In Vino Veritas
Sydney Blackburn © 2018
All Rights Reserved
One: Beretta Estate Winery
Anthony Beretta hovered in his office, listening to his cousin Katie extol the virtues of their Concord wine.
“It’s a heritage grape,” she was saying, “the kind they make grape juice from.”
Because wine that tasted like commercial grape juice was so popular. Still, there were customers to extol its dubious virtues to, and that was something. Didn’t mean he wanted to meet them, not over the Concord.
“It makes a great spritzer and is the perfect base for a sangria,” she continued. “Not too sweet, but with a full fruity flavour.”
He had to hand it to her. She knew how to sell it. Then again, Katie loved the winery almost as much as he did.
He moved away from his office door and sat behind his desk, looking once more at the open agenda. The winery hosted events, mostly weddings, and provincial regulations had recently changed. He had an appointment with his insurance broker in Bayham in little more than an hour. Which was why he was wearing his suit, instead of the jeans, T-shirt, and heavy cotton button-down he normally wore when he worked at the tasting room. He tugged at the lavender tie that felt like it was strangling him.
After checking the time on his phone once more, Anthony cleared his desk and locked the files away. No one else needed to know how shaky the winery’s finances were. He got to his feet and patted his jacket pocket for his car keys.
There was a mirror beside the door, so one could double-check one’s appearance before going to talk to customers. Anthony gave himself a critical look, pushing his glasses up his nose automatically. The mirror showed him what he was—a rail-thin man just shy of six feet tall, with hair that would never look anything other than dishevelled and dark-framed glasses. At least the glasses went some way towards disguising the shadows under his eyes. He looked like an upended mop, albeit a well-dressed mop.
He scowled. He’d much rather be in his jeans and work boots, out with his stubborn Foch vines. Three years ago, he’d put those bastards in, after his father had the gall to die of a heart attack.
His mouth tightened. He couldn’t think of his father without a sour mix of anger, grief, and guilt.
A discordant jangling let him know the customers had left, and he pushed his door open wider just as Katie rounded the corner. “Ant,” she said, “so glad I caught you. Could you pick up some of that jalapeño sauce from the Mexican store? It really shows off the Viognier. It’s a hard sell on its own.”
He refrained from scowling. Ant was a childhood nickname he’d long outgrown. His name was Anthony. She was right about the Viognier, though.
“Jalapeño sauce. Yes.”
“I don’t suppose you’ve thought about giving me Friday off,” she said, her tone rising at the end of the sentence, but not quite enough to make it a question.
He stifled a sigh. “And you’re not asking Leigh to switch with you because…?”
“Because it’s her wedding shower. Jesus, Ant, pull your head out of your ass once in a while.”
He ground his teeth as he bit back a sharp reply. “Fine. You have Friday off.” It wasn’t like he had anything better to do on a Friday. The tasting room closed at seven. He could catch up on the paperwork while he ate, and on Saturday, he could spend the day in the vineyard, trying to discover why the Foch vines were underproducing.
“You’re a prince,” Katie replied, but her snark had hardly any bite.
Happy employees were long-term employees, his father had always said. Katie really did care about the winery. She just had a social life. He shouldn’t be so hard on her.
And what about my happiness?
As the owner of the winery, there was no one around to see to his happiness. He didn’t even know what would make him happy anymore.
“Sorry, Katie.” He forced a smile. “Do you mind picking out a gift the estate can give her?”
“Yeah, give me a hundred dollars. It can be from the winery, you, Aunt Rosie, and me.”
“Take it from petty cash.”
“There’s no petty cash left, remember?”
He turned to hide his wince. “I’ll take some money from the account while I’m out.”
She hesitated. “The Wine and Song event will go on this year, right?”
“That’s why I’m going to town.”
“I know. It’s just… Is there anything I can do?”
His answering smile was forced. “Be careful what you volunteer for, cuz. Keep your fingers crossed the insurance hasn’t gone up too much.”
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She likes word play and puns and science-y things. And green curry.
Her dislikes include talking on the phone, people trying to talk to her before she’s had coffee, and filling out the “about me” fields in social media.
Besides writing, she also designs book covers for poor people.