Lock, stock and barrels

Customs official: Anything to declare?
Avi: Yeah. Don’t go to England.

I’m lucky not only to live in the area with a great climate but to live really close to two wine regions in California – Sonoma and Napa. Being wine enthusiasts, my vSO and I belong to several wine clubs in Sonoma and three-four times a year we take short trips there “to pick-up our shipment”. Of course, we could use a mail delivery option since if to add up the cost of gas, hotel and meals for those trips there will be no savings whatsoever – quite the opposite. So we use that reason just as a pretext to go away from a daily life for a couple of days.

Napa, CANormally during Sonoma trips we would go to one-two new (for us) wineries, visit two-three places we liked and wanted to see which new wines they’d released and also stop by those wineries where we had a pick-up. This time we decided to stir thing up and go to Napa.

We’ve been to Napa before many years ago and had some warm memories about that visit so the idea was to just spend some time there, do some tasting and go to those places we liked from the previous time.


There are not too many nice hotels to stay in Napa area so I was very proud of myself when I managed to score a “four star” Silverado Resort through priceline.com for $120/night. Plus tax. Plus, as I found out the day we checked out, a $20/day “resort fee” and $2/day “occupancy tax”. Whatever. On the plus side, they had very nice bath robes – not that I needed it since I always bring something to wear in the room, but it was nice. On the minus side, even though the room was clean the carpet was way beyond its natural life span and the fact that we could get some sleep should be attributed entirely to the nice weather (have I mentioned how lucky we are with our climate?): had it been a little warmer or colder, the sound from the cooling/heating unit strategically placed almost above the bed wouldn’t have allowed us any night rest… Well, after some thinking I have to take that “strategically” back: our neighbors’ AC, for all ten minutes they thought it was hot enough to turn it on, produced the noise that wasn’t much less irritating than the unit over our heads did.

Tasting Rooms

St. Clement wineI still remember those times when tasting was free at most places. I didn’t like it because every time I felt obligated to buy something after a nice person poured me some wines and entertained me for ten minutes throwing in appellations, terroir and other very important words. I always felt I’d preferred to pay for trying those wines and then decide if to buy anything on its own merit. Should I have been more careful with my wishes?

We deliberately chose several well-known wine producers and decided to try their reserve/exclusive/etc. lines. We knew about $20-$35 tasting fees non-refundable with purchase and we were fine with that. What we weren’t prepared to was a complete lack of attention and service that you get (should I say “didn’t get”?) for that fee. I can’t believe people who work at Silver Oak’s or BV Private Reserve’s tasting rooms really think that anybody drives all the way out there to drink 3-4 ounces of wine in silence. I could have stayed in the hotel gone to a bar and had a better drink for cheaper (I refer to the process, experience and not the quality since everywhere we went wine itself was very good. Overpriced but good).

Sequoia Grove winery testing roomI want to mention two places that stood out in the positive way: St. Clement Vineyards and Sequoia Grove winery (see picture on the right). At both places stuff was knowledgeable and friendly.


Since this visit wasn’t connected to any events or celebrations we decided not to spend time researching restaurants and both evenings in Napa we just walked in the downtown from one menu to another until we found something we wanted to eat. We enjoyed eating at both places we chose, so I want to mention their names – Zuzu Tapas & Paella and Angèle Restaurant.


As much as I love our trips to the wine country I always struggle with the self-imposed limitations on wearing perfumes to wine tasting. This time I realized the vacation wouldn’t be as enjoyable as it could without perfumes. I decided to find perfumes that wouldn’t interfere too much with wines. The idea was to use perfumes that were as far from the wine smell’s components as possible. I chose La Tulipe by Byredo and Eau du Soir by Sisley.Both scents worked perfectly for the occasion. One night to the restaurant I was wearing Chanel No. 19. This one works for me always.

During our walks in Napa we stopped at the Baker Street Downtown“Tobacconist and Lifestyle store for Discerning Men and Women”. I didn’t realize it was a tobacco store until we were inside and I was about to leave when I spotted some perfume bottles. This store carries perfumes by Lubin. I sniffed them from bottles and then went there the next evening and tried two – Gin Fizz and Idole. Gin Fizz was exactly like I imagined it would be – sparkling, citrusy, uncomplicated. It wasn’t interesting enough for me to pursue it in future even to try again. With Idole it was a different story. I liked it from the first wear. It was woodsy, smoky and spicy. I will try to get a sample to test it more.

On our way back we stopped at the Mill Valey’s shopping center to visit Nicole Grey & Co. gift store. I found it during one of the previous trips. It carries several rare perfume brands: Boadicea the Victorious, Carthusia, Juliette Has A Gun, Profumi del Forte and some others. After a couple of rounds of sniffing from bottles I moved to blotters and then by the elimination process chose four contenders to go on my skin. By the time I arrived home I had a winner: I will be seeking By Night, White by Profumi del Forte for the further testing. I liked it through all the stages – from the top notes to the drydown.

Do I have anything to declare? Yes! Don’t go to Napa. Sonoma is a much friendlier and more enjoyable place.

What is your drink of choice? Does it go with your perfumes?

As always, feel free to post a link to your blog’s post(s) related to the topic.

Images: my own


15 thoughts on “Lock, stock and barrels

  1. Great post Undina, this is the second time of late I feel you have somehow tapped into my psyche. I went looking for those ammo cases yesterday. About one hour ago I was thinking about the wine/perfume connection.. I was drinking a Nepenthe Sauvignon Blanc from the Adelaide Hills recently and the first mouthful was pure passionfruit. Since I have started sampling perfume and looking for the nuances, my palette has improved out of sight. I live on the doorstep of the Barossa Valley and my boss owns a winery there that I visit regularly. Also not too far from McLaren Vale another great South Australian Wine Region. When in CA Sonoma it is :) I will have to think about wine/perfume matching..


    • If I ever visit Australia I’ll try to include some wine testing into the trip.
      I started doing slightly more serious wine testing several years before I learned the meaning of a term “niche perfume”, so I cannot attribute the change in my wine perception to my new hobby. Maybe it was the other way around?


  2. This sounds like such a fun trip! For some reason, I have done very little tasting in Napa or Sonoma (normally go to Russian River, Alexander Valley, etc.), but I have been thinking of organizing something. I will take your advice and go to Sonoma. :) As far as perfumes when wine tasting (or even for a nice dinner), the only thing I normally try to avoid is the very green perfume, since those can sometimes affect my sense of taste.


    • I plan to do a positive post on Sonoma trips: I think there are very nice places that deserve being mentioned. But if you decide to take a trip before that, please ask me – I’ll send you some names and places to check out.


  3. Sounds like you live in a wonderful part of the world. That was a good idea to choose perfumes very un-wine like rather than something to complement as would have been my first thought. Too bad you didn’t think much of Gin Fizz. I am looking for a gin perfume though so I will still add it to my very short list of Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling and Frapin’s L’Humaniste as possibilities to check out. I don’t drink alcohol but love it in perfume. Although not for me, I think Idole de Lubin is stunning, I’m glad you like it.


    • I like the smell of gin (and I like drinking gin & tonic) but Jin Fizz didn’t smell of gin to me at all. It might be just my nose so give it a try.

      I thought first of complementing wine with a perfume but then figured out that if I choose something that cannot be a part of any wine’s bouquet I won’t risk confusing myself with which notes came from the perfume and which from the wine.


  4. I loved hearing about your wine-tasting trip, Undina. It brought back memories for me because, in my early years after college, I lived in upstate New York and a couple times went wine tasting in the Finger Lakes region. In the fall, there were always roadside stands selling grapes, too.

    Though I enjoy wine, I’m not a connoisseur, and I must admit that I like beer more. There are so many great microbreweries producing all kinds of wonderful beers now; I try a different one each time I go to a certain Japanese restaurant in our town that has an amazing bar. Of the more well-known beers, my favorite is Hoegaarden, a Belgian beer with a cardamom note. If I were to pare a perfume with it, I’d choose Frederic Malle Noir Epices.

    Okay, if I ever make it out to California for a wine tasting, it will be to Sonoma, based on your advice. :)


    • With wine it’s exactly like with perfumes: the more you’re exposed to a “good stuff” the more nuances you notice. And it’s really hard to go back to the “mainstream”. But still it doesn’t make you an expert – you just get a wider experience.

      I almost never drink beer but when friends try anything interesting and unusual I would take a sip.


  5. Thanks for a great post! I also enjoy wine tasting a lot, me and some friends meet up ever two weeks or so for tastings that we take turns organizing ourselves. This year we’ve been doing the different regions of Italy, but now we’re changing focus to Spain. I always go perfume free.

    @Tara, if you think “Gin and Tonic Cologne” sounds nice I can recommend trying Craft by Andrea Maack, I think LuckyScent has samples of it.


    • This trip was the first time I decided against “going commando” perfume-wise. I do not regret wearing perfume but I plan to be very careful in future not to overdo that.

      Regional tasting is an interesting idea. I’ll see if we can do something like that with our friends.


  6. Oh wow, I didn’t know that is where you lived! I was in the woods near Occidental last December, and that place on the coast where The Birds was filmed – bought a vintage sherry glass in the antiques shop as a souvenir of my visit. I will probably go there again to see my friends one day, and will give you a shout if so!


  7. I only live 15 minutes from Napa. Have you been to Sterling where you take the sky tram up to the winery? Yes I know sterling is a bit commercial but the panoramic views of wine country are beautiful! My other favorite places (which you’ve probably been) are Greystone Culinary Institute because I’m a foodie and love to watch the cooking demonstrations and Darioush Winery, the architecture outside and inside is based on ancient Persepolis. I don’t know about the staff there b/c I only went there to see the architecture. It looked like they catered to a well-to-do crowd.


  8. Pingback: A Week of Mainstream Perfumes – Undina's Looking Glass

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