Why Terroir Matters

Or something.

Or something.

What? you say. Terrier? No, terroir. And it isn’t a canine.

Let me explain.

In Sonoma County, where I am blessed to live, 60,000 acres of vineyards flow over hillsides and along valley floors, acre upon acre, in perfect symmetry.

For me they are a constant reminder of John 15: I am the true Vine. I understand this to mean that He is the rootstock.

There is mystery of Word and Spirit in plant and process.

And everything matters in the vineyard.

I think about this as I head out through the Dry Creek Valley. Now, in early February, the last leaves are falling from the vines and microscopic critters in the soil are consuming them away.

Pruned vineyard blocks stand bare and tidy and uniform.

Recently, a woman came into the winery where I work and, with a look of concern, said, “The vines look all dry and dead. Are they okay?”

Granted, unpruned blocks look like a host of crazy aunties with their thin, hair-like branches reaching wildly in all directions. Or, as writer David Darlington puts it: “like a collection of fright wigs.”

Are you okay?

Are you okay?

Dry Creek is one of 13 appellations in our county. These are smaller regions with their own – here we go – terroir (tare-wah), a nice French word for the combination of:

  • soil composition
  • day and night-time temperatures
  • amount of rainfall
  • angle of the sun

These characteristics are specific to each appellation.

Terroir is the sum total of natural influences brought to bear on a vineyard in its particular location. The farmer does everything in his power to cooperate with those influences. Why? Because those unique qualities are revealed first in the fruit, then in the glass.

Understanding this, I want to cooperate with God, here where I am planted:

(Oops. Left behind.)


  • submitting to pruning as the only way to maximize my potential
  • understanding that drought or flood or loss will ultimately make me stronger and more resilient
  • acknowledging that the soil and temperature and rain and sun are working together to make me both unique and useful

It might be hard to see in the stripped-bareness of winter as the vines go to sleep. But all things are working together for good.

The vines are okay.

Do you have a good understanding of where you are planted – and why?


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Erin Smith on February 7, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Oh boy, Debra… I do not have a good understanding of where I am planted and why. However, I am trusting the Lord to show me every next step of the way… Perhaps it is to learn to ABIDE… every breath, every moment ABIDE in Him. Thank you for always knowing of what we need reminded<3


  2. Posted by Donna Thomas on February 7, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Good morning Debra; great to hear you in your blog. I am amazed at where God has planted, transplanted and then grafted me. From original roots in Oregon, now and longer in Northern California, into a few different church families, and so on. I grow better in the varietal acceptance of California; it’s not so strict a growing climate as to be a negative influence on someone such as I who generally regards diversity as a plus!


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