Today I would like welcome author, Delancey Stewart!
Wine, books and flying saucers – Delancey Stewart talks about A Rare Vintage and her favorite wine
My obsession with wine started in my early twenties when I lived in New York City. I had a friend who collected wine and shared unique (and expensive!) bottles with me from time to time. I didn’t understand the idea of “collecting” back then – but I was also in the habit of buying wine either based on whether there was a dog on the label or by lowest price for greatest quantity. It wasn’t until I tasted some of his wine that I began to see that there was a very broad spectrum of flavors (and prices!) in wine. For a few years I built my wine knowledge by tasting lots of different wines and by reading a lot about wine.
When I was in my mid-twenties, I took a job selling wine at trade shows and at private events for a French wine importer. I had no real qualifications beyond sales experience, but they taught me everything I needed to know about French wines, and we also represented a lot of wines from around the Santa Barbara, California area.
That was when I fell in love with Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the wine that is featured in my first Wine Country Romance – A Rare Vintage.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape means literally “the Pope’s new castle” and originates from Avignon, a tiny Rhône village where Pope Benedict XII ordered construction of a new papal palace to escape difficult times in Rome. Around this palace, vineyards grew a wide variety of grapes and the wine that later came to be designated as Châteauneuf can be made from any combination of 13 grapes – red and white.
This wine is also famous for another awesome reason. The wine growers of the region are extremely proud of their vineyards (totally understandable –taste the wine!) and this pride and protective instinct is probably what led them to pen a municipal decree in 1954 that prohibits the overhead flight, landing or taking off of any flying saucers. Seriously. The law is still on the books. (This is a fact that actually spawned its own delicious Rhône style wine, Le Cigare Volant, made by Bonny Doon Vineyards out in California).
My book, A Rare Vintage, is almost a tribute to my love for this wine! It’s set in California’s Paso Robles in 1988 – at a time when California winemakers were just beginning to find success experimenting with Rhône-style wines. And while Napa was busy pumping out big, fruity Cabernets, the central coast was quietly making a mark in Pinot Noir and the Rhône varietals. In fact, there is now a tenacious group of winemakers in that area that call themselves the Rhône Rangers!
In the story, a graduate student from a wine program in New York goes west to Paso to take an apprenticeship at a struggling winery that she believes is going to be a pioneer in making Rhône blends. She finds that not only is the winery barely staying above water, but the handsome dark-haired winemaker is also battling some demons. She realizes that her future and success have become tied to his, and together they forge a new path forward – both in wine and in love.
Despite my unabashed acknowledgement that I’m a total wine nerd, the book definitely doesn’t hit you over the head with fancy wine terms and irritating facts. They’re woven together in a way meant to give readers a very subtle education about a varietal they might not know much about. And even if readers aren’t very interested in wine, everyone loves a happy ever after, right?