Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Visit from Penny Lively!

Please say hello to Penny Lively, the owner of the Joyeux Winery and protagonist of Carlene O'Neil's Cypress Cove mysteries!

It’s May here on Joyeux Winery, located along the central California coast. The lovely month of May. Now, as I type this, I realize it’s May everywhere and not just here, but when you live on a winery, each month has its own patterns. The vines are growing rapidly, beautiful limbs covered in lime-green leaves reaching toward the sky. May is the time of year we thin the vines, pulling off excess shoots so the energy is directed to the fruit. We also patiently watch for flowering, tiny yellow buds, the smallest you’ve even seen. 

This spring has been particularly nice, and I have two reasons to celebrate this beautiful day in May: this morning I spotted the first buds setting on the vines, and I haven’t found a body in months. Yes, you read it correctly. No bodies.

The first of these two reasons is a good sign for the winery. The drought hitting California, which will likely change the golden state permanently, has had relatively little impact on the winery. Grape vines that struggle a bit for water and nutrients yield intensely flavored fruit. You end up with less product because the grapes aren’t full of water, but the dry years often result in noteworthy wines. We don’t water any more than necessary, and on large sections of the vineyards not at all, but this winter we had no rain to speak of and we’ve been anxious to see signs of flowering. 

Now we can start the countdown to harvest, which is sure to be better than this last year, when I managed to find a body in my neighbor’s crusher. That’ll sober you right up, I can tell you. It wasn’t even the only body I managed to find. There were a couple of weeks there when I couldn’t stop finding bodies. The local chief of police was starting to look at me funny, as though I was a walking barometer pointing to where the next victim might be found. Not something I want to be known for. Now though, it’s been long enough and I’m starting to relax a bit. Maybe it was just a streak of bad luck and I suppose it could have been worse. It certainly was for the guy in the crusher.

In the meantime, I’m determined to enjoy this vibrant time of year. There is a soft breeze blowing in from the pacific, the leaves on the vines are basking in the forgiving rays of a mild spring morning, the air is clean with the fragrance of jasmine and lavender. I’ve said it before and perhaps one day I’ll believe it again, but who would ever imagine that murder could take place somewhere so beautiful?

I need to run. I’ve just had a knock at the door and through the glass I see it’s the chief of police, of all people. I can’t imagine what he needs with me…


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