One of the best parts of being a writer is that I get to create characters with lives I can only dream of. Frequently this means I will give a character an occupation or experience that I really know nothing about, like running a vineyard and making wine. This is where good research makes all the difference.
To figure out what challenges Ray and Monica would face in getting their vineyard up and running in Accidental Honeymoon, I started by visiting several local New England wineries. (You can read about my experience harvesting grapes here). Some were very large, super professional operations. My favorite, though, was a tiny vineyard just over the border in New Hampshire. It's called Averill House and it's a family run operation based in a restored 1830s barn. The story goes that after a trip to Italy, the dad really wanted to learn how to make wine, so one year his kids found a few grape vines on sale at Home Depot and brought them home. The vines took off, and pretty soon they had planted over 500 cold weather varieties and were importing grapes and juice from all over the world to fuel their passion for winemaking.
I headed up that way on a particularly beautiful summer day. This was when the pandemic had waned a bit in this region, and we were allowed to travel to New Hampshire without restrictions. The wine tasting was all done outside, and it was really just glorious to be out of the house and doing something fun. And I have to say, the woman who gave me a private tour of the wine making facilities was so knowledgeable that I pretty much learned everything I needed to know on this trip when it came to the process of going from vine to bottle.
I sampled several wines, but my favorite was the blueberry. It was so refreshing, and it had a little sparkle to it. It wasn't quite as bubbly as champagne, but it had a definite zip when it hit the tongue. I expressed my surprise at this and my tour guide kind of laughed and said, "Yeah, we've had an interesting time with that wine. Last year, the bottles exploded."
Apparently, the bubbles weren't exactly intentional. It was something that happened with that particular wine during the fermentation process, and they had been working on the formula to minimize it because once the wine was in the bottle and a cork put in place, if it got too many bubbles, the pressure would pop the cork out and wine would go everywhere. Picture shaking up a champagne bottle and then popping the cork (which, funny story, is one of my most vivid memories from the backyard reception we hosted after my mom and stepdad got married, when my grandfather and step grandfather, who were longtime friends from the Marines, spent the evening seeing who could pop the champagne corks farthest into the field behind our house. Yes, they also drank a whole lot of the champagne, hence the contest.).
But back to New Hampshire...
After being assured that the new formula had definitely solved the problem, I bought a bottle of the blueberry wine and stored it in a cupboard in my dining room. I had just moved into my new house a few weeks before, so I was still getting a feel for where I was going to put everything, and I hadn't bought wine racks yet. Well, weeks passed. I got to work writing the first draft of Accidental Honeymoon. I kind of forgot about the wine. And then one day, I was sitting in my office and I heard what sounded like a bomb exploding in the other room. I raced in and for a minute, I seriously couldn't figure it out. But then, a cascade of pink, blueberry scented liquid came pouring out from under the cupboard door, running all down the wall and pooling on the floor. Apparently, the new formulation wasn't quite the fix for that peky explosion problem after all.
I was so sad about my lost bottle, not to mention by brand new cupboard smelling like I was starting my own winery, (which, fun fact, it still does almost 6 months later, but I have loaded the space up with all my containers of scented wax melts to disguise it). But the good news was, it inspired a pretty hilarious scene in Accidental Honeymoon, so I guess it was worth it.
The moral of this story? Drink your wine right away.
Here are some photos of my visit to Averill House. Note the tasting flight. Glass #8 was the culprit.