In case you didn't know it, Christie Ridgway not only manages to review multiple books a month for our romance column, but also writes best-selling romances herself. Her latest series is set in a winery in Napa Valley, and like Tasha Alexander, Ridgway manages to make us all wish we had some research to do. Here's a writer's take on touring California wine country.

Romancing the Vine

guest post by Christie Ridgway

I’m a California native and it seems natural to use my home state as a jumping-off point for my stories. I’ve geographically taken my single title contemporary romances up, down and sideways, from Big Sur to San Diego to a fictional island just off the coast (modeled on Catalina). This time, I’ve written a trilogy of stories set in the Napa Valley—the wine country. The action centers on a failing winery named Tanti Baci (Many Kisses), and the three Baci sisters, who find love as they struggle to keep their 100-year-old legacy afloat. The second in the series, Then He Kissed Me, is out this month. [Read an excerpt]

What’s a writer to do when the setting for her stories is not only romantic, but also just a short plane ride north? Research, of course!

In honor of our wedding anniversary, my husband and I spent a long weekend at a B & B in the middle of a vineyard, soaking up atmosphere and, uh, fermented grape juice (you know, wine!). During those few days, we learned a lot about a tasting getaway.

The tasting rooms generally open at 11 a.m. This turns out to be way too early for me to start drinking, though a tasting pour is 2 oz. and it’s perfectly acceptable to spit. However, you usually are presented with several tastes at each location and then if you visit several wineries… We found that tasting after lunch suited us better and we didn’t drink at every place we stopped. Our last day, we ran into a couple who said they take a day off from tasting for every two they imbibe.

Awesome food everywhere! And even the historic hamburger stand in St. Helena (Taylor’s Refresher) has an amazing wine list. Crusty bread, good cheese, yummy cookies in every deli. Sidewalk cafés by the dozen.

Being Merry
I confess, tasting in the afternoon made me sleepy by 5 p.m. We’d booked reservations at a renowned place for our anniversary dinner and were so drowsy we didn’t think we’d truly appreciate it. Instead, we bought a bottle of wine at the local market, a roasted chicken, and a couple of deli salads and picnicked on our patio overlooking the vineyard. Romantic enough!

If you can’t visit California’s wine country
Plan a tasting party at home! To establish the right mood, watch the movie Bottle Shock, which tells how the Napa Valley became famous for wine. Or read a nonfiction book about the area and the industry like James Conaway’s Napa or A Tale of Two Valleys: Wine, Wealth, and the Battle for the Good Life in Napa and Sonoma by Alan Deutschman. Of course, if you really want to romance the vine, imbibe in my Three Kisses trilogy, which begins with Crush On You and continues with Then He Kissed Me.

Thanks, Christie! You can find out more about Christie and the Three Kisses Trilogy on her website. Read all the reviews Christie has written for BookPage.

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