It's National Drink Wine Day

... and as I take a short break from editing this manuscript (!) with a cup of coffee (I need to stay awake. There's a long road ahead of me yet today.), I thought I'd take a second to talk about libations and literature.

They're two of my favorite things, of course, and certainly my favorite way to enjoy a good book is with a lovely glass at my side. I love the role wine plays in our lives. It's a conversation starter. It's used to celebrate everything from weddings to peace treaties. Given the right wine and the right volume, it's a healthy addition to our diets. Paired correctly, it highlights the finer details of our meals, whether we're eating Chateaubriand or an In-N-Out Double-Double. Yes, you can pair that.

But have you ever thought about how drinks pair with literature? About matching a cold Corona with Walter Finnegan's Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life? A minty mojito with Elmore Leonard's Cuba Libre? And yes, a velvety Syrah with Sotto Voce. 

Today, Interlude Press is releasing Speakeasy, and author Suzey Ingold (@suzeysays) has been posting a series of cocktail recipes to go along with the read. It gives me ideas... but for another day. Today, we raise a glass from the vine. 


The Soda Pop Sommelier

This week, I got the joy of catching up with Mila McWarren on the day her wonderful debut novel, The Luckiest, was released. (Seriously. Buy it. Read it. If you're like me, you'll love it.)

Mila was in town with her kids on their way down south to San Diego for the annual rite known as Comic Con, but first, she gave her kids decision-making authority over their Los Angeles itinerary. Her daughter chose the Santa Monica pier—a solid choice. The weather's been lovely this week and there's plenty to see down there. But her son chose something off the predictable path.

He chose a market. Not just any market, mind you, but a specialty store in Highland Park  known as Galco's Old World Grocery. And if you've ever heard of Galco's, you know it's known for one thing—an amazing collection of soda pop.


How did an East Coast kid learn about a soda pop shop in Los Angeles? From a food podcast, of course, and he decided it was his go-to destination on his LA road trip. Armed with a note pad, he quizzed the store owner about how to go about a proper "tasting," and what flavor and scent notes to detect on certain obscure sodas. 

By the time I arrived, he had sampled and taking tasting notes on colas, flat root beers and a cucumber soda that Mila and I decided really belonged in the bar collection as a mixer. 

"I pick up ginger in this one, what do you think?" he said, handing over a bottle. "And I think maybe a little lavender."

We then concocted our own custom sodas—I stuck with simple things I knew would work together: pomegranate, lemon and lavender. The kids got a bit more creative. 

One thing is for certain: As Mila's son gets to an age where he starts considering careers, he should make sure to add Soda Pop Sommelier to that list.

Happy Thanksgiving—What are You Drinking?

It's time to give thanks. For friends. For family. For a nice, creamy Chardonnay.

I get a lot of questions before Thanksgiving about what to pair with the turkey dinner and the rule of thumb, as always, is Drink what you like. Seriously.

For me, Thanksgiving starts at my sister's house, helping prepare the bird, which we typically baste with a cheap Chardonnay (and, later in the cook time, some Grand Marnier). The rule of thumb? One for the bird, one for the cook. 

This year, we'll break out some bubbles (Gloria Ferrer Carneros Cuvee) during the day. With dinner? A lot of people will go with a white wine with their turkey, but we like to red with supper, which is always on the savory side. That usually means Pinot Noir for us on Thanksgiving, but this year we're going to go bigger with a 2011 Chateau Montelena Zinfandel. 

We won't be sharing that one with the bird.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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?


Sonoma Wines at the LA County Fair


Despite living a short hop away, it's been years since I've been to the LA County Fair. What a delight when a friend took note of a class being offered in the wine pavillion on Sonoma County Wines. How fast can I say, "Yes!"?

This was a terrific, informative and best of all inexpensive class with a great range of wines: sparkling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, a Cab Blend and a robust Zinfandel, plus cheeses. Taught by's Wilfred Wong and Sally Mohr, the second American woman to earn the title Mast Sommelier, the class was fun, down-to-earth and PACKED. And I may have to go to their next class, when they're going to pair wine with fairgrouind foods. 

What a great time! Thanks, Stacey!