Jane the Quene and Sparkling Wine

No. We didn’t spell Jane the Quene wrong. It’s how she spelled her name on the birth announcements for her son, Edward Tudor. The book, by Janet Wertman, is a fictionalized account of Jane Seymour’s journey from lady-in-waiting to the ill-fated Anne Boleyn, to her marriage to King Henry VIII. Told mostly from Jane’s perspective, it’s book one in the Seymour Saga trilogy.

Cover of novel Jane the Quene

The reason almost everyone knows Henry VIII is that he created the Church of England when the pope wouldn’t annul his marriage to Katherine of Aragon after Katherine couldn’t give the king a son. Okay, Henry also had a thing for Anne Boleyn, too, and eventually married her.

The book starts when Jane Seymour first comes to court under Katherine. Then it jumps forward to the last year or so of Anne Boleyn’s life. Jane still served as lady-in-waiting, which apparently, was kind of odd. But she did manage to attract Henry’s attention before he set up Anne to be executed.

The story brings the history of England in the 16th Century to life quite nicely. We’ll leave it up to you to decide how much of a schemer Jane Seymour was, or her brothers, for that matter. However, it is a sad story. Jane just barely gets to enjoy being married before worrying about producing the son that Henry VIII so desperately needed. Then when she does produce said son, she gets sick and dies. Historical fact, not a spoiler.

Early sparkling wine

We did ask Wertman what wine she would recommend for drinking while reading the book. She suggested a blanquette de Limoux. It’s a sparkling wine from Limoux, France, and they may have invented Methode Champagnois before Champagne (only don’t tell the Champagnois that).

Wertman suggested it because that’s what Henry’s court was drinking back in the day. Wertman knows because she found it listed in some of the royal household documents, including an inventory. Inventories don’t sound all that interesting, but they are gold for folks who write historical fiction and have to figure out what folks were having for dinner way back before people posted to Facebook.

If you can find blanquette de Limoux, try it and let us know what you think. We’ve never seen it before, but it is still being made. Oh, and enjoy the book, too, perhaps with some other bubbly.

Battered and Late Harvest Zin

How do you pair wine with a book set in an urban café? Well, you do and you don’t. G. P. Gottlieb is the author of the Whipped and Sipped series of cozy mysteries, and her main character, Alene Baron, is a nice woman trying to take care of her ailing father, raise her three kids, and run the corner café featuring delicious and healthful snacks as well as great coffee.

Set in Chicago, the series brings that city delightfully to life as Alene and her best friend try to work around the neighboring bodies that turn up. Well, it is a mystery. Oh, and Alene falls in love with the local homicide cop, which is fun. Both Battered and the sequel Smothered are tremendous fun.

But, but, but…

What wine do you pair with delicious vegan baked goods? Seriously, the recipes in the book sound so good that even we want to try them, and we are not vegans. Not by a long shot. Then there’s the problem of sweet flavors and dry wines, and Anne really can’t stand that combination.

Michael brought up the idea that how you like your coffee will offer a clue to what kind of wine you like. If you like strong, black coffee, then you’ll probably like something robust and red in a wine. Want cream and sugar in your coffee, then you’ll want a lighter, fruitier wine.

But there’s also the emphasis on vegan, healthful snacks in the books. As it happens, we know the perfect winery – Angeleno Wine Company. They make wines that are natively fermented and vegan. They’re also damn good, and their Late Harvest Zinfandel is fruity without being jammy, with nice hints of pepper.

You can buy Gottlieb’s books directly from her website here, and the Zin from Angeleno Wine here.

Deep Dark Secrets and Syrah

Deep Dark Secrets, by Joy Ann Ribar, takes place in the dead of winter in Wisconsin. This first in the series of cozy mysteries featuring winemaker and baker Francine (Frankie) Champagne, involves our heroine trying to find out who killed a local pastor and left him in an ice-fishing shanty.

the cover of Deep Dark Secrets by Joy Ann Ribar

Yes, there are wineries in Wisconsin, and author Ribar assures us that the wine is quite tasty. Anne also asked her what wine she would pair with Deep Dark Secrets, and she suggested something with some sass or peppery notes.

We agree. This is a cozy mystery, in that it’s not overly violent and more about the solving of a puzzle than it is about heart-pounding action. Which is fine with us. Heart-pounding action is not the most restful thing to read during the evenings.

Michael suggested a cool-climate syrah, in particular. We featured winemaker Sabrine Rodems with a lesson on syrah a number of years ago. We also like Camins2Dreams Zotovich Syrah, as well. Syrah is one of those wines that can be in your face, but a good one is smooth and lush and relaxing, with just a bit of sass.

So, until you can curl up with a nice glass of syrah and Deep Dark Secrets, you can find out more about Joy Ann Ribar by clicking here and scrolling down to find the book, itself, on the page and some places you can buy the book.

Poison Pen and Petite Sirah

Cover to Sheila Lowe's novel Poison Pen, featuring handwriting anaylyst Claudia Rose

Poison Pen is the first book in the Claudia Rose series by Sheila Lowe. Claudia, a handwriting analyst and forensic examiner just like her creator, keeps getting sucked into chasing down bad guys, starting with the death of the ruthless Lindsey Alexander.

The police believe it was probably suicide. Alexander’s business partner disagrees. He hires Claudia to determine if the handwriting on the apparent suicide note was, in fact, Alexander’s. Naturally, things get messier and messier. After all, Alexander’s business included some pretty skanky services to some very powerful men.

Label featuring petite sirah wine

Poison Pen is a taut, very tightly written thriller/whodunnit. Given that Claudia’s work is all about pen and ink, one wine is perfect: petite sirah. Inky, dark, deeply fruity, and often very tight and tannic, petite sirah fills the glass with full aromas and a lovely, full finish.

Winemakers frequently use the grape to blend with other wines, to add color and structure, and it can be a little hard to drink without a softer grape to blend with it. Winemaker Theodora Lee, of Theopolis Vineyards, makes a perfectly lovely petite sirah, and also a rosé from the grape.

With Poison Pen being equally bold and tight, you’ll want something with body to drink as you read it.

Silver Lies and Angelica

When Anne first tumbled onto Ann Parker’s Silver Rush historical mystery series, she jumped on it and devoured book one, Silver Lies. She also discovered a mention of angelica in book three, Leaden Skies.

What fun! Parker’s series, featuring saloonkeeper Inez Stannert in Leadville, Colorado, mostly in the early 1880s, is a terrific window on the reality of frontier America. It was really tough, especially for a woman who has been abandoned by her husband. Anne loved that Inez is no wilting flower, but a strong woman determined to make it on her own (not unlike Anne’s character Maddie Wilcox from the Old Los Angeles series).

In Silver Lies, which starts in December, 1879, Inez finds herself on the hunt to find out who killed a local mining assayer. Given that the fellow was corrupt as all get out and that the town is filled with all manner of unsavory types, Inez has her hands full.

What to drink

We chose Angelica to accompany this little tale of greed and murder, partly because the guys at Inez’ saloon, The Silver Queen, would have been drinking angelica wine from California. Well, along with whiskey. They mostly drank whiskey. But Parker had found a manifest with angelica listed on it.

Label from a bottle of Angelica

Angelica is basically a sherry, a fortified wine. It can be pretty strong, like Inez, but it also has a softer side, also like Inez. Sherry is the sort of drink that people of refined backgrounds drank. Inez, herself, came from a family with money.

Admittedly, finding angelica these days can be a bit of a challenge. It will definitely be easier to find Silver Lies, as it’s available all over. But try going to Ann Parker’s website first. Then sit back, get a good fire going, a glass of angelica or sherry, and immerse yourself in 1879.

A Trace of Gold with a Good Zinfandel

We’re trying something a little new here – wine and book pairings. Given Anne’s connections in the world of mystery writing, it seems kind of obvious that we’d want to take advantage of that. Our first book is A Trace of Gold, by Tim Chapman.

Tim Chapman is one of Anne’s virtual friends through the Blackbird Writers group. He also wrote a fun little thriller featuring Sean McKinney, a widowed forensic scientist on the trail of someone killing senior citizens with ties to the Ma Barker/Karpis gang of bank robbers in the 1930s.

We chose zinfandel to pair with Chapman’s tale. Zin pairs well with the historical subplot of the book, which takes place during the Great Depression and after Prohibition was repealed. Because Prohibition had killed so many U.S. wineries, what few remained were mostly making zinfandel.

Like zin, the book is complex with plotting in two time periods, office politics, and lots of mixed emotions as McKinney tries to navigate his grief while raising a teen-age daughter.

Sample label/Keystone Wines not available to the public

Good zin should be complex, too. There are those of us who remember the zinfandels of the 1990s, which were heavy on the fruit flavors and alcohol. Not so anymore. Today’s zins do have some fruit which makes them good with barbecue and solid murder mysteries. But they should also have a little bit of pepper flavor, which works great with McKinney, who can be pretty cranky.

We featured zin a while ago with a lesson from Katie Madigan, of St. Francis Winery and Vineyards. As for Tim, you can find out more about him and A Trace of Gold on his website, thrillingtales.com.