Title: Spritzer: A Sparkling Gay Romance
Author: Jon McDonald
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: March 27
Heat Level: 1 – No Sex
Genre: Romance, LGBT, gay, bisexual, contemporary, enemies to lovers, humorous, romance
Spritzer Vallier is the manager of a large commercial jug winery in Northern California. The new owner, Spritzer’s great-aunt Del, wants to make a quality champagne as well as the cheap wine that is the bedrock of their business. Being a down-to-earth, no-nonsense guy, Spritzer resists Del’s fantastic idea. However, she insists and hires Michel, a French champagne master, to direct the setup of the new venture for four years until Spritzer can take over the running of the winery by himself.
Spritzer and Michel must work closely together and right from the beginning it is clear there will be fireworks. Michel tends towards arrogance and control. Spritzer resents Michel’s authority and demands, and is a bit of a stubborn hot-head.
Keeping the two in check is Del—steady, caring, and wise, she directs the two toward the accomplishment of her dream.
Storms, accidents, and money problems plague the progress of the new winery, but eventually Michel and Spritzer work their way towards a successful conclusion to their efforts. But fate seems to have another destination for them as well, as they begin to fall in love with each other.
Spritzer: A Sparkling Gay Romance
Jon McDonald © 2017
All Rights Reserved
Spritzer Vallier stood in contemplation, gazing at the strange sight before him—a couple of dozen or more folks, dressed mostly in black, standing at the crest of a hill overlooking a Sonoma vineyard. It stretched out below them as far as one could see in every direction; rows and rows of cultivated grape vines, marching neatly in their straight lines. The early morning mists slowly evaporated in the warmth of the climbing morning sun.
Spritzer ran a hand through his dark, curly, unkempt hair, distracted from the immediacy of the memorial service for his recently departed great-uncle Tom, as his mind wandered to the urgent need to be harvesting the glowing, ripe grapes spread out before him. There is a moment when the grapes’ sugars are at their peak, and any delay might harm a season’s harvest. Spritzer had checked the sugar levels in the grapes just yesterday afternoon and decided that they should start the harvest today. But Aunt Del, Tom’s sister, had already arranged for the memorial service to be held this very morning.
He shook himself free from those thoughts, and turned his attention back to the droning priest. Spritzer was standing between his great-aunt Del—short for Deloris—and his childhood buddy, and occasional girlfriend, Kan. He turned to his aunt and squeezed her arm, as the priest extolled her brother’s many virtues.
“Are you holding up all right?” Spritzer asked gently.
Del looked over and smiled. “It’s still hard to believe he’s gone.”
Kan—blonde, lean, and tomboyish—leaned into Spritzer and whispered, “Nice service, don’t you think?”
Spritzer turned to her and said, “Yeah, yeah. But look at all those fuckin’ grapes. The old man would kick off just when I need to start the harvest, right?”
Just then, a biplane approached from behind the gathering, flew low over the heads of the crowd, and began to spray the vineyard.
Kan looked puzzled. “Isn’t this an odd time to be spraying insecticide, for Christ’s sake?”
“That’s not insecticide, that’s Uncle Tom,” Spritzer answered, with a flash of his quirky grin. Kan looked at him questioningly. “Some people want their ashes at sea. Uncle Tom…” He gestured toward the vineyard.
“Yuck. It’s going all over the grapes. What’s that going to do to the wine?”
Spritzer thought about that for a moment, then answered. “Probably make the horrid supermarket plonk we produce a hell of a lot better than it was when he was alive.”
Kan laughed and turned back to the service.
Here’s an excerpt from Spritzer. It’s the opening of the first chapter and gives a good idea where the book will be headed.
All was inky black, tempered by only the faintest violet bruise of dawn on the eastern horizon. The night mists continued to huddle between the rows in the lowest contours of the vineyard. The dew-diamond grapes were plump, ripe, and ready to be squandered in the ancient art of winemaking. Not even the earliest birds were yet stirring, and the valley rested in stillness and an almost heartbreaking silence.
Then, from far away, an imperceptible rumble began to grow. On the western horizon, the bounce of headlights betrayed the advance of several armies of flatbeds loaded with stacked tubs for collecting the grapes, harvesting machines, and pickups filled with sleepy-eyed workers. It was the commencement of the Vallier Winery harvest. Spritzer was driving the lead truck. He pulled off the road and down the embankment to the staging area for the harvest. He parked and then began directing the various vehicles to their proper destinations.
The harvest of a vineyard of this magnitude was not a haphazard affair. Every square meter of vines was accounted for, and strategies for the most efficient harvest were planned for weeks in advance. These strategies varied from year to year, depending on the conditions of the grapes. Each year, the variations in weather determined which section of the vineyard would ripen first, and the ripest grapes were always the first picked. It was Spritzer’s job, as the new manager, to oversee this year’s harvest, and he was totally prepared.
Even as the dawn progressed, the large harvest machines were already at work, straddling the rows of vines and extracting the grapes in the most efficient manner. This was not a boutique vineyard where the grapes were carefully hand-harvested in order to leave them unbruised. It did not matter in the slightest with jug wine. Efficiency and expediency were of primary importance here. Volume. Volume. Get the grapes off the vines and into the tubs—onto the trucks—to the crusher destemmer—and then get the juice into the waiting stainless-steel fermentation vats.
Once the harvest was well under way, Spritzer turned the operation over to Francisco Delgado, his deputy, and Francisco’s son, Lorne, and headed back to the winery to oversee the arrival of the first grapes.
Francisco was a short, tough, wiry, and weathered man in his early sixties, whose family went back many generations to the very early days of Spanish California. Spritzer’s father, Brian, and Francisco had worked closely together their whole working lives, and they considered themselves best friends. Spritzer had complete faith in Francisco’s abilities, and knew that he could always count on him to make the right decision. He saw Francisco as his second father, and knew that, even though he was now the boss at the relatively young age of twenty-six, Francisco knew much more than he did, so he relied heavily on Francisco’s experience, knowledge, and wise decisions.
Lorne and Spritzer had grown up together. They’d been best friends, just like their fathers, until Spritzer went off to UC Davis to study viniculture and they’d drifted apart over time, even though Lorne still worked with his father at the vineyard.
Vallier Winery was a vast operation, housed in a massive series of warehouses, situated in a level section of the upper valley not far from the Russian River. The operation was equipped with all the latest, sophisticated high-tech equipment. A large control room was situated high in the first warehouse, with a commanding view of the arriving trucks where the tubs were emptied into the processing machine that destemmed and crushed the grapes before the juice was extracted and sent to the vats for fermentation. The entire process could be observed from the control room.
Spritzer stood at the control panel with his clipboard while the operator supervised and directed the arrival of the trucks and the distribution of the grape juice.
A call came in on Spritzer’s walkie-talkie.
“Spritzer, this is Francisco. Do you read me?”
“Read ya,” Spritzer responded.
“Five more trucks leaving number ten. Should be there in twenty. Over.”
Spritzer turned to the control panel operator. “Let me know as soon as number eight’s clean. Looks like we’ll need it today.”
“Yeah. Sure thing.”
Spritzer left the control room and strode along the catwalk above the fermentation tanks, checking to see that each tank was filled to its capacity, before opening up the next one.
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Meet the Author
Jon McDonald lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has seven published novels, a memoir, and three children’s books. His short stories have appeared in a number of prestigious publications. He considers himself a genre-bending author—he loves to take an established literary genre, play with it, and turn it on its head. He has lived abroad and traveled extensively.
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