Gateway to Wine Country: Newberg, Oregon

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Hipster coffee shops are not usually my cup of tea. You’re talking about someone so sensitive to external stimuli that she picked her gym based on its color scheme. I wasn’t built to write in a setting that requires earbuds to hear myself think—let alone the distraction of good-looking lumbersexuals in plaid shirts and neatly-trimmed beards strolling in empty-handed and leaving clutching their cups of Stumptown Holler Mountain, sending the bell above the door clanging both ways.

But on a recent book research trip to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, my Airbnb up on Ribbon Ridge had “no phone, no lights no motorcars, not a single luxury” (kidding, I had a rental car). After a few days’ solitude to edit my work-in-progress, The Crush, I needed to touch base with my editor in New York. So I asked one of the farmhands where I could go to get Online. She recommended Chapter Books and Coffee, just down the road in the town of Newberg.

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photo Chapters Books and Coffee on Instagram

Newberg is an authentic, small farming community founded by Quakers. But it gives off a vibe of being on the edge of something. Beneath the typical American Main Street lined with small businesses runs an undercurrent of change. As soon as the Newberg-Dundee Bypass is finished, the town is gearing up to take full advantage of its location as the gateway from Portland to the wine region known as the Willamette Valley.

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Big Pink Hill by Oregon wine country artist Jane Aukshunas

The Willamette has the ideal, maritime climate for the finicky Pinot noir grape. Pinot has brought an influx of tourist dollars and new homes and businesses. The Newberg Downtown Coalition has a vision for Newberg to become not just a gateway, but a destination in itself, with wine tasting rooms, restaurants, and art galleries. For those who prefer finer amenities than my Airbnb offered, a world-class resort called The Allison is already getting rave reviews.

That’s how I ended up spending a couple of hours tucked into a corner of Chapters, steeped in the rich aroma of freshly ground coffee while emailing back and forth to the concrete jungle on my MacBook Air and studying the local characters. Though I’m still not a coffee shop kind of girl, that day, I felt very lucky to be there.

Heather Heyford writes contemporary romance novels set in the wine country. A Taste of Sake is on sale for $.99 until Oct. 2. “Caution: you will love it and want to buy the whole series!” – five star amazon reviews.

ATasteof Sake

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Harvest Time in Wine Country: The Crush

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In wine country, they call it “the crush” . . . that glorious time of autumn when the grapes are bursting with juice and just the right amount of sweetness, ready to be harvested.

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The vineyards crawl with pickers in their bright-colored hoodies to ward off the pre-dawn chill. Soon big plastic bins full of fruit will make their way to the press and the fermenting tanks or barrels.

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To celebrate the crush, I’m giving away this lovely gift box chock-full of autographed, contemporary romance novels set in wine country, plus chocolate and wine accessories. This box will show up on the doorstep of a lucky person who signs up for my newsletter by clicking here. Contest starts now. Good luck! Winner announced Oct. 1 on my Facebook page. Continental US only.

Heather Heyford writes contemporary romance novels set in the wine country. THE CRUSH, Book 1 of An Oregon Wine Country Romance and set in the heart of Oregon’s wine country, the Willamette Valley, is now preordering here for Oct. 25 delivery.

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Five Miles to My Desk

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Female hands typing on the computer keyboard.

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In “Year of Yes,” Shonda Rhimes, mega-talented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder, describes the process of getting ready to write as a hard, five-mile run lined with desserts and good movies and great books she’s dying to read before she can get to that place she calls “the hum of laying track.”

Back when I taught art, observing the ways my students settled down to work was a lesson in itself. Some dove right in. Others had elaborate rituals, such as the girl who could only draw using her chewed up, inch-long pink pencil ending in a worn-down eraser. Even when I offered her a fresh yellow one, she refused to trade.

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Recently my husband was planning a trip to the opposite coast to run a half-marathon. Anticipating a long weekend free of cooking, I pictured a great swath of time stretching out before me like an empty page, just waiting to be populated with characters and brought alive in scenes. I planned on rising early and staying up late, setting my own personal best in terms of word count.

When the long-awaited day finally arrived? Here’s what I did: made sun tea, fed cats, made bed, made bacon. Ate bacon, felt guilty; mitigated guilt with yogurt. I also went to the bank, had a medical lab test, posted a Facebook video and made a lunch appointment with a friend. By the time I put fingers to keyboard, it was eleven a.m. But instead of working on my novel against a looming deadline, what did I do then? Wrote a random blog post! (The bank and the doctor were non-negotiable, but not the bacon. Definitely not the bacon.)

Human hand petting a cat head. Love to animals

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The hum of laying track. That’s why writers write—to get inside that imaginary world where our fingers are flying and we lose all sense of time. For me, that flow state even trumps the satisfaction of being able to point to a finished book. Some of my writer friends have no problem tuning out crying kids, dirty dishes and their partner’s horrible 80s music. Even given the gift of extra time, others are still compelled to waste precious minutes making the bed and scooping the litter, sweeping away clutter before the muse, like an aircraft signalman waving an orange flag, gives us the all clear. And then, inevitably, someone sticks his head in the door to say “hi” or “bye,” and we have to run that five miles all over again . . .

Heather Heyford writes contemporary romance novels set in the wine country. THE CRUSH, Book 1 of An Oregon Wine Country Romance and set in the heart of Oregon’s wine country, the Willamette Valley, is now preordering here for Oct. 25 delivery.

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Flipping over Acrobat Pinot Noir

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While my in-laws were driving north nine hours on I-81 yesterday through the mid-Atlantic states, I was frying sweet Italian sausage for ziti and baking peach strudel. FullSizeRender-10

I opened a bottle of Acrobat Pinot Noir from the all-organic King Estate in the southern tip of the Willamette. Every American Viticultural Area has its own climate, soil and topography. The Willamette’s cool maritime climate is well-suited to growing delicate Pinot grapes, and the King Estate has dedicated 143 acres to the grape. Last March ATF, for the first time in the 33-year history of the Willamette Valley AVA, approved the Estate’s request to expand the area to include their winery. FullSizeRender-11

Since my relationship with Pinot started with Erath, I can’t help but use it as a baseline for comparison. Whereas Erath has a transparency that approaches colorless at the rim and dances lightly across the palate, Acrobat Pinot is a rich red in color, delivering a punch of oak and herbs on the tongue. That enabled the wine to hold its own against the spicy sausage dish and pasta with tomatoes I served. WineEnthusiast contributor PAUL GREGUTT @paulgwine says, “This well-built, aromatic wine smells of fresh raspberries. The mouthfeel is soft and smooth, the tannins subtle and the finish kisses you goodbye with a lick of milk chocolate.”

THE CRUSH, Book 1 of An Oregon Wine Country Romance, is now preordering here for Oct. 25 delivery.

Wine Country: How Research Becomes Obsession

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On my last trip to Oregon’s Willamette Valley I meandered through the lonely vineyards along Ribbon Ridge. It was February, and the fall crush was just a memory, along with the crush of tourists.

At first glance, this field appeared to be freshly tilled and unplanted. But on closer inspection I saw what appeared to be skinny yard sticks stuck into the cool, damp soil. Bending over, I saw neon colored tags at the base of the sticks.

Back home, I zoomed in on this photo to discover the stick I almost overlooked was a baby clone of “Pinot noir 943.” Prince of Pinot says this about my nondescript “stick”: “clone 943 originated in the Côte-d’Or and was introduced in 1989. There is very little published performance information so only generalizations can suffice at this time. It is one of the few Dijon clones that the French have negotiated a royalty payment for every bud sold here in the U.S., so very few nurseries sell the clone.”

Given that these vines are still so young, I’m not sure how many years it will be until they produce fruit, but my interest is definitely piqued. I’m going to have to find out which vineyard this was so that I can check on its progress on future trips and eventually, scout out a bottle.

THE CRUSH, Book 1 of An Oregon Wine Country Romance, is now preordering here for Oct. 25 delivery. (Print format coming soon.)

It’s Will-AM-ette, Dammit

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Don’t do what I did and pronounce this 150-mile stretch of Oregon the way it looks, or eventually a charming, long-suffering lumbersexual will sigh and correct you with the standard, “It’s Will-AM-ette, dammit.”

649faYKphoto of Steven Amell, inspiration for Manolo in THE CRUSH, by QuestfortheD via imgur

Today I’m taking the lazy blogger way out and posting some photos of my most recent trek to The Pinot State. The above picture was taken as I reached the town of Carlton, renamed Clarkston for all 3 books in An Oregon Wine Country Romance, starting with THE CRUSH.

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Another way to access my Airbnb is via Ribbon Ridge private airport.
One can dream.
IMG_4565Turn left at the intersection first pictured to go onto Carlton’s Main Street.

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Feel like having a picnic in the vineyards? Stop in Farmhouse Provisions. There you can get locally-sourced cheeses, eggs, produce and meats. Of course, they also offer wine by the glass and bottle, like Rocky Point, Denison, Tartan, Dusky Goose, Tendril, Illahe, Idealist, Stone Griffon, WildAire Cellars and Yamhill Valley Vineyards, to name a few.

IMG_4593For a sit-down meal try Cuvée. Chef Gilbert Henry’s previous establishment, Winterborne Restaurant in Portland, was highly rated by Zagat. He now offers exceptional food in a chic and casual indoor café that is a favorite of locals and visitors alike.

THE CRUSH, Book 1 of An Oregon Wine Country Romance, is now preordering here for Oct. 25 delivery. (Print format coming soon.)

Diana Gabaldon’s New Book ISN’T the Latest in the Outlander Series

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Who can forget the opening minutes of the very first Outlander episode on Starz when the 1940s incarnation of Claire and her intellectual husband, Frank, tour the cool, dank ruins of an ancient Scottish castle? Frank reaches around Claire and cups her derriere to lift her into a sitting position on a stone slab. He steps between her legs and begins sliding up her hobble skirt. And then—whew <fanning face> Is it warm in here? 

While steamy in it’s own right, that scene foreshadows the future when Claire goes back in time and makes love to her new husband, the swashbuckling, kilt-wearing Jamie—Frank’s polar opposite—in that very same castle.

It is warm . . . August, to be precise. “I Give You  My Body: How I Write Sex Scenes” is already #2 on Amazon under the category of Arts & Entertainment—and it doesn’t even officially come out until tomorrow. For romance writers everywhere, Gabaldon’s wee gift is like Christmas in the hottest part of summer. I may have to stay propped on my pillows with my greedy little hands wrapped around my Kindle until midnight when I can open my present, preordered weeks ago!

From Amazon’s About the Author: “She [Gabaldon] says that the Outlander series started by accident: ‘I decided to write a novel for practice in order to learn what it took to write a novel, and to decide whether I really wanted to do it for real. I did – and here we all are trying to decide what to call books that nobody can describe, but that fortunately most people seem to enjoy.’ And enjoy them they do – in their millions, all over the world. Published in 42 countries and 38 languages, in 2014 the Outlander novels were made into an acclaimed TV series starring Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser and Caitriona Balfe as Claire. Seasons three and four are currently in production. Diana lives with her husband and dogs in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is currently at work on her ninth Outlander novel.”

Available on Amazon

Need to catch up? Now you can get The Napa Wine Heiresses in a pretty boxed set for $9.99 here.

What I’m Drinking

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Alas—what does a writer of romance novels and unapologetic drinker of Sauvignon Blanc do when she finds herself in Oregon? She puts the back of her hand to her forehead and sighs loudly, and then, being of a practical nature, she turns to the woman next to her at the bar and asks what’s she’s drinking. The odds are excellent that the answer will be Erath pinot noir, as it was for me on that drizzly, Pacific Northwest day.
It turned out to be perfectly fitting that my first serious sampling of Oregon wine would be Erath. Ask anyone around these parts and they’ll tell you the story: It was founded in 1965 by an experiment in engineer Dick Erath’s garage. I don’t know what that first batch tasted like, but it must have been hellagood because it was enough to make Dick start studying viticulture at UC-Davis, California’s premier wine college. Wine Enthusiast calls the 2014 “medium bodied . . . well-ripened red and blue fruits, a lick of toast, well-built tannins, and a finishing streak of dark roasted coffee.” I like it.
Eventually Mr. Erath uprooted his family to an unheated cabin outside of Dundee, and the rest is, as they say, history. Everywhere you go in the Willamette, the name Dick Erath is synonymous with pinot. You can read more about Erath Winery here.
#wine #pinotnoir #WillametteValley #writinglife