Stories that Matter

Beyond Imagining

We’ve been talking about my trip to Sonoma on the blog this month. You can catch up on the past few weeks here and here, if you want! Last week I shared how enthralled I was when we visited a small family-owned winery. I couldn’t imagine what a larger one might look like. And oh my goodness, did I see some beautiful ones!

As we traveled around the countryside and visited such beautiful homes and gardens, I began to think about what it would be like to live in such a place. How you would come to love the land and care for the vines. I considered the wine-making process and realized it truly is an art. So much goes in to it. I knew that I had to do much research while I wrote the story, and I found it fascinating. I loved that I could take all I had learned on our trip and weave it into the plot, without overwhelming the reader with facts they didn’t care that much about. One of my favorite scenes in The Memory of You was able to give a glimpse into that process without a lecture on winemaking :-

He walked over to a row of vines and examined the leaves under the glow of his flashlight. She watched him carefully turn the leaf and check out the underside.                                            “What are you looking for?”                                                                                                         “Mildew. Bugs.” He bent to snag a weed, yanked it by the roots, and tossed it onto the path. “Do you know how long it takes to get a first harvest, Natalie?”                                   “No idea.” She shot him a tentative smile.                                                                                           “It can take years. You don’t use your first year’s crop. The fruit is too small, not sweet enough. You have to train the vines, you see. You cut them back, tend to them, keep them free of bugs and disease. It’s not a process you can just walk away from.” He stooped low and came up with a few stray grapes that the pickers had left. Walked to where she stood and held a purple globe to her lips. “Taste.”                                                                               Natalie opened her mouth to receive the morsel and allowed the flavor to saturate her taste buds. “Wow, that’s sweet.”                                                                                                         “Too sweet.” Tanner munched on a couple of grapes and spat seeds. “When the fruit begins to ripen, we have to continually monitor what’s going on out here. The ripening process is crucial to our end result. Veraison—when the grapes soften—is when the sugars accumulate, and the taste of the grape tells us when they’re ready. You can’t turn your back on it. Not for a minute.”                                                                                                                      “I suppose not.” Natalie watched him pull a few more weeds around the vines. “Rather like raising a family, right? You can’t bring children into the world and then let them fend for themselves.”                                                                                                                                        “No. You can’t.” He rose, brushed dirt off his jeans. “But it happens all the time.”


I never imagined all the hard work and care that went into one bottle of wine. We take such things for granted. Things we just pick up at the store, wine, cheese, olive oil, even milk, vegetables . . . things we may not think much about, but others have. They have spent years cultivating and perfecting the product we bring to the table. And I realized as I wrote this book, that there are so many things in life we don’t fully appreciate. About the world around us and those closest to us. And I knew that would have to be a major part of my characters arc, an awakening if you will, to all the good things life has to offer.

Come back next week to learn more about The Memory of You!

Have you ever been surprised at things you’ve learned in unexpected ways?  I’d love to hear your stories! 



  1. Winnie Thomas on March 16, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    Gorgeous pictures, Cathy! It was fun learning some interesting facts about wine making while reading The Memory of You. Although I don’t drink wine (please don’t throw grapes at me or unfriend me!), it’s interesting to learn about the process.

  2. Cathy West on March 16, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    LOL! Of course not!!! I’m glad you enjoyed the book though! It is a fascinating process!

  3. Deborah Raney on March 17, 2017 at 7:19 am

    I grew up on a farm and I remember so distinctly a visit from some California cousins who’d never been in the country. They were absolutely amazed by how many stars they could see in the night sky on our farm. And although they’d heard that milk came from cows, they’d never actually seen a cow and had no idea how the milk got from the cow to their milk jug in the grocery store. I was probably only 7 or 8 years old at the time, but their naiveté made me appreciate things I’d taken for granted before.

    I can’t wait to read The Memory of You!

    • Cathy West on March 17, 2017 at 7:29 am

      Deb, how funny! They must have been on the beach or in the city, because I would certainly classify the Napa/Sonoma area as ‘country’. Maybe not as many cows, but there is definitely a lot of land and you can see the stars. 🙂 I hope you made them milk the cows!!

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