Mail Call Means Wine

Mail-call, stateside and abroad, is among the sweetest moments in the life of a United States Marine. 

My parents were incredible at sending packages from home exactly when I needed them.  When the mess hall would become painfully monotonous, a package filled with gourmet foods would arrive from my mother and encourage me to cook in the barracks.  Packages from my father were prophetic and marked times of strife and personal growth.  The contents of his packages were always the same, wine and long handwritten letters. 

Mid stride though my fifth and final year of service, I was stateside and unlikely to deploy again before being discharged. the tradition of sharing wine with my father while we spoke on the phone had long since been established.  Evenings were set aside to pull corks from bottles he sent me.  He would always hang on to a matching bottle; producer, style and vintage, so that we could experience the wine together, thousands of miles apart.

The bottles were predominantly from North Coast AVA’s, Russian River Valley, Healdsburg, the Santa Cruz Mountains, as well as the Napa Valley. The final package I received in the Fall of 2005 was unique; each bottle descended from Spain.

Pouring the first wine from the case, I asked my father to tell me something about the bottle. he challenged me to tell him something instead… we would occasionally talk about the sensory evaluation, but most of the time we’d talk about the producers story and how he found them.

Giving the glass four or five big swirls, I exhaled and brought the wine to my nose.  With my mouth slightly open I cognitively inhaled through my nose and had exceptionally vivid memories of the house I grew up in.  “It reminds me of the Big Old House” I told him.  He asked me to be more specific; I tasted the wine, let it cascade over my palate, swallowing deliberately and exhaled through my nose, then through my mouth.  Goose bumps covered my arms “it reminds me of the hot bricks on the patio, eating dinner in the late afternoon”. 

He explained to me the magic of wine; memories are most strongly associated with our sense of smell. Wine, in all of it’s complexity can conjure an array of memories and associations, some long since forgotten. The revelation threw jet fuel on my ever-growing passion for wine.


Sergeant Martell, united states marine corps

Active Duty March 2001 - 2006

Deployments Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Kuwait

Operations Cobra Gold, Cope Tiger, Foal Eagle, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom

Domestic Duty Stations

  • Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, CA
  • Naval Air Station Pensacola, FL
  • Naval Air Station Lemoore, CA
  • Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, SC
  • Parris Island, SC