North Okanagan Terroir

It puzzled me for a long time, what terroir means in the minds of winemakers in the Okanagan. After all, they say it means the expression of the land and its aspect through the wine, and then they go and sculpt the land with bulldozers, changing soil profiles and aspect 100%, and then manipulating the flavours in the wine room.

Fun, or What

Look how the hills are scraped bare of soil, so it can be built up below.What a drag that it’s eroding now. A farmer’s life is always beset with challenges! This is rural life reimagined through an urban lens. A cul-de-sac for grapes! (A lot of this gravel and muck wound up around houses downslope. Oops.)

But then I realized that they’re telling the truth. Settled land in a settler state is transformed land. Before Mr. Frind had his crew turn an old ranch and gold mine site (with many pits) above Okanagan Lake into this continued problem of water erosion, this was just, you know, sagebrush. To me, it was Indigenous land, but that’s not the story of the settler state. The secret to that is understanding is that now it is vineyard land, and the day that the drainage problems (created by the sculpting) are solved is Day Zero in history. It’s like May 9, 1945, all over again. You just have to hire a lot of dump truck and bulldozer operators beforehand, that’s all. Really, it’s like playing God. You fuss around in the back room, then stick Adam and Eve into your mud pie, breathe life into them, and then see what they make of it. The result is perfect for our age: artifice begetting artifice, sold by advertising to people looking for the artifice that was 19th century France. In the old, you know, medieval, concept of terroir, say, the grapes would be planted to take advantage of the natural rises, slopes and dips in the land. There’d be art in that. This, however, is Day 1, the 21st century, so bull-dozing work it is. There just, simply, is no time to waste before paradise is here.

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