Visit to Sonoma Scent Studio

Sonoma Scent Studio

There is hardly anything more exciting than meeting face to face (or should I say - nose to nose?) with a fellow perfumer. And when the perfumer is Laurie Erickson of Sonoma Scent Studio - a lady whose work and attitude I've admired and been my pen-pal for a couple of years now - it’s a real treat.

Sonoma county is all beautiful, and the spot where Sonoma Scent Studio is located is breathtakingly stunning. The winding driveway in Healdsburg leads to a beautiful wooden cottage that is built like a tree-house among ancient oaks observing beautiful green hills covered in vineyards.

Entering the house, there is no mistaking Laurie’s olfactory style from the aromas that linger in the air. All at once, everything in there smells like a Sonoma Scent Studio perfume, or probably a mixture of all of them… And Laurie is as wonderful, sweet and knowledgeable in person as you'd imagine from reading her blog, Perfume in Progress, and sniffing her beautiful, sophisticated olfactory ensembles. And I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Laurie is a tea aficionado as wel, and collects tea cup, as well as (not surprisingly) vintage perfume flacons.

We spent the entire afternoon sniffing our way through each other’s latest creations, and the scents that I haven’t smelled from Laurie’s collection yet. And of course – the inevitable discussion and marveling at raw materials. Laurie had treasures that I have never smelled before, such as clover absolute (very similar to hay, but perhaps a little less grassy and more similar to tonka bean – with more coumarin I suppose), and
Oakwood absolute, from French oak barrels, which smelled woody and a little dry-mossy to my nose, with definite broom and honey absolute sweetness underneath. And I also got to smell some synthetics which I’ve never smelled on their own before, including some ionones and jasmine lactones. Raw materials are always so fascinating!

Oak coming back to life
I’ve already fallen in love with Laurie’s Sienna Musk and Champagne de Bois that she sent me a while back in the mail. So I wanted to discover scents I haven’t tried yet – some are probably not that new to many of you, but were new to me, which I’m really thankful I got to take a sample home with me to try (and I will write about in more detail after wearing them a few more times).
Lieu de Reves and To Dream both have oakwood absolute in them, but the latter is a more bold. I found them intriguing and multilayered. And Laurie’s love for rose is very apparent – she has a few quite different rose themed fragrances, and they are all very well made and surprisingly different from one another – Vintage Rose has a lot of depth, Cameo has more of an antique quality to it, and is more complex, and Rose Musc is as simple as the name suggests – but done so much better than others in that very popular genre. I found it to be also true for her Egyptian Musk – which has non of the harshness that so many of the musk oils got.

White Violet
I was particularly smitten with Voile de Violette. Violet fragrances can be easily too old-fashioned or sweet, but this has interesting contrasts - a seemingly shy violet underlined with a rich, incensey base with a lot of myrrh.

I’m looking forward to continue exploring these perfumes on my skin, and can only hope that this meeting was the first in many more to come!

Sonoma County Inspirations

Bodega Bay, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

My unexpectedly extended visit to Sonoma County did not make saying goodbye to that beautiful part of the world any easier… It’s the first time in the personal history of me, when I’m really sad to leave a place and go back home to Vancouver. My favourite part of travel used to be heading back home. I’m sure I’ll be happy in my home just the same. But I would have been happier to just stay right there, if it wasn’t for the fact that my life (family, friends and business) do not seem to fit too well in a carry-on suitcase.

Sonoma Sheep, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Sonoma county is beaming with beauty in and out. The people there are warm and friendly, and wine bottles grow everywhere… The valley is pretty much covered in vineyards and the sides of the road are laced with yellow blooming acacias, and white almond tree blossoms (or at least they look like almond trees...). Giant Californian oaks exchanged their leaves for a coat of silvery lichen and pale green moss, and redwoods stand tall like proud statues. The winding road to the north coast was breathtakingly beautiful. Shy sheep herd on the green hills (or nap in the middle of the road). Red-tailed hawks hover over, just waiting for the right opportunity to snatch a meal from below.

To say that the place is inspiring is an understatement. Taking in all the beauty is a bit overwhelming, and more often than never I find that inspiration, like a seed, needs some time to hibernate, soak some water and wait for the right temperatures and sunlight conditions before it begins sprouting. Shortcuts don’t seem to work. Yet my curiousity is getting the better part of me and I’m already beginning to nudge myself and see what else, besides these blogposts, will come out of my 1st (and hopefully not the last!) trip to Sonoma.

P.s. this year is already the complete opposite of 2010, and I am happily surprised!

Little Treasures in Sonoma

Little treasures in Sonoma, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

It's always the little things that make life memorable, and it's the same when traveling. Visual, tactile and aromatic qualities of the local botanicals where I travel always catch my attention, and in California, there were many familiar botanicals, albeit with a little twist. The place feels like a cross between my home village in the Western Galilee and my home of the past 12 years here in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Unusually silvery lichen grows on all the naked large oak trees, and is also found on the groun (taking its nourishment from the air, I presume). I was particularly smitten with their strange shape and structure - they look like a microcopic photograph of some viral attack... And the structure of oak leaves and feather-shaped redwoods caught my attention as well. Did I mention yet that I'm really interested in fractals at the moment?

Sonoma blues, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Blue skies, blue ocean and of course - some blue flowers: Forget-me-nots shyly emerging from the temporarily green grass meadows, and the rosemary bush at Sonoma County airport was covered with so many flowers it's easily mistaken for lavender. I picked three little rosemary branches and can't wait to use it in my cooking, including for my Mardi Gras party (for launching New Orleans perfume) next Tuesday!

Mimosas in Graton, CA, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

The mimosas here are significantly taller (look like trees rather than bushes), but the flowers are the tiniest little fluffy yellow pompoms. The scent, as I mentioned earlier, is that of sweetpeas and fresh cut grass.

Other yellow flowers which I haven't taken photos of, and also haven't seen FOREVER are yellow sorrels. I promptly nibbled on a whole stalk the moment I found one. They are just about as sour as rhubarb, but the stems are much thinner so you get more time to get accustomed to each tangy bite.


Mimosa, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

While Vancouver is freezing over, spring is here in other parts of the world (although it may seem like a very wintery weekend to those who actually live here...). Splashes of yellow bring cheerful smile to my face, and especially when sniffing these particularly tiny mimosas, or acacias, be what they may, growing on the sides of the roads of beautiful Sonoma Valley, California. My, is this place beautiful!
These tiny mimosas are only lightly fragrant (most mimosas are, actually). And they smell of spring: delicate sweetpea at first, with some underlining green notes of fresh cut grass and even carob blossoms.

Daffodils, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Other less fragrant but not any less appealing visually are fields of mustard (or is it canola?), cultivated daffodils (which don't bloom in Vancouver till April!) and this sign warning of ducks crossing that totally cracked me up...

I'm stranded in Sonoma for another day (flying standby - there was no room on any of the flights out of Santa Rosa this morning) but I can't really complain, can I? This place is so cheerful, peaceful, beautiful and welcoming.

Ducks crossing, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

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