Wednesday, September 3, 2014

When Wine Tasting & Book Research Collide

I live in the small state of Connecticut, where my latest release Share the Moon takes place. Our small state (3rd smallest in the nation) boasts a total of 25 vineyards, easily followed by consulting a map of “The Connecticut Wine Trail.”

This map showed me plenty of places to do research for my novel, where the story centers on a struggle over vineyard land.

Like my heroine, Sophie Shaw, I love wine. My husband was kind enough to spend many hours traveling the state with me, to sample Connecticut wines and visit the quaint towns where many are located.  All book research and a demanding job, one I gladly sacrificed my weekends to undertake.

So after all our visits, are we experts? Not even close. 

But I’m getting really good at “faking” my way through a tasting and actually learned to appreciate the variations in wine in new ways, all because of my research. 

Here are a few tips to keep handy the next time you take a Sunday ride to a vineyard near you. The 5 S’s of Wine Tasting…

1. SEE -  Red wine isn’t simply red. It can be garnet, maroon, ruby or even a brownish color. White can be a straw-like color, golden, light yellow or clear. Color can tell us about the varietal used, acidity and age. Cooler climates produce lighter colored wines. Older red wines more translucent in color.

2. SWIRL – Yes, this looks like you’re cool, but it’s about more. A good swirl aerates the wine and enhances the wine’s flavor and natural aroma.

3. SMELL – Did you ever eat when you have a cold and can’t taste a thing? If yes, then you can see why this sense is critical to enjoying all the flavors a wine has to offer. After a good swirl, you should really take a decent sniff. Go ahead…stick your nose right in there. You may smell oaks, berry, flowers, citrus…all unique to the combination of grape, soil and climate conditions.

4. SIP – This is where “tasting” gets a little strange. To get the full range of flavors, you don’t sip and swallow. You let the wine roll around your tongue and you may be surprised at what you find.

5. SAVOR – Taste the difference as the wine touches different parts of your mouth, the flavors found on the tongue different than those on the insides of your cheeks. Swallow. The longer the taste stays in your mouth afterwards, the better the quality of the wine.

Here’s an excerpt from my book, Share the Moon, where Duncan receives a short lesson from Sophie in how to appreciate a good wine:

 “Now, gently swirl the wine.” A slight twist of Sophie’s wrist rotated the glass.

Duncan copied her moves, realizing she made the gesture fluid, easier than his attempts.

“This gives the molecules a little nudge to entertain us. I mean, who doesn’t like to be entertained.” She waved a playful brow. “Once you get them moving, stick your nose up close and take a whiff.”

Sophie brought her straight nose close to the rim. Her lids dropped, as if prepared to receive a scent from heaven. She inhaled. Passion-filled concentration dominated her expression, leaving him mesmerized, unable to stop watching even as he lifted his own glass. He copied her movements, contemplating the aroma in a way he’d never done before.

When he opened his eyes, she’d been watching. “Anything stand out?”

He took a second, shorter whiff. “Pepper, I think.”

Her mouth turned into a half-surprised, half-pleased smile. “Very good.”

A sensation fluttered in his gut, her approval an unexpected joy.

“I smelled some kind of berry too. Now take a decent taste. Let the liquid coat your entire mouth. It’ll feel different on your tongue versus the roof of your mouth or the inside of your cheeks. There are all kinds of hidden flavors. Some bold, others more subtle.”

She brought the glass to her lips then stopped, leaned across the counter, and placed her soft palm over the hand where he held the glass. A sweet floral scent drifted from her hair. She dropped her voice, now low and sexy. “A ready guy like you should take your time with this one.” She cocked a loaded brow. “Really work hard and you’ll detect the wine’s secrets.”

Heat crept up his neck again.

The microwave buzzer sounded but she kept her gaze on him as she tipped back her goblet. Her full lips brushed the rim with the delicate touch of a first kiss.

Sometimes trust is the toughest lesson to learn.

Sophie Shaw is days away from signing a contract that will fulfill her dream of owning a vineyard. For her, it’s a chance to restart her life and put past tragedies to rest. But Duncan Jamieson’s counter offer blows hers out to sea.

Duncan still finds Sophie as appealing as he had during boyhood vacations to the lake. Older and wiser now, he has his own reasons for wanting the land. His offer, however, hinges on a zoning change approval.

Bribery rumors threaten the deal and make Sophie wary of Duncan, yet she cannot deny his appeal. When her journalistic research uncovers a Jamieson family secret, trust becomes the hardest lesson for them both.

Author Bio:
Sharon Struth is an award-winning author who believes it’s never too late for a second chance in love or life. When she’s not writing, she and her husband happily sip their way through the scenic towns of the Connecticut Wine Trail. Sharon writes from the small town of Bethel, Connecticut, the friendliest place she’s ever lived. For more information, including where to find her other novels and published essays, please visit her at

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Twitter: @sharonstruth


  1. Good morning, everyone! Any wine lovers out there? Thanks for having me on this great blog!

  2. We're wine lovers! Your 5 tips were right on, even though I tend spill the wine when I attempt 'the swirl' - even with a little wine in the glass, I manage to get some outside the glass at some point, LOL.

    Share the Moon is up next on my TBR pile - best of luck!

    1. Hi Debbie. Yeah, that wine swirl always looks easier than it is. Enjoy Share the Moon and thanks for stopping by!

  3. Well, color me schooled! I knew those steps--because I have seen people fake it on TV--but didn't know all that. Cool!

    1. Terri, there will be a test next time we have wine. Be prepared :-)

  4. Thanks for sharing your research. I always thought the swirling was to look at color and check the "legs" of the wine. Never knew about the aeration part. I guess it's all related. I need to get on that Connecticut Wine Trail! Good luck with Share The Moon. I'm looking forward to reading my copy. :)

    1. The legs tell a story, too, Maura. So you were right. But I read recently that the legs have to do more with the sugar levels in a wine. Whatever that means :-). Thanks for stopping by!

  5. We did the CT Wine Trail when we first moved here, but now that I've read your "tips," I think we're due for a revisit. Checking my iPad to be sure Share the Moon is on it.

    1. Fall is a perfect time to visit the beautiful vineyards in our lovely state, that's for sure, Renee! Thanks for sharing. Hope you find your copy of Share the Moon!


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