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A Fragrant Journey with Mandy Aftel

Artisan perfumer Mandy Aftel is a fragrance tour guide, guiding you on a scent journey through history, filled with cultural touchstones and alchemy.  The backdrop to the aromatic adventure is what Mandy calls the five “landmark scents” from around the world:  cinnamon, mint, frankincense, ambergris and jasmine. Fragrant:  The Secret Life of Scent is Mandy’s exploration into a world of mystery, power, medicinal practices and the pure pleasure of perfume.  The author, who is also the creative force behind Aftelier Perfumes writes, “Lands have been discovered and conquered for the sake of perfumed materials.”  According to Mandy, mankind has a common desire for the exotic, the familiar, transcendence, the curious and beauty.  As she writes, “Scent is a portal to these basic human appetites.” I spent time with Mandy one recent afternoon at her Arts & Crafts home in Berkeley, California that serves as her perfume atelier.  She embodies the eclectic,…

10 Last Minute Holiday Wine Gifts

With about a week to go until Christmas Day, have you done all of your holiday gift shopping?  Have you even started?  If not, don’t despair.  To the rescue, a list of the 10 best wine gifts that you can snap up at the last minute — and it won’t look like you waited until the last minute. Check out these gift ideas that are more creative and thoughtful than a bottle of wine.

Courtesy Vine of the Wine
Courtesy Vine of the Wine

Bottlestoppers.  You see them everywhere, but these colorful stoppers, made by Vine of the Wine are truly unique.  They’re made by incorporating grapevines into the stoppers themselves.

Shafer Vineyard’s Road To Success Not An Easy One

If you had told John Shafer, when he moved from Chicago to Napa Valley in 1973, that his winery and one specific vineyard would earn the highest critical acclaim, bring in top bids at wine auctions and create a formidable fan following, he would probably have scoffed, being the practical vintner that he is.  But Shafer’s success in the wine world wasn’t instant and wasn’t easy going at all.  In fact when you learn the stories of harvests where they couldn’t get pickers on time, or the vintage with a stuck fermentation that he had to get started using electric blankets, well, you wonder how Shafer ever made it to where the winery is today with a cult-like status.