As you can probably tell from my library of books, not all wine books have to be non-fiction or reference material. I believe it was Horace who said, “The aim of the poet is to inform or delight, or to combine together, in what he says, both pleasure and applicability to life.” So it is, that good fictional literature will still teach us something about ourselves or life in general. And good wine literature will teach us something about, well, wine (and probably, still, ourselves and life in general…).
The Winemakers, by Jan Moran does all of the above. Sure, at its core, it’s a romance novel, but it bridges the gap between that traditional “chick-lit” genre and historical fiction while teaching us a bit about wine in the process.
About the Book: It’s the mid 1950s and Caterina Rosetta works as a sommelier at the Sir Francis Drake hotel in San Francisco while helping her mother run the family winery Mille Etoiles in Napa Valley — both hard-earned roles in the male-dominated wine industry of the era. But she may have to give this all up when she decides to keep her “illegitimate” child, Marisa, whose father, her childhood sweetheart, seems to have abandoned her. When she learns of an overseas inheritance from her paternal grandmother, Caterina jumps at the chance to start her life anew in her family’s chateau in Italy. But once she’s there, she discovers her family history is not what her mother made it out to be, and what unravels is a story of murder, love, and wine.
What You’ll Learn: Caterina and her mother, Ava, own and operate Mille Etoiles. In fact, Ava planted the Napa Valley vineyard from rootstock she kept from her family’s original vineyard in France. What that means is that these two women’s lives are all about wine — it’s in their blood, their brains their bodies — we see them in the vineyard, in the cellar, at the tasting table. Moran does an excellent job describing in detail how vines are planted, wine is made, the ins and outs of running a winery — all through the guise of this story. She even explains what words like vigneron mean, how fermentation works, and how to tell when an aging wine is ready to bottle.
The other thing I love about this book is the look into Napa Valley of the past — when it was still a rural farm town and not the theme park it seems today. Caterina drives to and from the city at her leisure; the local community bands together in times of hardship; there’s no mention of tourists. It’s a peaceful side of Napa Valley that can be hard to find today.
Wine Pairing: I always say a good wine book will make you want a good wine. Because Caterina spends a good amount of time in Italy, learning Italian culture, eating Italian food, I couldn’t help but start craving a good Italian wine while reading this book. On the other hand, this book is also about Napa, so if you find yourself craving a big bold Napa red, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Of course, you could always put your hands together and find a Napa producer who specializes in Italian varietals — there are a few. My recommendation: find a producer whose wine business is still in the family — even if they’re a larger producer — I find these wineries still tend to put a little extra love in their heritage wines.
More Info: I received a copy of The Winemakers as a gift. (Cheers Jan!) Sale Price: $7.13 on Amazon. For more information about Jan, her other works, and to contact the author directly, please visit Jan Moran’s website.
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