Ripe For MurderPenny Lively here, taking time out from ploughing on my California winery. Yes, I did say ploughing, because in its early stages wine is a field of grapes, just like any other crop. It’s freezing out today but the work needs to be done. These are the times you don’t talk about in the cozy tasting room, when I frequently hear from a visitor, “Oh, running a winery must be a wonderful way to live.” It can be, but today isn’t one of those days. The last of winter is holding out in early March and there’s a raw wind coming in off the Pacific. My hair is tucked into a ski cap. I’m wearing two sweaters, a fleece and the warmest coat I could find. Hardly highbrow, and yet that’s often one of the things that keeps people from really enjoying wine. . .the feeling that unless you really know what you’re talking about you should, well, be drinking beer.

I’m just going to come out and say it: Wine can be intimidating. I know it shouldn’t be, and as a winery owner I don’t want it to be, but it happens. Unfortunately, some people in the wine business foster that sense of mystique, and that’s a mistake. It keeps people from enjoying what they drink. Afraid of selecting the “wrong” wine for a meal, they will stick to the same two or three varietals they know, or decide they just don’t like wine.

Then there are some of the terms, and heaven forbid if you’re caught with a wine snob and don’t know what something means. For example, take the term terroir. In some areas of the world this is no laughing matter. Classifications of various grape growing regions in France are utterly strict and closely controlled. Very serious stuff. At least to some of the Châteaux in this area that have had the classifications of First Cru and Premier Cru for hundreds of years. Literally. Now, simply translated, terroir can refer to the terrain the grapes are grown in. It can also mean the slope, rainfall, drainage and how much sun the vines receive, along with a hundred other things, but honestly, do you really care? Of course not, and why should you? If you like something, drink it. Experiment with something new, like a Malbec. Smell it before you taste and see if you can recognize the fruits. Roll it around in your mouth. Is there a bite to it? That could be the oak. It might be smooth, and soft, something good with mild foods. First and foremost, remember that wine should be fun. Just ask the Romans and Greeks. They figured it out thousands of years ago.

Penny Lively

Ripe For Murder is the second book in the Cypress Cove mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime, March 2016.

From the author of One Foot in the Grape—a new full-bodied Cypress Cove mystery that is certain to delight, even if one wine lover is about to expire.

Penny Lively loves running her family’s winery, but to keep business growing, she needs to find a way to attract more guests. When she’s approached to invest in a new train line through wine country, Penny and her intoxicating winery manager, Connor, hightail it to a lavish resort to hear the details. Unfortunately, her neighbor’s daughter, Chantal, is also there, swirling up trouble by flirting with the married investors—and with Connor too.

When one of the investors’ wives is murdered, Chantal, who was seen fighting with the woman, is the prime suspect. Chantal may be a sour grape, but she’s no killer. So Penny, who’s become a sleuthing connoisseur, starts sniffing out the real suspect—and discovers that her fellow potential investors have been savoring more than their share of deadly secrets.

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About the author
National best selling author Carlene O’Neil is a former television writer, and is currently a commercial CarleneOreal estate broker in the Los Angeles market. She grew up in the heart of wine country in northern California, and is accredited by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. Currently she lives in Valencia, California. The Cypress Cove Mystery Series is set along the central California coast, and the similarities between the fictional town of Cypress Cove and the stunning town of Carmel are no accident.

One Foot in the Grape is the first in the series published by Berkley Prime Crime. Her second novel, Ripe for Murder, was released March 1st. You can reach Carlene at her website at or on Facebook.

Giveaway: Leave comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Ripe For Murder. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end March 17, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

All comments are welcomed.

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