if our eyes might alight upon the grapevines differently. With responsibility. As if they are a gift to be nurtured. As if the domain of terroir expands beyond the vineyard into our own lives, asking where does the alchemy need to begin?