"Delightful... effervescent, heady and intoxicating." -Elin Hilderbrand
How far would you got to find the place you belong?
Hannah is finally about to have everything she ever wanted. With a high-paying job, a Manhattan apartment, and a boyfriend about to propose, all she and Ethan have to do is make it through the last couple of weeks of grad school.
But when, on a romantic weekend trip to Sonoma, Hannah is spontaneously offered a marketing job at a family-run winery and doesn't immediately refuse, the couple's meticulously planned forever threatens to come crashing down. And then Hannah impulsively does the unthinkable - she takes a leap of faith.
Abandoning your dream job and life shouldn't feel this good. But this new reality certainly seems like a dream come true--a picturesque cottage overlooking a vineyard; new friends with their own inspiring plans; and William, the handsome son of the winery owners who captures Hannah's heart only to leave for the very city she let go.
Soon, the mission to rescue the failing winery becomes a mission to rescue Hannah from the life she thought she wanted. Crackling with humor and heart, The Shortest Way Home is the journey of one woman shedding expectations in order to claim her own happy ending.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Penguin Group|
|File size:||1 MB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I would have never predicted that a winery could change my life. But when I walked into the empty tasting room at Bellosguardo on the first weekend in May of my thirtieth year, a feeling came over me. The kind you get when you taste a new food for the first time and you know it will be your favorite, or when you see a guy across the bookstore and you know he'll be your new boyfriend. It was like inspiration. Never before had an empty room made me feel like I belonged in it, but this room had that quality.
The tasting room, whitewashed stucco with exposed beams, was infused with the soothing, earthy smell of a room that had seen a lot. A room that knew things. A huge brick fireplace was embedded in the wall on one side and a floor-to-ceiling diamond-shaped wine rack filled the back of the room. An ornate oak bar was to the right, with nobody behind it, but two glasses were placed right in the middle, an open bottle of wine with a black label on it between them. A perfect photo. A brown-and-white Cavalier King Charles spaniel lounged in a patch of light from a window in the back corner. The dog lifted his head slightly to acknowledge me and I nodded in his direction. He lazily put his head back on the floor, thumped his tail a few times, and closed his eyes. Clearly, he approved of me.
My boyfriend, Ethan, and I had spent the day driving up from San Francisco to Sonoma, taking more than three hours to do a one-hour drive. We had wound around the twists and turns of Highway 1, stopping to get out and appreciate the view based on Ethan's pretrip evaluation of the best lookout spots on our route-we held hands, gritted our teeth, and dipped our toes into the cold water of Muir Beach and gasped at the view from the cliffs in Point Reyes. My iPhone photographs didn't come out nearly as good as Ethan's DSLR photos, but I took the time to imprint the vista on my brain. In the age of Instagram and Snapchat, I think a memory is the most private thing. When things are important, I make a point of closing my eyes and taking a mental photo.
We were about to go back to New York to start our real lives, leaving the beauty of the Pacific coast behind us. We were both in California for graduate school at Berkeley's Haas School and we were still awed by its resplendence-on days that weren't foggy (of course). We lived for the fog-free days. It seemed almost criminal to be returning to the East Coast after just two years in the West. But jobs beckoned.
Our last stand would be a weekend in wine country. We had arrived in Sonoma at around eleven and had dropped our bags at the front desk of the El Dorado Hotel. Our room wasn't ready yet, so we were advised to walk to Bellosguardo. "It's Sonoma's oldest and most beautiful winery," the woman behind the desk wearing a name tag that said betty had told us. She drew us a map of the town and showed us how to get there. "And when you've worked up an appetite, come back here and go to the Girl and the Fig across the street. Get the lavender crme brle no matter how full you are. It's the best." The winery hadn't been on Ethan's carefully planned itinerary (although the restaurant had). He preferred to plan trips down to the hour, with attractions, restaurants, and hotels that he carefully selected based on an amalgam of travel websites and message boards he visited. But, since we had arrived an hour early, his itinerary hadn't kicked in yet.
"It sounds amazing," I said.
Ethan silently acquiesced to the change in plan, although I could tell that he was irritated. But he smiled and took my hand, and we walked together following the hand-drawn map rather than the blue dot on our iPhones.
"I feel so lucky to be here with you," he said.
I felt lucky to be with him, or at the very least I felt lucky to be with anyone after many years as a single woman in New York City. Plus, it felt good to be away from the pressure cooker of the past few months of school. The competition for jobs had been fierce and many of my friendships had frayed, especially with my best friend, Tyra. We'd both interned at Goldman the summer before and I had beat her out for the job in Global Investment Research in New York. It was a perfect job for me because it was focused more on research and writing than on straight data analysis. Math hadn't always been my strong suit, although I had made it through accounting and macroeconomics relatively unscathed. Tyra had been offered the same job in Singapore, which she had grudgingly accepted. But I knew she still didn't think it was fair. "I'm worried about graduation. Packing. Moving back. I'm going to miss California. And I still feel bad about Tyra."
"Two days off. Away from all of that garbage," he said. "You'll be fine. You have plenty of time to pack, and if you don't, you'll just hire someone to do it. You're going to be rich soon."
"I don't know," I said, unconvinced.
I loved Ethan, but he and I were pretty different. His pragmatic side both attracted and irritated me. Since I didn't think everything through as much as he did, we often butted horns. I wanted to do things right away; he wanted to consider them deeply for extended periods of time. He made me feel like my neuroticness was a mind-set I could stop indulging in, rather than a character trait. Take our respective travel styles-he was a planner; I liked to ask the locals what to do.
We strolled through beautiful downtown Sonoma, past brightly painted bungalows and lush trees. "Those people have an entire citrus salad in their front yard," Ethan pointed out as we passed a blue-and-pink house with a hammock strung between two trees and a real parrot sitting on the porch rail. "Another glass of wine?" the parrot yelled at us, making me smile. Of course parrots in Sonoma knew to ask for glasses of wine rather than crackers. We turned onto Old Winery Road and the oak trees exploded around us. They were tall and shaded the entire street. The sidewalks were littered with acorn shells and we crunched along, going over the points that we'd need to address in our ethics final. It was an essay test that we assumed would present some sort of ethical business dilemma (products made in sweatshops? carbon offsets? workplace integrity outside of the office?) and that we would take two hours to solve in essay form. We worked well together on the business school projects that we overlapped on: He was the practical one; I brought the creative energy.
We crossed a little bridge over a delightful stream and walked into the parking lot of Bellosguardo, a large stone building embedded into the side of a hill. It was covered in ivy, and a wooden door peeked out, inviting me inside. I left Ethan in the parking lot examining the cornerstone and the foundation. He was a recovering civil engineer and still felt obligated to evaluate the structural integrity of old buildings as he encountered them. I pulled open the huge wooden door to enter the tasting room. I couldnÕt help but notice that next to the door was a small for rent by owner sign. But I almost forgot about it after I entered the tasting room-the whitewashed walls, the stone fireplace, the beams, the earthy smell. I had found my heaven.
As I stood in the middle of the room, awestruck, a tall, slim young man walked through a doorway behind the bar and gestured toward the wineglasses on the bar and the leather-topped stool right in front of it. His blond-streaked hair was long on top but a little spiky, and he had a hint of a beard growing, not like he really wanted to grow a beard, but he was just lazy enough to let things get to this point. The room was dark, aside from the dog's small patch of sun, and cool. Natural air-conditioning, I assumed, provided by stone and the hill behind.
"Good morning," he said warmly, pushing a piece of paper across the bar. "Here's what we're tasting today." I approached and examined the list. It had a shorter menu on one side featuring more recent vintages and a longer list on the other with a variety of years and wine names. "Would you like to do the reserve tasting or the standard tasting? The reserve includes our Syrah Port, which I think is one of the most unique wines being made in America. It also includes a 2012 Pinot Noir that won the Double Gold medal at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. The Pinot is only available here at the vineyard."
Ethan and I had planned to visit three or four wineries during the course of the day, most of which involved driving. The reserve list here included twelve wines, including the dessert wine, and doing it meant we were committing to this place for the first half of the day, but I already knew that I didn't want to leave here so quickly. I settled myself on the barstool. As I did, the dog stood up, yawned, did a yoga stretch, making himself long and lean, and trotted to greet me. He approached the barstool, stood on his back legs, and rested his front paws on my leg, his tongue hanging out a little, which made it seem like he was smiling, although it also might have meant that he didn't have a lot of teeth. He licked my bare leg and I patted his head. The dog let out a contented sigh and stayed standing on his back legs, tail wagging as I scratched behind his ears. "The reserve, please," I said, still scratching. "He's a good sales dog."
The bartender smiled. "We've trained him well. You won't be sorry about the reserve tasting. We make some of the best wines in California. And I'm not just saying that because I grew up here."
"You grew up in California?"
"In this very winery," he said, gesturing to the room.
"That's amazing," I exclaimed. "What a cool childhood."
He shrugged and opened the first bottle. "It's the only one I know. Ready?"
"My boyfriend is on his way as well. He's just outside looking at the building. I can't imagine what's taking him so long."
"He probably met my dad," he said. "He loves to talk history. The place was founded in the 1870s, but my family took it over in the 1950s. My mother's father bought it. First he revived the vines and then started making wine again. We've only recently reopened this space. Up until then, we just sold to local restaurants, a few stores in the area. My mom would do the deliveries and the bookkeeping."
"That's a lot of work," I said.
"She still handles most of the business stuff around here. My dad handles the wine making. Anyway, since we opened the tasting room and started a wine club, things are getting better. We're up to three thousand cases per year."
"Is that a lot?" I asked.
"It's okay, but it could be better. The Francis Ford Coppola Winery makes ten thousand a day."
"That's insane," I said.
"Completely," he said, and flashed me a little grin.
He poured a hearty taste of white wine into the glass in front of me. Tiny bubbles appeared clear against the pale lemon of the wine. "It's beautiful," I said, swirling the glass of citrusy sparkle before sipping. It felt bright, effervescent. "Amazing. It tastes like . . . I don't know, like really good ginger ale or something. I can't believe people aren't lining up outside your door."
He suppressed his laugh at my comparison of the sparkling wine to ginger ale. I remembered from our wine-tasting class at school that you were supposed to remark upon what you tasted. The instructor recommended that we taste things like "leather" or "currant" in red wines, but I didn't know what leather tasted like. I'm just a girl from Iowa; I didn't know the first thing about how to describe wine, and in that class every time I tried to say something, someone snorted. But I knew I should say something and I did know what ginger ale tasted like and it was delicious. "We're not as exciting as some of the other places around here, but we do have good wines, if I do say so myself."
"This place should be overflowing," I said.
"What could we do?" he said.
"Lots," I said.
"I wouldn't even know where to begin," he said.
My hands otherwise engaged with a wineglass, the dog returned to all four feet and settled under my seat. He emitted a contented sigh.
"Oh, Tannin," the bartender said. "So dramatic."
"Tannin? That's a good name for a winery dog."
"He has the best life in the world."
"I'm jealous," I said.
"Me too," he said, his eyes twinkling.
A few months earlier, we had come up to Sonoma with a group of friends from school, in the midst of all the job drama, and ended up in a tasting room that had felt like Disney World-everyone assigned a tasting time in fifteen-minute increments using little register receipts like you were at a deli. While you waited for your appointed time, they screened a video about the history of the winery-founded in 2008-and after you were done with your fifteen-minute tasting, you exited through a gift shop selling wine and grape-themed hand towels and kitchen aprons and wall hangings with sayings like i cook with wine. sometimes i even add it to the food. I have a few rules about home dcor-they include no ÒcleverÓ signs, no faux vintage posters, no photo collages, no figurine collections, no themed rooms. Ethan often teased me about my taste, although I was pretty sure he secretly supported my rules in his heart.