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BONUS: Life is a Cabernet

BONUS: Life is a Cabernet

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From Jan Moran, the author of The Winemakers, The Chocolatier, and the Summer Beach series,  comes a sweet, heartwarming novella..

 

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Book Description

Napa Valley, 1956

Years ago, after Juliana Cardona’s fiancé was killed in an army ambush, she didn’t know if she could ever find the strength to risk love again. Now Juliana, who has a passion for winemaking, is determined to build her own business as a winery publicist and create an independent life.

But when Juliana holds a press event in San Francisco, she meets a mysterious winemaker, Henri Laurent, who is everything she never thought she’d find again. However, Juliana is shocked to discover that Henri is hiding a long-buried secret that threatens to devastate their budding relationship.

To find happiness and the life she’d once thought was gone forever, she must find the strength to uncover tragedies and face the troubled past with the man she loves—but only if her heart can risk the chance of love once more.

Read A Sample

“Look at the life in this cabernet.” Henri Laurent held an etched glass aloft to catch the sun’s fleeting rays slanting through the window. The wine glass cast multicolored prisms across his serious expression, while the dark, ruby-colored wine shimmered with vitality. “The more stress placed upon the vine, the better the wine. These grapes are the survivors, the finest and strongest nature can offer. Try it with me now.”

“While Henri pursed his lips to taste the wine, Juliana Cardona was as transfixed as the rest of the crowd she’d gathered on this cool summer afternoon in San Francisco at the tony St. Francis Hotel. The winemaker’s mesmerizing delivery had captured the attention of every female journalist in the room she’d “booked for the press party. Though greatly outnumbered by their male counterparts, women more often influenced the selection of wines at the city’s most high-profile parties on Nob Hill.

Juliana turned to the fashionably dressed executive editor seated next to her in the front row. “Bessie, which one is your favorite?”

The woman tilted her head toward Henri, whose passion for wine was transmuted into graceful, even sensual, movements. “Definitely this one.”

“You haven’t even tasted the wine.”

“Oh, were you talking about the wine?” Bessie sighed and sipped from her tasting glass. “Mmm, as delightful as the vintner. How were you able to get him here? He’s been the mystery man of Napa Valley.”

“I have my ways.” Juliana winked at her. In truth, he’d been the most difficult winemaker to engage in her promotion for Northern California wines, which was underwritten by Napa and Sonoma wineries. This event was the first one of its kind she had planned and she’d been nervous about every detail.

Only Raphael Casini, who managed the vineyards at the well-respected Mille Étoiles vineyards where she had grown up, had been able to persuade Henri to appear. She didn’t ask Raphael how he’d managed that.

Ever since Henri Laurent and his family had acquired the old vineyards and winery in Calistoga a “few years ago, there had been talk. The Laurent family kept to themselves, which only fueled speculation. Rumors spread that they had wired large sums of money to the bank and were using methods unlike any other winemakers in the valley. The grape pickers spoke of abundant harvests, yet few Chateau Laurent wines had been released.

“He’s a strange one, though,” Bessie continued. “I’ve contacted Henri in the past to feature him, but he always declines and offers no explanation.”

That was curious, Juliana agreed. Most winemakers would welcome a feature article in Wine Appreciation, the wine industry’s most prestigious publication. Bessie and her husband, Gilbert Waters, had catapulted several wineries to success through their coverage. Every wine collector and luxury hotelier read the magazine. Why wouldn’t he want an article on his wine? And he was certainly a handsome representative.

A reporter raised his hand to Henri. “You said you’re using new methods in winemaking, such as malolactic fermentation. Can you explain that?”


“That’s the process of turning malic acid into lactic acid,” Henri said. “It uses bacteria rather than yeast. In short, malolactic fermentation results in a smoother, rounder taste on the palate. This method is used more in Europe. You’ll find more information on the handout provided for you.

Juliana closed her eyes for a moment, listening to the sound of Henri’s deep voice. It was as smooth and rich as the wines he created. He was an American, but certain words carried a slightly different accent as if he might have spoken French in years past. His surname was French, and he advocated European winemaking methods, but beyond that, she knew little of the man. Nor did anyone else.

Bessie held a white-gloved hand to her red lipstick-painted mouth and whispered, “Have you heard if he’s seeing anyone?”
Juliana shook her head. “His wife hasn’t been gone long.” That question cut close to her heart. She braced herself for what was surely coming next. Waiting, she picked at a thread on the new burgundy-colored suit she’d bought especially for this event.

“She died a year ago. A handsome man like that with two small children? He’s sure to marry someone soon.” Bessie’s face lit. “You two have a lot in common, seeing as how Alfonso is, well… no longer with us, poor boy.” She patted Juliana’s shoulder in sympathy. “I’m so sorry, dear, but you’re still a young woman. A man that virile would probably give you babies, too.

Blinking back a sudden sting behind her eyes, Juliana offered a polite smile, though the muscles in her jaw tightened reflexively. She and Alfonso Villareal had known each other from childhood and had dated for years. Everyone assumed they would marry. She did, too.

Juliana still remembered the day Alfonso had joined the Army to work in military intelligence. He’d been so proud of representing his country and had looked so handsome in his uniform. He was excited about serving in Korea. After graduating from high school, she had waited four more interminable years, going to college while he was gone. As Alfonso’s time in the service drew to a close, they were ecstatic, their dreams in sight.

The wedding was planned, she’d made her dress, and their families were looking forward to welcoming him home. And then, just a week before he was to leave Korea, he was killed in a military ambush.

Inside, Juliana’s heart was still raw. Alfonso’s death might as well have happened yesterday, rather than five years ago. She could only imagine how difficult life must be for Henri, who had two children to look after, though he seemed like a thoughtful, patient man.

Winemakers had to have an abundance of patience. It took years from the time new rootstock was planted, and vines bore fruit, until the wine was sufficiently aged in barrels before bottling. Many of “the original vines in the valley had withered long ago. The number of vineyards had been significantly depleted during Prohibition, which had wiped out the majority of grape farmers and winemakers during the 1920s and 1930s. It hadn’t been until after the depression and the Second World War that the industry had started to grow again. Juliana couldn’t be more excited.

A new era of winemaking was underway in the United States, and opportunities abounded. So why was Henri so serious in his delivery? But then, with his voice, he could probably read the telephone book and draw a crowd of admirers.

When Henri finished, Juliana rose and addressed the gathering of press and vintners. “Thank you all for coming today. We have so many incredible wines being produced today in our region, wines that can stand on the world stage in terms of excellence.” This she knew from her childhood friend Caterina Rosetta, who was a sommelier at the St. Francis Hotel and had access to the world’s finest wines. She also had one of the best wine palates in the valley.

Juliana went on. “I’d like to thank my friends and colleagues at Chateau Laurent, Mille Étoiles, and Beringer, as well as those at Charles Krug, Inglenook, Gundlach Bundschu, and Buena Vista. For our press guests, we invite you to stay and enjoy the wine. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions, because that’s why our winemakers are here. Cheers,” she added, raising her glass of Chateau Laurent, though she’d only taken a sip.

Amid the polite applause, Juliana surveyed the high-ceilinged, wainscoted meeting room to make sure people were meeting and mingling. She saw Caterina and her mother, Ava Rosetta, who was the stylish winemaker and proprietor of Mille Étoiles winery, at the rear of the room talking to a San Francisco newspaper reporter. Bessie was speaking to Raphael Casini, who was an expert in viticulture and Ava’s vigneron from Montalcino, Italy. Gilbert was asking them to pose for a photograph. Juliana turned to find Henri.

To her dismay, Henri was putting on his hat.

“Excuse me, Mr. Laurent. May I have a word with you?” Juliana hurried toward him. She didn’t want the winemakers to start leaving, because she’d promised her press contacts access to them. Henri didn’t pause until he was at the door. She saw his shoulders rise and drop, and then he turned reluctantly to her.

“Yes?” Henri still had on his hat.

“I wanted to thank you for coming.” Juliana fumbled for something to say. His dark eyebrows framed cognac-colored eyes that immediately swept her under his spell.

“My pleasure.” He nodded curtly and began to turn.

“Gilbert and Bessie Waters of Wine Appreciation magazine would like to speak to you.” Juliana pressed her palms together.

Slowly, he removed his hat and looked over his shoulder.

Book Reviews

“Caterina is a dream of a protagonist, and her mother, for all her flaws, is relatable as a parent so desperate to see her child happy and prosperous that she will do whatever it takes. Readers will devour this page-turner as the mystery and passions spin out. VERDICT: A solid pick for fans of historical romances combined with a heartbreaking mystery.” - Library Journal

“As she did with fragrance and scent-making in Scent of Triumph, Moran weaves knowledge of wine and winemaking into this intense family drama.” – Booklist

“We were spellbound by the thread of deception weaving the book’s characters into a tangled web, and turned each page anticipating the outcome.” - The Mercury News

“Absolutely adored THE WINEMAKERS. Beautifully layered and utterly compelling. Intriguing from start to finish. A story not to be missed.” - Jane Porter, USA Today and New York Times Bestselling author

“Wildly romantic and utterly compelling, THE WINEMAKERS is full of family secrets and gorgeous descriptions of the Italian countryside and the vineyards of the Napa Valley. I was completely swept away!” - Anita Hughes, author of Rome In Love

“Told with exquisite elegance and style, THE WINEMAKERS is a dazzling tale rich with family secrets, fine wine, and romance that will leave you breathless.”- Juliette Sobanet, author of Sleeping with Paris

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