Researching “Handpicked”

When I first began writing the third story in the Muller’s of McLaren Vale trilogy, I knew that it would be based around the grape harvest. Over the course of writing the books, based at the fictional winery of Muller’s Field, I have done a lot of research into how wine makes it from the grape to the bottle. It’s been a hard and exhausting few years of constant day trips down to the McLaren Vale wine region in order to get these stories absolutely correct. (Can you hear the sarcasm in my voice?) Nope, researching the wine regions was not a chore at all!

However, it wasn’t all about touring cellar doors and tasting as much wine as possible. As I write, the wine regions of South Australia are preparing for harvest 2017. Expensive machinery is being sourced, staff are working long hours and casual workers are being inducted to help with handpicking grapes the huge mechanical harvesters can’t reach.

Andrew, the youngest of the gorgeous Muller brothers, finds his love interest in childhood friend Taryn, who returns to Muller’s Field to help with the handpicking of the grapes. Taryn is a free-spirited drifter who follows the harvest trail around Australia, picking fruit in places like Kununurra, Gol Gol and Bourke.

To ensure I knew what my characters would be doing – in between fighting off their lust for one another – I dragged my friend (and Handpicked cover artist) Belinda out of bed before dawn in the cold March of 2014, and down to Yangarra Estate vineyard where they were mid-harvest. Yangarra Estate offers members the opportunity to be a part of the harvest and we joined the Yangarra crew and other volunteer members in handpicking several rows of the grenache. Yangarra Grenache bushes grow low to the ground, and can therefore not be picked by the mechanical harvester. Winemaker Peter Fraser and vineyard manager Michael Lane, gave great insights into the process of winemaking from grape to bottle as well as a tour of the winery. All in all, the day helped me to write “Handpicked” with as much accuracy as possible.

One of the best parts of the day, was being able to jump into a barrel of cold, sticky grenache grapes and do a little foot stomping. This fun, time-honoured vineyard tradition became one of my favourite scenes in “Handpicked”.

I know what you’re thinking: Yangarra are clever. Luring gullible city folk in to help them pick their grapes for free. Well that may be so, but the rewards for a few hours of picking included a fantastic brunch of locally sourced McLaren Vale morsels, and lots of lovely Yangarra Estate wines. And they had to endure my endless questions!

A year later, we were invited to return to Yangarra Estate and help bottle the wine made from the grapes we helped pick. We also got to sign the label as winemaker and purchase as much of the 2014 Small Pot Members Made Grenache as we wanted. Yes, sometimes research for an author can be arduous – this was not one of those times. Cheers! And below, enjoy some of the photos from the picking and bottling days and the links to buy my books are on the right menu of this page. Thanks!