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Looking back over my “Wine on Wednesday” posts I can see that I have neglected one of my very favorite types of wine: the blend.  This is a wine that has more than one variety of grape in it.  Now, many so-called single varietal wines actually have more than one type of grape in them, too.  There are some loopholes, but in general a wine must have seventy-five per cent of one designation to be bottled with that name on its label.

There are lots of reasons for adding other wines to a single variety wine.  Cabernet Franc is often added for structure.  Adding Merlot to an intense Cabernet Sauvignon can help smooth out the wine. In whites, another variety may be added to Chardonnay to increase the acidity.

Whether red or white, I love the complexity and texture of a blend– if it is well done, of course.  Blends need balance and without a deft hand in the wine-making they can go horribly wrong… think cheap. A bad blend throws me back to the eighties wine coolers, ugh.  Also, for those of you just dipping a toe into the pool of wine-tasting, while blends are a lovely and very accessible taste profile to the novice, it does make it harder to teach your palate the characteristics of a Syrah if you are drinking a Syrah-Pinot Noir blend.

There’s an element of fun as one tries to pick up the different notes of the varietals.  It is interesting to see what each type is bringing to the table, so to speak.  In some parts of the world, nearly all the wines made are blends.  The archetypal blend would be something like the classic Bordeaux which is made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot.  In California we are more likely to drink single variety wines and thus, wineries promote and market them as such.  Whereas in Europe, you are far more likely to buy by the winery and wine growing appellation (region).  The type of grape might not even be listed on the bottle because it’s common knowledge amongst most wine-drinking Europeans that a Southern Rhone blend is made of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. (That’s GSM to us Californians.)

Getting back to this week’s wine, I’d like to talk about a local vintage.  It’s called The Spur and it is made by Livermore Valley’s own Wente-owned Murrieta’s Well.  Apparently the winery was on a Fifty Shades of Gray bend as it also makes a white blend called The Whip.  Or perhaps a cowboy bend? Both?

But, I digress.

2011 Murrieta's Well "The Spur"

2011 Murrieta’s Well “The Spur”

This wine is rich without being syrupy.  It has layered flavors of cherry, berry and hints of chocolate and anise.  Serve it with anything grilled- yum.  To those who disparage the size and over the topness of some California wines, this one will make you a believer.  While it possesses intense flavor it is not a palate blaster, over whelming foods.  This one is made to go with and enhance your meal.  At 13.5% alcohol, it’s more in line with European counterparts.  It is made up of 31% Petite Syrah, 29% Petite Verdot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec and 5% Cabernet Franc. To read the wine maker’s tasting notes click here.

In these wine pieces I always like to include a bit about where I enjoyed the wine.  For me, wine is more than a simple alcoholic beverage, it is an experience to be shared with friends and family.  A bottle should be an event, and a joyful one at that.  We were celebrating my friend Wendy’s birthday at Campo di Bocce.  Campo di Bocce is a local place for fun, food, wine, and bocce.  They allow outside wines without a corkage fee if the bottles are from local wineries.  We stopped off and picked up several bottles purely based on whether they were local.  By happy serendipity, one of them was The Spur.  Now I am a definite fan.  I hope you all will enjoy it as well!

Bday gal Wendy and our (soon to be) empty bottle of Spur.

Bday gal Wendy and our (soon to be) empty bottle of Spur.


This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog.  Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.  Check out her contributions to the BBB Blog.


Last week my writers’ critique group, The Beer & Bacon Babes (aka The BBB’s), had a night out at Towne Center Books on Main Street in Pleasanton.  We were there because four fabulous LOCAL authors were doing a book signing.  Well, honey, you put four great mystery authors, wine and chocolate at a book store in front of me and my friends?  It’s just like we’ve died and gone to heaven.

Photo by Amy Moellering, used with permission from Towne Center Books.

As four very different, but equally intelligent and engaging ladies began sharing their stories with us I knew a.) I needed to read them all and b.) you had to meet them.  Ladies & Gentlemen of my blogging universe allow me to introduce: Carole Price, Ann Parker, Staci McLaughlin and Penny Warner. Lady Authors, please meet… everyone.  It’s clear that this sort of intro won’t do anyone any justice so… Ergo, these interviews.  I will be interviewing each of these authors in turn weekly because that is just how amazing they all are.

This week we’ll be meeting Carole Price, the author of Twisted Vines.  This is Carole’s first published novel and the beginning to a wonderful new cozy mystery series, The Shakespeare in the Vineyard Mysteries.  I read Twisted Vines in a day.  Imagine a beautiful, but independent-minded crime analyst, our heroine Caitlyn Pepper who has just inherited a fortune from an aunt she has never heard of, let alone met.  Now picture that maybe not everyone is happy about Cait’s inheritance, and maybe didn’t care for the aunt either… It was a page turner full of vivid and complex characters, action, twists, a dash of romance and just right amount of danger.  I highly recommend it.

Author, police volunteer, hiker, mother and wife- she does it all!

So let’s find out a bit more about Carole Price…

– Sorry to go for the obvious question, but where did the idea of Shakespeare in the Livermore Valley come from?

A. When our daughter, Carla, moved to Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I started attending many of the plays. I fell in love with the Bard. I signed on for a back stage tour and thought how fun it would be to bring Shakespeare to the Livermore Valley, create my own festival, and toss in a few bodies.

– What other places in the TriValley do you love and might possible pop up in future books?

A. I hope to feature more at Las Positas College. Cait needs to venture out more, probably to Pleasanton. Although not in the Tri Valley area, I have an idea for a book in Niles/Fremont where there’s a fun silent film museum.

– Do you have a guilty pleasure spot in Livermore?  You know, something off the diet, a spa or maybe a nail salon?  Some place that you can spoil yourself just a bit?

A. Not really. I do hike almost every week in the hills in and around Livermore. I get inspiration from that and take tons of pictures.

– Did you research this book?  How so? What was your favorite part of this learning process?

A. I arranged to talk with someone from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival about their actors, i.e., their education, experience, etc. I bought lots of books and materials from their gift shop and used the Internet to research weapons from that era. To learn about police procedures, I went through Livermore’s Citizen Police Academy and am an active police volunteer. I role play with the SWAT team, work at events (Livermore rodeo, festivals, etc.), and have a “regular” weekly volunteer job. The officers have been great answering my questions.

– Your main character, Cait, is a dynamic, vibrant woman.  What is your favorite quality about her?

A. Cait’s integrity and honesty runs deep. She’s a good friend.

– I love Cait’s name, Caitlyn Tilson Pepper.  How did you chose your protagonist’s name?  Did you think of it or did the character sort of simply “be” the name?

A. I love her name too. I wanted a name easy to remember and easy to pronounce. My daughter had a friend named Caitlyn. Tilson is the middle name of a San Francisco symphony conductor. Pepper just came to me.

– As your series develops, can you give us a hint as to how Caitlyn may change as she comes into her inheritance and leaves her law enforcement background behind?  Or do you ever leave that kind of experience behind?

A. Good question. I’m told that once a cop, always a cop. Cait struggles with this as she works with a detective from the Livermore PD to solve crimes that affect her or her Shakespeare festival. She’s impatient when told to let the police do their job, that she’s no longer a cop. But Cait has changed. She’s come to terms with family secrets. She’s taking viticulture classes at the local college and will become involved with Livermore’s wine associations. And she may learn to love again.

–  Okay, I have to ask, as any woman would, will we see hunky R.T. again?  And, is he based on anyone in real life?  (Please say yes!)

A. I love RT. He’s a keeper. He’s a composite of traits I like, and I did a little Internet research on Navy SEALS. He had to be organized, cynical, anti-social at times, a private person, and a thinker. And, of course, hunky. The name Royal Tanner just popped into mind as a strong name with character. I did have a friend with the last name of Tanner.

– Did you always want to be a writer?  What led you to this path?

A. Sorry, I wish I could say I always wanted to write. But I am an avid reader, particularly mysteries, and thought it would be fun to create my own story. I didn’t start writing until I retired. I met an author at a book signing who encouraged me to write. When she invited me to join her critique group, I jumped at the opportunity.

– It comes up in almost every interview, but, the question remains, you’ve achieved your dream, what words of wisdom do you have for the writers trying to make it today?

A. Don’t give up. Write every day. I had lots of rejections on my first (still unpublished) book. I used to think all I had to do was sit behind my computer and make up stuff. Not so. Join a critique group and attend conferences. Sign up for a writing workshop. Be involved.

– I know you rely on your critique group for solid feedback, would you recommend a critique group to other writers?  What do you like best about your group?  (No fair saying lunch!)

A. Absolutely. Twisted Vines would never have been published if not for my critique group. We meet every Friday to discuss our books, conferences, the world of publishing, and social media. We give positive feedback. We support each other and celebrate our successes.

– While I would never ask for spoilers to your forthcoming sequel, Sour Grapes, can you give us any hint on what Cait may be facing next time around?

A. Cait was a police officer before becoming a crime analyst. An unpleasant situation during her years as a cop comes back to haunt her. Sorry, but any more would give it away.

– I am ready NOW for the sequel, when can we buy it?

A. Ha. I hope Five Star will offer me a contract for Sour Grapes after I send them a synopsis. That should be soon since I only have two more chapters of the first draft left to write. I know my publisher is pleased with my promotional efforts. And I just learned that Twisted Vines will come out in large print in January 2013.

– Finally, I am a wine drinking gal.  Please dish, what is your favorite Livermore Valley wine?  It’s okay if you have more than one!

A. I’m a tea drinker, but I do like Wente wines and only white.

Carole, I’m partial to Earl Grey myself.  Thank you so much for taking the time to share your craft and your characters with us today.  We’ll all be looking forward to Sour Grapes!

To purchase Twisted Vines I always encourage people to call your local independent bookseller, like our own Towne Center Books at 555 Main Street, Pleasanton 925-846-8826.  However, failing that, Carole’s book is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

You can keep up with the latest Shakespeare in the Valley Mystery by checking out Carole’s website:

Twisted Vines by Carole Price

More Murder in the Valley Book Tour Dates!

Sunday, Sept. 23, 4 p.m.
Book Passage
Corte Madera

Wednesday, Oct. 3, 1 p.m.
Danville Library
Danville, CA

Thursday, Oct. 18, 7:30 p.m.
Lafayette Library
Lafayette, CA

Sunday, Nov. 11, 2 p.m.
Livermore Library
Livermore, CA

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