When you visit a tasting room, they tell you that with each sip you are drinking "floral notes"—hints of peach maybe, or citrus—but you may be thinking to yourself, "Really? Tastes like wine." Time for an object lesson.
Kendall Jackson Winery in Sonoma was the first winery in the area to plant a "varietal garden" where visitors can walk around and taste the actual plants whose flavors a wine maker has teased out of different kinds of grapes.
Photographs by Marla Aufmuth for Gardenista.
Above: In the Sauvignon Blanc section of the garden, for instance, you'll find grapefruits, lemon balm, gooseberries, and figs. If you taste and smell them, later in the tasting room you might recognize the flavors in the wine.
Above: All of the winery's grapes, from Zinfandel to Sauvignon Blanc, have a section in the garden. In each of these, there are plantings of "Descriptors" or plants with scents that you might detect in the wine varietal.
Above: Wine grapes take on many flavors and scents, depending on the conditions and natural surroundings in which they were grown, the point in the season they were harvested, and the process used to make them into wine. You might smell lemon thyme in a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
Above: Many citrus plants including grapefruit, lemon, and lime are “Descriptors” for Sauvignon Blanc.
Above: You might also smell or taste a hint of fig.
Above: In the "Affinity" part of the garden edibles that might be used in a dish and paired with a particular varietal are grown. If you’re making a salad with pears, for instance, you might serve it with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
Above: While Kendall Jackson's varietal garden was the first, many more are being grown nowadays throughout Napa and Sonoma.