Wine and the Mind

I have an acute sense of smell.  My nose sometimes makes me feel like I’m going crazy.  When I walk into a kitchen and smell something – like burnt almonds or Clorox – and no one else knows what I’m talking about,  it’s a little isolating.

It can also be emotional.  If I walk into that same kitchen and smell bacon cooking, I’m immediately six years old having a sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa’s house again, anxiously awaiting a “hole in the middle” French toast breakfast.  It’s like a time portal.  Even if the room is silent but for the crackle and pop of bacon fat, I can hear the news on the radio and the sound of clanking pots just like I did every morning I spent at their house.

I think that’s why I love wine – half of the experience of wine drinking is sticking your nose in a wine glass and taking a prolonged sniff.  Wine drinking, like cooking and eating, is about more than the physical experience of consumption or production.

As I take a deep draw from a glass of Hawk Haven Pinot Grigio right now, it’s about more than the pineapple, pear, kiwi and walnut that I smell (yes, I smell walnut; can’t explain that one).  Instead I’m sitting at a table outside the vineyard tent with my friend Lizz on the day of the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon release event laughing about our friends at school.  I can feel the humidity on my skin again, and I’m suddenly convinced that instead of wearing this old white dress, I’m wrapped up in the same purple, pleated satin I wore that day.

Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon Release Event - August 15, 2009

Wine is more than a drink.  It’s more than a drug.  It’s a time-traveling potion – magic.

Of course magic is just science plus whimsy, so the American Psychological Association has a dry interpretation of this magical phenomenon:

“The connection between odor, memory and emotion has an anatomical basis. The primary olfactory cortex, which receives information about smells from nerves in the nose, links directly to the amygdala, which controls expression and experience of emotion, and the hippocampus, which controls the consolidation of memories.”

So, smells transport us; wine is an emotional elixir.  Hawk Haven wines are enjoyable on two levels.  When you drink them, you can taste the fruit of sandy soils and the hard work that went into producing them.  But you can also travel back to the beautiful 100+ acre farm, hear some folks laughing in the background at Sangria Sunday and music rippling through the summer air.

Signing off from Hawk Haven Vineyard and Winery in Cape May County, NJ – Cape May Wine Country ~ Cate Hylas

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