Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Guest Post - Blood Vine

A Winemaker’s Perspective on Prohibition
By Marcia Phelan,
Community Interest Staff Reporter, San Francisco Daily Journal
September 18, 1926

Since the Eighteenth Amendment passed seven years ago, the winemakers of California have faired poorly. My aching bones faired just as poorly after sixty miles of rough Sonoma County road brought me to my first stop on a tour of some of California’s now defunct wineries. The scenic Kaštel Estate Winery, and its winemaker Andre Maras, have weathered prohibition by producing sacramental wine and table grapes.

I was led to Maras’s office, deep in the recesses of the wine cellar.

“A lady reporter?” he asked, upon seeing me.

“I’ve been called worse.” For some reason, I had expected him to be older, but he was rather strapping and I was awfully glad he noticed my sex. I offered him my hand. “Marcia Phelan. We lady reporters get assigned all the biggest stories.”

He chuckled, shook my hand, and showed me to a stiff looking chair. Ledgers and papers littered his desk. From the cluttered and cozy appearance of the office, I would venture he rarely leaves the place. And yet, Maras is a veritable bear of a man whose stature testifies to many hours spent in the vineyards. If only a few more of San Francisco’s bachelors were so well built.

He settled himself in the chair opposite me, his posture imposing, his distinctly Mediterranean features stern. “Mr. Maras, how long has the Kaštel Estate been producing wine?”

“My family purchased the land in the mid-nineteenth century.”

“While most California wines are considered inferior, before Prohibition yours were said to match European quality. To what do you attribute this?”

“My family has a very long tradition of winemaking in Croatia. Without belittling my neighbors, it is fair to say they are amateurs compared to the Maras lineage.”

Though his words were prideful, he said them so neutrally I believe he had no intention of insulting his fellows. Rather, I gathered, he is the type of man who is perpetually self-assured.

“And what of the locale? Is it possible for this region to one day compete with France or Italy as a producer of fine wine?”

“Marcia, that is a question regarding fashion, and I avoid those on principle.”

“Then please let me rephrase it. Given what you know of European wines, is there any reason California’s wines could not rival theirs?”

Impatience flickered on his face, but then he very nearly smiled. “A fair question. In addition to the skill of its maker, the quality of a wine rests on climate, and vines, and soil. Yes, California possesses these resources as abundantly as the winemaking regions of Europe. And, in particular the soil of the Kaštel Estate is remarkable.”

“Did your forbearers choose this location for the soil, then?”

“Indeed. The soil was the primary factor in the purchase of all our lands.”

“Your ancestors are from Croatia?”

“My family originated there, yes. It is a truly magical place.”

“So I did not merely imagine your exotic accent? Did you apprentice there to learn the old country’s traditions?”

“In a manner of speaking.” He flashed a smile surely meant to disguise the evasion.

It worked, and I confess I did not plan the path of inquiry my lips forged next. “Is there a Mrs. Maras?”

His smile vanished. “No. And the subject of this interview is the Eighteenth Amendment.”

“Yes, of course. I do hope you will be frank with me. How worried are you about the financial effects of prohibition on your enterprise?”

“Not at all.” He brushed his hand across his desk dismissively.

“Truly? Surely your profits are down. Many wineries have already folded.”

“Mrs. Phelan—”

“Miss. And Marcia, please.”

“Fine. Marcia, I have very little to say, other than this. I take the long view. Since before mankind domesticated grain, he has been fermenting alcohol. The pleasure of a drink is a basic human necessity. I am absolutely certain this nonsense will end soon.”

I found his equanimity stunning, and, apparently, he had nothing more to say. He made stilted chitchat, while serving a plate of fruit and cheese, but of course, no accompanying glass of wine. I expect to find his fellow winemakers far less stoic. You can discover if my prediction is correct in the next installment of this series, to be printed next Tuesday.

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Amber Belldene grew up on the Florida panhandle, swimming with alligators, climbing oak trees and diving for scallops…when she could pull herself away from a book. As a child, she hid her Nancy Drew novels inside the church bulletin and read mysteries during sermons—an irony that is not lost on her when she preaches these days.

With a B.A. in comparative religion and an M.A. in theology, Amber is a Christian minister and student of religion. She believes stories are the best way to explore human truths. Some people think it is strange for a minister to write romance, but it is perfectly natural to Amber. She believes the human desire for love is at the heart of every romance novel and God made people with that desire.

Amber is addicted to vampire stories, but loves to read all kinds of romance and literature. Her favorite books examine history and cultural origins, like Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent, or Salmon Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. And, yes, she was named after that Amber, of the classic romance novel Forever Amber.

From the wine country of Sonoma County to the foggy neighborhoods of San Francisco, all of Amber’s fiction is set in Northern California, where she lives with her husband and two children.

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Blood Vine is now available for puchase at Amazon!

Two winners will be chosen.  The prizes are:
~One (1) e-book copy of Blood Vine by Amber Belldene - International. 

~One pair Blood Vine wine glasses - U.S. & Canada residents only.

~Leave your name and e-mail address on the Rafflecopter form.
~Tell me which prize you would prefer in order.
~Please remember the wine glasses are for U.S. and Canada residents only.  
~Extra entries are optional.
~If you are choosing to do extra entries, please read the questions/instructions CAREFULLY! If you do not follow the instructions, I reserve the right to disqualify that entry. (For example, if I ask you to leave a comment and you do not, or you don't answer the question, that entry will be removed.)

~Please see my contest policy HERE.
~Contest ends on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 12:01 a.m.

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Anonymous said...

Hi Amber,

Great Andre interview. Nice to read a piece set before the novel's time period.


Unknown said...

Wine and Vampires....YES PLEASE!

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