Biking between the vine rows in the Carneros region of Napa

Conducting research for my novels is always a thrill! What can I say? I’m a nerd at heart and I’m a stickler for accuracy. In both The Vintner’s Daughter and The California Wife, I took the historical events, political movements, and natural disasters of that era and used them to challenge my characters, to inject suspense and drama—and to essentially craft plot.

I was surprised by how much research was required to develop the story of a young French girl following in her father’s footsteps as a master winemaker in the late 1800s. I delved into French and California wine history books, read years of nineteenth-century trade papers such as The Pacific Wine and Spirit Review, and books about historical wine farming from libraries across the country.

I consulted winemakers, reviewed old maps and photographs at The Napa County Historical Society and toured several family-owned Napa vineyards on foot and on bike. I was fascinated by what I discovered.

Every bottle of wine contains nearly three pounds of grapes and the vulnerability of this fruit is striking: over the last century and a half, grapes have fallen victim to pests, rodents, frost, mildew and Prohibition in the United States. Still, with a precise blend of hard labor, science and art, winemakers continue to perfect the wines that fill our glasses. I remain inspired and humbled by their efforts.

So, in essence, winemaking is very similar to novel writing: it is an exercise in passion, patience and perseverance!

Wine caves
Wine caves dug by Chinese laborers at Beringer Winery, Napa, circa 1877

Here are a few links that will give you more insight into my research process. Also, check out the Napa Valley photojournal and Loire Valley photojournal for photos from my research trips!