On Cloud Nine

It’s my blog’s ninth anniversary. As always, let’s do some stories and some perfumes (and probably some cat’s pictures).

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I’m not a big drinker. My conundrum is: while I love the “taste” component of drinking, I do not enjoy being inebriated. Probably, it’s a control issue. But whatever the reason be, the fact is that I like drinking but hate feeling drunk. Despite all the cultural stereotypes, I do not ever drink vodka. Unless it’s a special occasion or a wine tasting trip, my usual drinking is limited to a glass of wine or a cocktail on the weekends.

Last year was very stressful at work (mostly due to the deadlines, not people-related, which is better, as far as work stresses go), so I found myself having a little wine (less than a glass) late in the evening 3-4 times a week. In this case, what I usually don’t like about alcohol would rather help me: I’d relax and fall asleep easier. But I knew that I didn’t really need those extra glass or two per week and could easily give them up.

That was before I got sick in December and had to take antibiotics that categorically couldn’t be combined with any alcohol (as in not just being less effective but being poisonous). So, I had to stop drinking. Period. I had a break between two courses around Christmas, so I had some wine for that celebration, but on the New Year Eve all I had was a sip of champagne at 12. That was my soberest New Year celebration in several decades! And it was hard: I wanted my glass of wine. Or two.

 

Barrels with wine

 

So, it’s fair to say that drinking was on my mind as I was thinking about the blog’s anniversary.

There are many beverages represented in perfumery, and I might do another post to cover some of them in future, but today I want to talk about what I missed the most in the last month – wine.

Sparkling wine/champagne/prosecco is usually associated with special events or leisure time. My favorite moment with this drink is the first couple of sips. So, when it’s just two of us, it feels almost wrong to open an expensive bottle: I rarely enjoy drinking more than a glass of champagne, and it doesn’t keep well. But when it comes to perfumes featuring this note, none of the two I want to mention will break the bank.

Antica Farmacista is a brand that is known for their ambient products – candles, diffusers and room sprays. From time to time they produce “Home and body” sprays that, as it’s clear from the name, can be used for either (last year I finally found an almost perfect Daphne scent done by the brand). Prosecco was their last year’s limited-edition scent. It’s light and sparkling, and it fits the name perfectly. While I still plan to finish the sample I’ve got, I think that as a diffuser or a candle scent or even as body products it should be even better. And they all are still available, so give it a sniff if you come across it.

Champagne de Bois from Sonoma Scent Studio was getting so much love when I was just starting the descend into the rabbit hole of niche perfumery. I stopped hearing (reading) much about it long before Laurie Erikson decided to move away from the business. And it’s a pity because it is a very good perfume, and I think that having a chance to try it, many more people would enjoy wearing it. My biggest complaint with many of SSS’s perfumes was… their concentration. In my opinion, the way they were created, they should have been used as extraits of the past – dabbed, not sprayed. And for spraying there should have been a much less concentrated version. Recently I was diluting some of the SSS’s perfumes with perfumer alcohol and using them like that. Champagne de Bois, in my opinion, is one of such perfumes. But otherwise, if dabbed or sprayed after being diluted, it is gorgeous. In my head I classified Champagne de Bois as a “winter champagne”: it’s sparkling and festive but not refreshing. I wonder if its formula stays the same under new ownership (I plan to check it out soon).

 

Sonoma Scent Studio Champagne de Bois

 

If you prefer something sweeter, may I interest you in Tokay wine?

Tom Ford Champaca Absolute is one of my favorite perfumes for the last 8 years. I’m not sure how Fragrantica comes up with their notes lists (and usually I do not question them), but Tokay (Tokajii) wine note isn’t in their pyramid, even though it was mentioned in the perfume’s description from the start, and TF’s website still lists it. Champaca Absolute is a big floral perfume that balances well between light and darkness. Similar to those versatile pieces in one’s wardrobe that can be dressed up or down, Champaca Absolute, applied with a lighter hand or sprayed with an abundance, would perfectly fit a business function or a big party. Exactly like Tokay wine would.

While I enjoy both champagne and white wine, having a choice between [expectedly] good white or good red wine, nine out of ten times I’d go for red (by the way, with [presumably] bad wines, I choose the opposite, because, as a rule, white cheap/bad wine is more drinkable than red one).

 

Les Liquides Imaginaires Bello Rabelo

 

Les Liquides Imaginaires was one of the brands that I’ve discovered on my own: before seeing and trying them for the first time at Barney’s, I’ve never read anything about their perfumes and had no expectations. Bello Rabelo was probably the most spontaneous purchases I’ve ever made. But I was in a good company (another perfumista who had left Perfume blogosphere since), I was buying this perfume rather for my vSO than myself (and he liked it, though he’s much less discriminatory against perfumes in general on account of allergy-induced stuffed nose), and I was “due” to buy something from the store (there are only that many times I feel comfortable trying perfumes/asking for samples without buying something when the store has the same SAs over years). Luckily, both my vSO and I still like it. Bello Rabelo is not phenomenal or groundbreaking, but I find it quite original – at least I don’t have anything like it in my collection. Different sources cite slightly different notes, but they all rotate around dried fruits, vanilla, benzoin and wood. I can equally imagine either a “red wine” (Fragrantica) or a “porto accord” (brand’s site) note in Bello Rabelo, and whatever it is, it smells good. And same as wine, it is quite gender neutral.

 

Rusty and Bello Rabelo

 

And now I’ll get a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and return to my cloud nine. It’s your turn.

Are you a wine drinker? What is your favorite wine? Do you have any of the favorite perfumes that either officially include champagne/wine/port/etc. or remind you of one of these drinks?

Also, if you’d like to be entered into a draw for a 5 ml decant of (one of your choice) Champagne de Bois (“new stock”), Champaca Absolute or Bello Rabelo, just state your choice in the comment. Otherwise, I’ll assume “DNEM.”

 

Images: my own

Perfumes, Wine and Ocean

This was planned for the previous week, but time just ran away from me. So, it’s a Second Sunday Samples post on the third Sunday of the month.

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As we were planning a short getaway with friends, I was facing the usual perfumista’s dilemma: which perfumes to bring. Not only we had really vague plans that included wine and cheese tasting (not at the same time), eating oysters and beach walks, but also those activities were spread in two distinct temperature-wise areas – wine country (+32C/90F) and oceanside (23C/73F). Since I wasn’t sure how long each part of the trip would take, I didn’t want to subject any of my favorite perfumes to hours in a hot car trunk, so I didn’t consider either full bottles or even travel ones. At the same time, as a rule, I do not wear perfumes from samples that I test – unless I’m trying to decide whether to buy more. So I took with me samples for perfumes that I’ve either already included into my collection or considered for that.

 

Perfume Samples

 

I ended up wearing just one of the perfumes featured in the picture above – Jo Malone English Pear & Freesia: it was wonderful on a hot day and somehow managed not to clash with aromas from wines that we tasted that day, even though theoretically I wouldn’t recommend this perfume for the activity. I did a mini-review for it almost seven years ago in my post In the Search for the Perfect Pear, and I still enjoy wearing it but I still haven’t bought a bottle because I haven’t finished the decant and several samples that I got. It is though one of my strong favorites from this brand, and just in case you missed it in the sea of Jo Malone’s releases I encourage you to try English Pear & Freesia. Unless they change it beyond recognition, I see a bottle in my future.

 

 

One more Jo Malone perfume – Wood Sage & Sea Salt – I brought with me because it seemed like a good fit to the aquatic part of our trip. Created by Christine Nagel in 2014, with a short list of notes – ambrette seeds, sea salt, sage, seaweed and grapefruit, it felt right in place during our walk on the beach and later for the oysters and champagne dinner at the house that we rented with our friends. Wood Sage & Sea Salt wears nicely both on the tropical beach and on a cool NorCal shore (but I’m glad that I do not smell seaweed in the composition: even though I do not mind smelling it from time to time in nature, I wouldn’t want to smell of it). Will I buy a bottle once I finish my decant? I’m not sure but I might.

 

 

The biggest surprise for me was Mito EdP by vero profumo: I have tried it soon after the release and even remember liking it, but somehow I didn’t go through with the thorough testing – and the sample just stayed in my library for the last several years. It felt right for the occasion, so I took it with me, wore it on a sunny warm day for another round of wine tasting – and loved-loved-loved it.

Most of my readers had probably tested Mito before (and some even reviewed it), so I won’t go through the complete list of notes. But I want to mention my most favorite moments in this perfume development: prominent citrus opening that manages not to take this perfume into the summery cologne territory, slightly bitter greenness of galbanum in development and sweet warmth of … I have no idea what produces that effect but I keep bringing my wrist to my nose trying to figure it out… I think my almost empty sample isn’t enough to finish my study of this beautiful perfume, so I’ll just have to do something about it – in the interest of science, you know.

 

Vero Profumo Mito

 

Images: my own

A Postcard from Undina: Sonoma – Love and Tears

Almost 10 years ago our friends took us to one of the wineries that they liked – Paradise Ridge. It was the last day of a beautiful 3-day Sonoma trip mid-December, right in between two big holidays with inevitable crowds, so we had most of the places to ourselves. It was a magic trip.

There are many good wineries in our region. Some of them look like a small castle or château. It wasn’t the case with Paradise Ridge: it looked quite ordinary from the outside.

 

Paradise Ridge Winery Tasting Room

 

If you expected that the next phrase would be about the great interiors, I tricked you: while it was very nice and perfectly suitable for their specialty – wine tasting and weddings, a large second floor banquet room, a ground floor tasting room and even a wooden deck with tables for picnic under a huge oak tree – weren’t the best part of this winery experience. But the view that opened from each of those areas was just breathtaking.

 

View from the Paradise Ridge Winery Tasting Room

 

That view alone would have been probably enough to visit that place from time to time, but they also produced wine that we liked very much. And about 8 years ago we became Paradise Ridge Wine Club members. Since I haven’t been to wine regions in any other country, I do not know how common are wine club memberships in countries where my readers live, so I’ll just quickly explain that in the U.S. it usually means that you “subscribe” to get a certain number of bottles during one year, and the winery sends you those bottles (of their choice but with 15-20% discount from their regular prices) 3-6 times a year. This is done either prepaid for that year or in installments when they ship (or, as we prefer to do, when we pick up our shipments). Small family owned wineries like Paradise Ridge rarely sell their wines to retail stores: they do not produce enough to benefit from volume sales. So wines that they produce are sold mostly to the club members and in their tasting rooms.

 

ParadizeWine haul from the Paradise Ridge Winery

 

Over years we went there dozens of times – just two of us, with local friends and with friends and relatives visiting from other states. We became… not friends but very good acquaintances with the wine maker and several people who worked at the Paradise Ridge winery. So we kept coming back for great wine, beautiful views and an improvised park with periodically changing strange metal sculptures – just a perfect setting to spend time walking and taking pictures in between visiting other wineries and doing more tasting. One of those sculptures became Paradise Ridge’s trademark (and I shared it with those who were here five years ago in one of my “postcard” posts).

 

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On October 9, when we heard about fires that broke out Sunday night in that region, my first thoughts went to Paradise Ridge and Sunce (our second most favorite winery). As always in such cases, at the same time there was too much and not enough information. I kept telling myself that what were the chances that the fire happens there? Moreover, Paradise Ridge was on the top of the hill, away from other houses and structures… Midday their Facebook page brought the news I feared: the winery completely burned down. I cried. It felt like a personal loss. Pictures below are from their Facebook page taken hours after the fire. You can see all the smoke in the air.

 

 

It was Monday last week. We didn’t know yet how bad the fire would get. Eleven days later, it’s about 80% contained. By estimate, so far it scorched more than 210,000 acres, burned 6,000 houses/buildings and killed at least 42 people, most of them elderly residents of the area who couldn’t evacuate in time – the fire moved extremely fast. 50 people are still considered missing, and about 20,000 people still didn’t return from the mandatory evacuation.

Official air quality in the area where I live (70 miles from the closest affected area) is back to green “Good” (from scary red “Unhealthy” last week) and it is “Moderate” in the area of fires. It a big catastrophe from which we will be recovering for months if not years to come.

When we hear or read about such events somewhere in the world, we sympathize and feel sad, on some level, but we do not feel it as acute as when it happens close to us or to somebody we actually know – and its normal, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to live and function in our age of communications, where every week brings bad news from somewhere, hopefully far-far away from us and people we love.

So while I predict bad fallout from this situation for the area and many-many people, I can’t help feeling relieved and rejoicing from (finally) good news: all people who I care about are fine: Paradise Ridge owner families are alive; Laurie Erikson (Sonoma Scent Studio) safely returned to her house and studio after a week of evacuation. And, according to the most recent reports, Paradise Ridge vineyard survived – so there will be crop next year.

 

SSS Samples

 

Drinking “boutique wines” is luxury (same as wearing perfumes), and we would have been fine with or without our favorite wines. But running wine business, same as producing artisan perfumes, is not a luxurious undertaking: it’s a lot of hard work and very low profitability (at least until a big brand comes and buys you out). So I’m happy not as much for the fact that we’ll get to enjoy Paradise Ridge wines or Sonoma Scent Studio perfumes but mostly that they will be able to keep creating them.

 

Rusty and Paradise Ridge Wines

 

As I’m finishing writing this post, it has started raining outside. It would have helped much more had it happened a week ago but I’m happy about this rain: it is time the Nature joined us in crying.

A Postcard from Undina: Dawes at Gundlach Bundschu Winery

Dawes at Gundlach Bundschu Winery

And now it seems like the unraveling has started too soon,
Now I’m sleeping in hallways and I’m drinking perfume
And I’m speaking to mirrors and I’m howling at moons
While the worse and the worse that it gets.

The only reason I’ve chosen that song and this quote, as it shouldn’t be hard to guess, was it mentioning perfume. Neither I share this song’s sentiment in my day-to-day life, nor it felt like that in the warmth of the October night on the winery courtyard while we were dancing to the music of Dawes and drinking… no, not perfume but a very nice Gundlach Bundschu Pinot Noir. We even got a couple of rain drops, which I tried to pitch to my vSO as a promise of an upcoming less dry winter – just to make him feel [even] better. I don’t think he bought it. But we both enjoyed the show and it was he who brought that perfume line to my attention (live rock performance isn’t the best way to listen to a song for the first time).

I like this acoustic performance of the song When My Time Comes much more – it’s more comprehensible.

Perfume for the night – Jo Malone Saffron. For an outdoor concert I could easily get away with a bolder choice but I had to be mindful of a friend who thinks she has issues with perfumes. So I dabbed just a little of it on my wrist. It was pleasant and didn’t clash with anything (or anybody). But I would definitely prefer it sprayed. With abandon.

Image: my own

Know-How: Perfumes for Wine Tasting

I’m lucky to live a car drive away from several great wine regions, which we enjoy visiting several times a year. Every time packing for the next trip I try to choose the right perfume(s) for the occasion.

Sonoma April 2014

So what perfume should you wear when going wine tasting? You shouldn’t.

That would have been one of the shortest posts I’ve ever published but I don’t plan stop there, I’ll elaborate.

If you are a normal regular person who can easily survive a day or two without wearing a perfume, you should definitely consider “going commando” (perfume-wise, of course) to wine tasting activities: wine aromas are very subtle and nuanced and can hardly compete with even the weakest perfume.

But if you’re a perfume addict like I am and staying off perfume completely feels like a cruel and unusual punishment, I’ll share with you a couple of ideas I came up with while thinking on that topic.

First of all, it’s important to choose the application spots strategically. I usually apply a couple of drops to the wrist of the non-dominant hand. This way I won’t inadvertently introduce the scent of my perfume to the wine I’m drinking but will be able to get a whiff of it any time I want. Based on the results for the question I posed in the post “Oh, TOES!! (for some people)” or Where to Apply Perfumes it will be a natural choice for at least 50% of my readers.

Rusty's Paw

Next – the choice of the perfume. While notes in perfumes are an abstract notion – they represent what a perfumer either actually put into it or wanted to recreate, wine notes are even more abstract. Since none of the ingredients are actually added to wines, all those “nuances of gooseberries”, “hint of apricots” and “touch of bell pepper aroma” are just a product of a complex interaction of soil minerals, grape varieties and barrel types.

The most common aromas I came across while reading wine descriptions were: grapefruit, cherry, apricot, cassis, raspberry, apple and blackberry. And it’s not even close to the extensive list of fruits, flowers and herbs that are used to describe wines! Also, as I learned from reading, oak barrels might add some vanilla, “baking spices” (very specific, right?) and coconut. Can I smell/taste them all? Maybe a hint of something. Sometimes. Maybe. Nevertheless, I tried to come up with perfumes that won’t clash with anything I might smell in wines.

Rusty and Flowering Tea

Tea notes – both black and green, including jasmine, should be fine: I don’t remember ever seeing any reference to tea when it came to wine. Aldehydes, amber, different types of woods (including agarwood), fig, saffron and leather should work as well. I’m not sure but I think some gourmands (those that are not vanilla heavy) would do. I’m not sure about flowers: I read about white flowers, violet, lavender and geranium as aromas associated with wines. A couple of months ago I would have said: “go with roses” but recently I came across wine from one of my favorite wineries SunceAleatico Dry that has a distinct rose note in it. Later I read that “Aleatico wines are characterized by the aroma of roses.

Wine Tasting at Sunce

Perfumes that I’ve successfully worn to wine tastings were L’Artisan Tea for Two, Serge Lutens Jeux de Peau, Jo Malone Earl Grey & Cucumber, Black Vetyver Café and Saffron, NVC Ashoka and Ormonde Jayne Woman.

Are you a wine drinker? What perfume(s) do you think go well with wines?

 

Images: my own

A Postcard from Undina: More Love From Sonoma

Cat & Dog Wine Tasting

The weekend was great: warm, sunny and just perfect for a quick visit to Sonoma. The hardest part was not to wear any perfume: I had a hankering for vanilla perfumes recently, which were completely inappropriate for a wine tasting. But now I’m back and waft happily Spiritueuse Double Vanille (I need to get a decant of it!). My internal batteries and our wine cabinet got recharged but I’m hopelessly behind my blogs reading. But if you’re reading this I want to let you know: I’ll get to all of your posts.

Have a productive and fragrant week!

 

Undina

 

Image: a picture I took at one of the wineries. I think this is her site though I couldn’t find this picture anywhere online.

A Postcard from Undina: From Sonoma with LOVE

From Sonoma With Love

This is a view from the deck of one of my favorite wineries –  Paradise Ridge . It’s a great place to visit: they offer wine tasting (we like their wines enough to join their wine club) as well as great place for picnics with breathtaking views and a periodically changing collection of sculptures on the grounds for you to see, touch, climb on and take pictures of (like the one – LOVE – above).

Undina

 

Image: my own

MUFЯAP! MUFЯAP!

A couple of days before the New Year we went on our last in 2011 trip to Sonoma. Unlike our November trip, this time everything was as expected: naked or covered with brittle brown leaves vines, ripen persimmons on bare branches and grey sky. And “sparrows are flying again.” Well, I’m not sure what kind of birds those were (dark smudges on the picture below aren’t image artifact or dirty lens – those are flocks of birds flying together) but it was a mesmerizing spectacle. Usually we see those synchronized swooping and turning of birds en masse from a moving car window but this time we were on solid ground and were able to take a lot of pictures.

Birds in Sonoma

Since this time there were three families in our party, instead of a hotel we rented a private house. A welcome letter sent to us several days before our arrival explained how to get there and contained some instructions including:

The key is located in the home on the small table to the left of the door as you enter. Yes, we do keep the doors unlocked sometimes up here.

“On the small table…” Yes, that was where we found it once we arrived. We went through the house to figure out what was where and all of us got a strange feeling: it looked inhabited, as if owners had just stepped away to get something to eat and could be back any minute. No, there was no warm kettle on a stove or smoking cigarette in an ashtray, but there were bottles with wine on the kitchen counter, cheese in the fridge and a motorcycle in the garage. I even went outside to check again the house number.

MufrapWe were in the right house – a nice one, I should add, with spectacular views from windows, two fireplaces (one of them in a bedroom that I’d won in a coin toss) and a well stocked kitchen. A nice but a little strange house. And when my vSO noticed a white child’s dress in a plastic cover hanging in the empty closet we agreed it felt like we were in one of Stephen King’s novels.

The feeling has even increased when I discovered a tray with perfumes on a dresser in my bedroom and a display stand with perfume miniatures in one of the bathrooms. I thought that the house was tempting me.

Perfumes on a DresserNothing sinister had happened during our stay (if not to count that I got spooked in the morning when I opened blinds in our bedroom and saw an owl sitting on a balcony railing – a wooden one as I realized a second later). It was a very pleasant trip. We visited many great wineries (new find for us – deLorimier Winery), tried and bought some good wines (they’ve passed paw inspection by Rusty on our return) and I wore wonderful perfumes (Serge LutensJeux de Peau that I deemed wine-testing-friendly and brought with me for that purpose and Dior’s Dioressence from a vintage mini bottle in the bathroom of that strange house – it was still good, I enjoyed it in the evenings).

Rusty paw inspects wine bottles

I considered contacting owners with the offer to buy that mini bottle but decided against that: who knows how much spirits that live in that house feel attached to that PARFUM…

Images: my own

Rainbow Autumn in Sonoma

From time to time, facing the obvious, we tell ourselves: Of course! How haven’t I seen/thought about it before?! And it’s not a case of an acute hindsight bias but something you’d have realized before if you had just thought about it. But you haven’t.

I’ve been living in San Francisco Bay Area for more than a decade now. I always knew that a downside of the climate that I loved so much was a lack of some defined seasons. Autumn to name one. It’s not summer all year-long here, it gets cold, rainy and windy – our version of winter. But in between, with all evergreen plants common in our area, it’s hard to say where summer ends and winter begins.

Fall in SonomaDid I know that grapevine is a deciduous plant? I did. Many times I saw green leaves when we visited Sonoma in summer and then bare vines during our traditional December trips there. I just never thought what happened in between. Golden, purple, yellow, red and all hues in between grape leaves – that’s what happens in between! Views were just amazing! We couldn’t believe how beautiful nature around us was. During this visit to Sonoma we found autumn that we haven’t seen for more than ten years. From now on we’ll be going to Sonoma in November if we can.

Accommodations

Every time I plan our trip to a wine country I struggle with choosing where to stay. It is so close to home that it feels wrong to spend too much on a room for one night. But at the same time I’m so demanding to where I sleep that I have to try to find the best option for the price I’m willing to pay.

This time we stayed at Marriott Courtyard in Santa Rosa. Pros: price ($135 total cost, no resort fee), location (close to the downtown), clean, good mattress, friendly front desk employees. Cons: old and noisy under the window AC/heating unit, uncomfortable pillows and, the worst part, a very loud bathroom exhaust fan that turns on with the light. I remember reading Vanessa’s horror story about the fan that would work for 10 minutes after the fact of using bathroom’s lights. The fan in our room was on a strict on/off regime so we both voted for relying on our senses other than sight for this night’s bathroom visits. Too bad our neighbors weren’t on board with that decision…

Tasting Rooms

Rusty and bottles of wineAs I mentioned in the post about my recent trip to Napa, in my opinion Sonoma is a much more pleasant place to go wine tasting. And this visit just confirmed my thoughts. The main goal of this trip was to pick up shipments from all the clubs we belong to, so we mostly visited places we like. And I want to share those with my readers.

Suncé Winery is a small family owned and operated winery with Croatian roots (suncé is Croatian for sun). Several years ago a friend suggested we went there. It was a cold day mid-December. We came to a small but warm and inviting tasting room. They fed us hot chicken gumbo and let us try a wide selection of their wines… Three years of a membership in their club later we still like and buy many of their wines (in addition to obligatory bottles) and enjoy every trip to Sunce. All people who work there are so friendly and nice that you just want to go there again and again.

Paradise Ridge Winery is another family owned and operated winery. Paradise Ridge is bigger than Sunce and more formal but that feeling of being welcome is carefully maintained by the staff. In addition to making good wines (not only we like them but also they’re getting all kinds of awards), Paradise Ridge has beautiful grounds (check their website for sculpture exhibits they had over the years). Almost every time we visit we see something new. Also, their tasting room and a picnic area have a breathtaking view.

I urge everybody to visit Sunce and Paradise Ridge if you have a chance. I really hope you’ll like them as much as I do and will have great time there.

The third winery a member of a wine club of which we currently are, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, also has an interesting history, decent wines and nice grounds. What they also have is an excellent marketing department. Unfortunately for us they seem not to be able to handle the results of their marketing success: they are understaffed and just plainly have no time to cater to loyal patrons. We gave them three chances every time hoping it was a fluke. But no, this is how they are now. We’re dropping a membership with them and will choose a winery that cares. But if you do not mind a crowd it’s not a bad place to visit once.

Food

If you like Indian food (which I do) Yeti Restaurant is a good place to have lunch. Ordering chai, make sure to confirm they’d brew a fresh pot. I had to send back a cup of a microwave-heated liquid they tried to pass as chai but after that I got one of the best cups of chai I’ve ever tried. Food was good without any back and forth dances.

Wine country chocolatesOne of the wineries we visited featured local truffles made with one of their wines. I bought one, ate and liked it so much that later we went to that local company’s chocolate tasting room and bought more truffles. Wine Country Chocolates. I’m not sure they are worth ordering online but if you are in the area try them. I plan to go there again next time I’m in Sonoma.

Perfumes

Any trip report wouldn’t be complete without that important part. This time I did something I never do: I wore the same perfume two days in a row. I chose vintage Miss Dior parfum. I figured out that with a small parfum bottle I had a better control over the amount of the fragrance and its placement. It didn’t interfere with wine tasting and I felt happy every time I’d catch a whiff of Miss Dior from my sleeve or scarf.

I brought back something new from this trip but I’ll write about it in my next post.

Overall it was a wonderful trip – a trip to rainbow-colored Fall from my memories.

Fall in SonomaImages: my own

Lock, stock and barrels

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

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.

Accommodations

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.

Food

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.

Perfumes

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