The first time playing the “Smelling Game” at Stryker Sonoma I failed miserably.

It went something like this:  A row of 10 little unmarked fragrance pots were covered with upside down wine glasses.  One by one our host Michael instructed us to turn over the glass and  to quickly put it to our nose  and inhale deeply.  That was the easy part. The hard part was guessing the smells, which were all familiar.

cartoon nose

“Oh… I know what that is! It’s , uh, oh, shoot, vanilla?”

“No, try again.”

“Oh…. Gardenia? No, lavender!  No, almonds! No, cherries?!”

“No, but those were good guesses”, he encouraged.

My friend Brian stood at the bar next to me. He works for a major winery, is a sommelier, and is my best wine expert.  Telltale signs include when he starts talking about wine so fast and I can’t figure out a word he’s saying, and when he starts swirling like a samurai.



You see, I just like to drink it.  And smell it before I drink it. And swirl it.

Brian liked the game and knew most of the scents (except licorice which he admitted he hated so perhaps his olfactory system deleted the reference).


I started playing Vegas-style and put all my chips on Vanilla. I figured if I guessed vanilla long enough it would eventually be right.   I hit the jackpot on fragrance pot #8.

What I never learned in High School

What I never learned in High School

I just found this cool little document here at WRWHQ* that you might enjoy.

Its called “Wine Descriptors.”  Not a published document, just some diligent research done by Beth’s son Aaron.

Here is a small contest. The first person to respond with the right answer will receive a cool WRWHQ * item.

Q: What varietal does this describe? (i.e chardonnay which is not the answer)

Rose, violet, orange blossom, apple, apricot, grapefruit, blackberry, cherry, cranberry, lemon, melon, nectarine, cream, nuts, vanilla, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, pepper, tea leaves, rhubarb, strawberry, thyme, pear, pomegranate

Q: What 5 varietals have “blackberry” as a descriptor?

A closing thought:  if you can’t smell thyme, pear cream, and pencil when you are tasting a lovely chilled wine, you are still a winner because you have graduated to enjoyment in your glass which is the ultimate goal.


*Wine Road World Headquarters

Posted by Anne Loupy

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