Book Tour: On Wine Gods and Topless Pickup Trucks

Today's stop on the Sotto Voce Virtual Book Tour is the All I Want and More book blog, where I got a chance to talk about wine, mythic gods and the inspiration of a certain pickup truck. Be sure to drop in at the blog for your chance to win a Sotto Voce multi-format eBook or a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.


On Wine and Mythology in Sotto Voce, Or Why Dionysus Is the Hot God of Wine

When I first started writing Sotto Voce, it was inspired by two things: a hot guy in a topless pickup truck and the Greek and Roman gods of wine. Oddly, the two converged.

Long before I had even outlined the book, I had written a short story in a fan community about a wine critic who decided to crash a secret harvest celebration by winemakers, a bacchanalia. According to legend, bacchanalia were Roman festivals of Bacchus, the god of wine, freedom, intoxication and ecstasy. They were based on the Greek Dionysia—festivals honoring the Greek god of wine Dionysus and celebrating the harvest—and were held in strict privacy, and initiates were bound to secrecy. What little is known of the Bacchanalia is often depicted as torrid, debauched, drunken rites.

In this story, the wine critic is spotted by a toga’d winemaker playing Bacchus for the secret party—a hot, toga’d winemaker playing Bacchus.

And that’s where, I realized later, the wheels fell off the story. Because Bacchus, as a Sonoma winemaker once told me, is “not the guy you want to be. Bacchus is old, and the mileage is showing. He’s let himself go. Dionysus is young and hot.”

Technically, many will argue that they are one and the same, that Bacchus is the Roman name for the Greek God of the grape harvest, Dionysus. I think the better interpretation is that Bacchus is Dionysus after 50 years of hard partying.

Before (Dionysus):



After: (Bacchus):

Source: Wine Appellation America

That’s right. Every time you see depictions of that cherubic, balding guy hoisting a glass of wine, you’re celebrating the wrong God of Wine. It’s young, hot Dionysus you should be celebrating.

I got a chance to remedy that in Sotto Voce, to briefly revisit that moment when the lovers, Greg and Tom, attend a private bacchanalia party to celebrate the end of the harvest in Napa and Sonoma. This time, the winemaker Greg turns down the opportunity to play Bacchus.

“I would have liked to have seen you in a toga,” Tom, the wine critic, tells him. “But I think you’re more of a Dionysus.”

And as for the guy in the topless pickup truck? What’s his role in all of this?

Well, the mystery man in the International Scout—who I don’t know, but occasionally see around the neighborhood—is the original visual inspiration for Greg Kennedy.

His code name?