In my mid-twenties, I had a group of friends that got together every Friday night for wine tasting. Sounds like a fairly mundane thing to do, particularly week after week. However, what made this group different was every tasting was blind.
The guy who organized these get-togethers would typically choose ten wines, and put them in paper bags. Some weeks we’d know the theme of the tasting—he might ask everyone to bring a bottle of syrah, for example. Other weeks it was a complete mystery. He’d give us tasting sheets, some would make notes, some didn’t care, and at the end of the evening, we’d see what we tasted, and talk about the wines. This was my introduction to wine tasting.
Over the course of the years I became a certified executive sommelier, which is the second tier, similar in experience to an executive chef. My husband and I also owned a wine bar.
As any writer who has attended any workshop, or even read a book on writing, has heard, write what you know. Thus, my newest series, Butler Ranch, is set on the central coast of California, one of my favorite wine regions—and was hugely inspired by those early tasting experiences.
The settings in this series are based on wineries I’ve visited, styles and types of wine I’m fond of or want to learn about, and the characters are all involved in the industry in some way—winemaking, lovemaking and mischief-making.
The epitome of hedonism—tasting wine is all about the senses—starting with sight. There is so much one can learn by tilting your glass almost to the point of spilling over, and examining the transitions of color, which is indicative of age, as well a complexity.
Smell is the first thing most people do upon being handed a glass of wine. You’ll see people swirl the glass, and then take a sniff. The aromas can be as telling as the sight, not in terms of age, but varietally and regionally—type of grape or grapes, and terrior, or the area in which in the grapes were grown.
Finally taste and touch. A sip of wine fills the mouth with not only a variety of flavors, but a variety of mouthfeels. Dry is both taste and touch. A bone dry wine will taste entirely devoid of sugar or sweetness. A red wine may also feel dry, due to the intensity of tannins. Tannins are found in the stems and seeds of grapes. Biting into a Cabernet Sauvignon seed is a great way to learn about tannins and their mouthfeel.
There isn’t much to hear with wine, besides the conversation and laughter that come along with a day of wine tasting.
And then there’s the food. Historically wine was made because water was not safe to drink. Same thing with beer. You’ll hear someway say, “what wine should I pair with this food?” The approach is actually the opposite. The types of grapes that could be grown in a particular climate, or soil-type, would dictate the style of wine—there wasn’t much variation year to year. Thus, food followed wine, to complement and so neither overwhelmed the other.
People whose lives are filled with the sensuality, the attention to detail, the seductiveness of winemaking, the heat and the romance of it—would be powerless against it spilling over into other areas of their lives. Imagine those characters, particularly the men.
This is what I write, and why. Mix in cowboys and really, would life get any better?
THE PROMISE is a completely different contemporary western romance.
Can fulfilling a promise to his dead brother bring love into Brodie Butler’s life again?
When Butler Ranch winery manager Brodie Butler’s brother is killed in action in Afghanistan, his mother enlists him to fulfill a promise she made to her older son. She needs him to find Peyton Wolf, his brother’s lover, and deliver a sealed box to her.
Brodie expects to deliver the news and the box to Peyton then return home to deal with his own grief. But instead of closing a chapter in his late brother’s life, Brodie opens a new one in his own when he meets a woman he could envision himself being with forever.
But would Peyton ever be able to love him like she loved his brother? And could he deal with his guilty conscience for wanting the woman his brother had intended to have as his wife?