Wine and Winemakers with Jan Moran
This cuppa and cake could be dangerous. Yes, dangerous as I am heading into Napa Valley to meet the lovely Jan Moran, author of The Winemakers. No, that’s not the dangerous part, but what is dangerous is that this is a very rocky and hilly area and there is lots of wine on the table in front of me.
Part of the whole Winemakers experience I am told. I have brought a crispy bread and olives with olive oil to help soak up the wine as I don’s drink much and so don’t want to do a Jack and Jill. I do want to meet Jan however and soak up the whole atmosphere of a story so atmospheric and evocative that you will think you are deep in the heart of Napa valley and Tuscany as I am right now.
I enter the beautiful vineyard where I’m meeting her and can only marvel at the cave I am now in. The wine bottles, flickering candles and the gorgeous scent of berries and wine. I might now be ten stone lighter after walking up the valley but as I am offered a seat and a drink, I can now relax. There’s Jan coming to greet me. Hi Jan! It’s so lovely to meet you. Thank you so much for inviting me here today.
We chat for a while about the gorgeous Napa Valley and about the varieties of wine and then I start with my questions.
1956: When Caterina Rosetta inherits a cottage in the countryside of Italy from a grandmother she’s never known, she discovers a long-buried family secret — a secret so devastating, it threatens the future of everything her mother has worked for.
Many years before, her mother’s hard-won dreams of staking her family’s claim in the vineyards of California came to fruition; but as an old murder comes to light, and Caterina uncovers a tragic secret that may destroy the man she loves, she realizes her happiness will depend on revealing the truth of her mother’s buried past.
Your novel The Winemakers is rich in evocative detail – what kind of research did you do about the art of wine making? It’s fascinating.
Researching The Winemakers was so interesting. Delving into the history of the Napa and Tuscany regions and understanding the process of winemaking, as well as the agricultural demands, was quite an undertaking. First, I traveled to Napa Valley, where MaryAnn Tsai, and her husband, Larry Tsai, who are founding partners of Moone-Tsai Wines, shared their wealth of knowledge. As past president of Luna Vineyards, MaryAnn has a long history in the wine industry from her tenure there, as well as with Beringer Wine Estates. I also had the pleasure of visiting with winemaker Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, co-founder of Grgich Hills, and Elizabeth Vianna, winemaker and general manager of Chimney Rock Winery, and many others. Fortunately, everyone took time to share (and pour a few glasses). I also drew on my travels to Tuscany and experience with the Brunello di Montalcino wines.
You have set your story in The Napa Valley and Montalcino. Did you choose them for the wine connection and how did you evoke the feel of being there?
The senses are important to me, so I like to build a scene through sensory writing. To me, what characters experience through the senses–and how they perceive their surroundings–makes a story come to life.
Both Ava and Caterina have both had to keep secrets. Did you want to show the difficult decisions women have to make sometimes in the 1950s and even now?
Absolutely. I wanted to share how far we’ve come, and yet, how far we still have to go. My great aunt was a suffragette; I grew up listening to her stories of struggle and triumph, and witnessed the difficulty my mother had as a single parent in the 1960s after my father died.
At the booktrail we map out locations in novels and write mini literary travel guides. Where in The Winemakers would you suggest we visit? A particular vineyard?
What a wonderful idea! In Napa Valley, Grgich Hills is worth a visit, as is Chateau Montelena (my inspiration for the chateau in the story), Chimney Rock, and the Hess Collection estate on Mt. Veder. The Culinary Institute in St. Helena is fascinating, too. Sonoma and the Russian River Valley are also engaging. In Tuscany, the village of Montalcino is charming. Piedmont is also lovely. And if you’re in France, Bordeaux and the Loire Valley are beautiful experiences.
You evoked the sensual aroma of perfume in Scent of Triumph. You obviously like how things taste, smell and feel. Do you like to meditate to relax or burn incense for example?
When I write, I like to burn candles, listen to music, and have a nice view–all of which help me summon the muse. (Booktrail: The muse is here as there are candles all around – some in used wine bottles which I think is a lovely touch)
Where is your favourite place to read?
Definitely in bed, but I’ll read anywhere.
Have you travelled to a place before because you’ve read about in a novel?
As a child, my passport to the world was through books. As an adult, so many places I’ve visited I read about first: Paris, Venice, London, Hong Kong. And I have many to go, such as St. Petersburg, Russia. After reading Kristin Hannah’s Winter Garden, I have a deeper understanding of its history.
I loved that book! We have so much to talk about! What’s that? Do I fancy another wine? Well I AM in the Napa Valley and I do still have some bread to soak it up so ok, you’ve twisted my arm. Oh I can get a lift down the valley in your lovely car? Well that’s very kind of you thank you.
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Jan Moran is a Rizzoli bestselling and award winning author. She writes historical women’s fiction for St. Martin’s Press (Scent of Triumph, The Winemakers), contemporary women’s fiction (Flawless, Beauty Mark, Runway), and nonfiction books (Vintage Perfumes, Fabulous Fragrances). Her stories are smart and stylish, and written with emotional depth. Jan often draws on her international travel and business experiences, infusing her books with realistic details
The Midwest Book Review and Kirkus have recommended her books, calling her heroines strong, complex, and resourceful. She likes to talk to readers at www.janmoran.com and on social media – Twitter and Facebook. She lives in southern California and loves lattes and iced coffee, anything chocolate, and Whole Foods Double Green smoothies to balance it all out.