Confused about all those complex descriptors that wine geeks toss around? Can’t tell the difference between lime blossom and gunflint, cassis and summer truffle?
Pay a visit to a wine sensory garden during your next trip to California. The theory is to recreate the aromas found in wine and connect them to the actual fruits and vegetables they come from. The largest one is located at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Center in Sonoma, which is laid out in four quadrants. In the Cabernet/Merlot section, for example, there’s black cherry and black currant along with oregano and bell pepper.
“We call this our scratch-and-sniff garden,” says Matthew Lowe, one of the Kendall-Jackson chefs who has helped tend the plot for the past decade.
The idea, obviously, is to demystify wine and create a stronger linkage between the scents found in the glass and those that occur in nature. Visitors can venture into the Pinot Noir section and pick a strawberry or blackberry to reinforce what they smell in the tasting room. It only makes sense—grape growing is gardening, after all, but it’s sometimes easy for neophytes to lose the connection between the two.
Jeff Dawson, who helped start the Kendall-Jackson gardens, has moved on to Round Pond winery in Napa, where he has planted sensory gardens devoted to Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, the winery’s two specialties. The Sauvignon Blanc section contains fruits commonly used to describe the aromas of the variety, such as grapefruit, lemon, lime, nectarine and melon. Dawson says that he was inspired by the Aroma Wheel devised by UC Davis Professor Ann Noble, but there are significant differences between his project and hers. While the Aroma Wheel sought to categorize wine scents into twelve rigid categories, the sensory wine garden helps connect the taster with aromas actually found in real life.
Even better, it can be recreated at home, whether you’re a Sunday gardener or a daily wine drinker.