Even the simplest wine contains hundreds of aroma compounds. More are
present in red wines than in white and certain compounds are more dominant in some grape varieties than others, but, taken as a whole, we recognize them as the smell of wine.
Psychology tells us that when you’ve become familiar with a particular
scent, you’re apt to enjoy it even more. Vanilla is a perfect example of a familiar aroma most never tire of, but context plays an important role in the amount of pleasure we derive from our sense of smell.
The odor of wet dog isn’t exactly something we want to detect in wine, but
experiencing this scent after a communal hike at Kunde Family Winery in Sonoma Valley could actually prove enjoyable. This “moderately strenuous” walk traverses Kunde’s 1,850-acre estate through vineyard rows, oak woodlands, native grasslands, and chaparral that stretch from the valley floor up into the Mayacamas Mountains. The morning wraps up with a much-deserved al fresco tasting and lunch, with Kunde donating a portion of the proceeds to the Dogwood Animal Rescue Project and Humane Society of Sonoma County.
During a visit to the tasting room at Imagery Estate Winery, located just outside the hamlet of Glen Ellen in the heart of Sonoma Valley, visitors can taste an unusual flight of small-production Biodynamic wines.
A few times a month, Imagery also offers outdoor yoga classes—and what
better place to practice yoga than a pristine, Demeter-certified Biodynamic vineyard?After an hour-long vinyasa sequence that instructor Jes Williams says will help build confidence and leave participants present and centered for the rest of the day, visitors can savor a pour of Sauvignon Blanc on the walk back to the tasting room. With their senses heightened, they’ll find the wine will very likely taste more like the grass and fresh air with a hint of saltiness, creating an invigorating experience that’s somewhat uncommon in the world of wine tasting.
Meanwhile, at fellow Sonoma winery Donum, large-scale sculptures have
replaced the dairy cows that once dotted the gentle swales of this Carneros estate vineyard. On a warm summer day, this 200-acre property smells more like lavender than fertilizer. Strolling through the 150-year-old olive trees, gardens, and vineyards to view 40 works by a who’s who of contemporary artists would certainly seem like a distraction from the estate Pinot Noir, but for Danish collector and vintner Allan Warburg, Donum’s majority owner, the experience of combining wine, nature, and art is “far more powerful than if you enjoyed them separately.”
The rise of this philosophy indicates that the days of confining wine tastings solely to a tasting room or terrace are long gone. Experiencing wine in a different context is something we may have to become familiar with to fully enjoy. According to the phenomenon in psychology known as mere exposure, we grow to like the familiar. If the approach this trio of wineries is taking is any indication, tapping into activities like hiking, al fresco yoga, and tours of a world-class sculpture garden are making this shift possible.