The winter snow blankets the ground here in Montana. I used to live in California and all my California friends are tormenting me with temperatures in the 70s, while the temperature here averages in the 20s and 30s. But, I retort, I’m not gardening (also known as fighting an ever-losing battle against weeds) all the time. I can do other things! Like cook!
Frankly, my husband and I are foodies. We love a good meal out and explore restaurants wherever we are. Over the years we’ve learned more about wine, so the wine list, even if it’s an inch thick, isn’t as intimidating as it used to be. Every year he buys me an issue of Cook’s Magazine for Christmas. Last year I made him suffer (?) as I tried out every recipe in the magazine. Some were keepers and we discovered a marvelous tool along the way–no boil lasagna noodles! Good for everything from manicotti to lasagna.
This year’s issue wasn’t quite as inspiring, so he’s safe for now.
Food and wine are constant themes in my California Romance series. Readers have told me they enjoy vicariously eating along with my heroes as they court each other. While doing research for a book on Santa Cruz Mountains wineries that we did, my husband and I had amazing opportunities to get behind the scenes of winemaking and winemakers. I’ve let a little of this knowledge seep into my latest book, California Wine. An excerpt is below. In this scene, Marcos, a man Elizabeth has met while on vacation in Italy, shows Elizabeth and her daughter his winery.
Marcos plunked the basket on the table and unlocked the padlock to the winery building. When he spread the door wide, cool air rushed out from the dark within. He gestured for them to follow him into the damp, sweet-smelling room. Barrels were stacked ceiling-high in the back of the room and four stainless-steel tanks lined one wall. To the left a plank spanning the tops of two wine-barrels held glasses, beakers and two hand-labeled bottles of wine.
“My humble blending table,” he said gesturing at the crude surface.
Elizabeth picked up one of the bottles of wine. Her face became more alive with interest. “What does it mean?” She gestured to the scrawled numbers on the bottle.
“Not much,” he said. Their fingers touched hers as he took the bottle from her and the flash of heat took him by surprise. “I have the date of the blend and a number that references my notes.” He pointed to a wine-stained notebook at the edge of the table, making an effort to get his thoughts back on winemaking and away from lovemaking.
“What kind of a blend is it?” she asked.
“How much do you know about winemaking?” he asked.
“I took a class at the community college. I enjoy wine, so I wanted to learn about it.”
“And?” He poured wine from the first bottle into a glass, swirled it, sniffed it, and took a sip. Faint notes of blueberry were chased by a heavier hint of tobacco. He was almost there.
He poured two more glasses and passed them to the women. Sarah took hers and wandered toward the barrels at the back of the building.
“I found winemaking fascinating,” Elizabeth said. “A lot of patience is required, isn’t it?” Her eyes peered over the rim of the glass and he became entranced by the warmth of her gaze.
His heart cracked a little more.
“Most good things require patience. You will need it when you develop your lotions. I’m sure you’ll be trying to balance aromas with the texture you need for a silky feel.” He rubbed his thumb and index finger together to demonstrate.
She turned away and he saw her shoulders square before she turned back to look at him.
“Is what’s in the other bottle just as good?” she asked, a small smile on her lips.
“We’ll have to find out, won’t we?”