About Dirt: The Vineyard Soil Expedition

and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Ecclesiastes 12:7

Been thinking a lot about dirt lately.  Recently married a farmer in Trinidad.  Started a garden on the terrace of my New York City apartment.  Thank goodness my dad is here, because I’ve never had much of a green thumb.  He’s showing me now how to really get the tomatoes, green peppers and herbs to flourish.  My terrace garden last year paled in comparison.  Having said that, last year, we had something that this year we have yet to establish: worms.

Classic Siam Basil, pointy leaf Sweet Basil and the pretty purple Osmin Basil.

Classic Siam Basil, pointy leaf Sweet Basil and the pretty purple Osmin Basil.

Last year, I helped my daughter (then 5 years old) do a science project about worms.  At our local farmer’s market, we talked to a woman who spent her time there educating shoppers about how worms make humus from food scraps.  She was even collecting compost for use in NYC Parks.  I had always known that food scraps were worth more than we thought!  My rationale was that I paid by weight for the food, and yet had to peel and cut away inedible pieces that I had paid for to discard.  So I started collecting food scraps many years earlier, using onion and garlic skins, carrot ends, and other bits that we wouldn’t eat but were clean enough for us to boil at some point to make stock along with the carcasses of whole chickens and fish heads and spines I had butchered in previous weeks.  This kind of food currency is safeguarded in my freezer for use.  Other scraps, like egg shells, banana and citrus peels and the like, went into a pot on my terrace for compost.  Then when we decided on the princess’ science project, we dug up worms in a nearby park and brought them home to feast on what we had collected.

I recently watched a documentary about dirt and now I have a bunch of questions.  In the documentary, Gary Vaynerchuck (of Wine Library TV fame) mused about vineyard soil standing next to a vine with a glass in one hand and dirt in the palm of the other.  He licked the dirt!  It was pretty awesome!  At the beginning of the documentary, the narrator quipped that children don’t go outside to play in the “soil”, they go play in the “dirt”.  I remember playing in the dirt.  I loved the dirt!  Then, later on in the film, an inmate at Riker’s Island who was participating in a program planting gardens said a phrase that conjured up so many memories from my Brooklyn childhood: GOD MADE DIRT AND DIRT DON’T HURT!  We kids would say that phrase if a piece of candy fell on the ground.  We would pick it up and say that and then we would eat it anyway.  And you know what?  The dirt didn’t hurt!!!

In my journey deep into wine academia, we were always taught that Vitis Vinifera (the wine grape species) vines flourish in poor soils.  In contrast, learning about organic and biodynamic farming has taught me that soil must be rich to sustain life.  Dirt is alive.  Dirt is life!  I need answers!

At a recent wine tasting, pictures of vineyard soil adorn the Dönnhoff table

At a recent wine tasting, pictures of vineyard soil adorn the Dönnhoff table

So I’ve decided to embark on a vineyard soil expedition.  I’m going to start locally and I’m going to wineries that farm organically and, if possible, biodynamically.  I have gardening gloves, but I’m going to take them off to touch the soil if they’ll let me.   Follow me, watch the journey unfold.  #wineLIFEExoterica #VineyardSoil #Wine


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