The crash of the wineglass breaking on the tasting room floor made Abby DesRosiers jump. Luckily the ruby red of the 2014 vintage Merlot didn’t splash on the patron’s expensive looking linen skirt and missed her own plain cotton shirt. The patron looked at her in disdain as she found a rag and cleaned the floor at the woman’s Jimmy Choo clad feet. Dude showed up a moment later, broom and mop bucket at the ready. She thanked him and lead the patron down to the next tasting station. She supposed she should be glad the winery wasn’t busy just then.
She poured a generous portion of the Merlot to make up for her clumsiness.
The woman relaxed enough to admit that the wine, if not its server, was excellent. Abby smiled and gave her spiel about the Bordeaux region where her family had learned to make wine.
“My grandfather passed that information on to my father, who passed it on to me.”
“I’d heard that your father was no longer with us,” the woman said.
Abby schooled her features and responded with a calm she didn’t feel.
“He’s missing. Although it’s been a nearly a year, the police are still searching for him. There has been no indication of death.”
“And your mother?”
Abby let her smile drop. “My mother died when I was a child.”
“Oh, you are all alone. So sorry for you, dear.”
“Are you ready for the 2015 Merlot? This one includes grapes from The Rose Tree’s newest vineyard on the south slope of the valley.”
The lady held out her empty glass, which Abby took carefully, and wiped her carmine lips on a napkin.
“Ah yes, the new vineyard. I look upon it every morning.”
“Oh?” Abby looked at the women and reassessed her. A local and not someone from Santa Barbara, or rather a new local.
“I’m Mrs. Aimes, your new neighbor. I bought the Pollard estate.” She didn’t respond to Abby’s offered hand, so Abby fussed with her bottles instead.
“I noticed the new barn going up. You have horses?”
Mrs. Aimes smiled briefly. “Thoroughbreds. Jumpers mostly, although I’m thinking about getting into racing. I have dogs too.”
Abby suppressed a shudder. Dogs were not her favorite animal, but she nodded as if having a slobbering pack next door would be great.
“The Pollard’s had several vineyards. Will you be growing grapes as well?”
Mrs. Aimes gave her an intense look for some reason, but only said, “Perhaps.”
A couple with a sulky teenager came in, followed by a set of older couples, and Abby excused herself after pouring Mrs. Aimes a taste of the Rose Tree’s grenache/syrah blend.
Later, after the crowd had left, Dude told her about Mrs. Aimes.
“She’s a movie star. Totally famous.”
“I thought she was kind of aloof, I guess that’s why.”
“Maybe she’d let me paint her. For being in her 50s, she’s still hot.”
“She’s 50? She looked 30, if that much.”
“She has to be. She had movies out in the late 80s.”
Abby looked around at the tasting room and the plastic tarps hiding the remodeling. “Speaking of painting…”
Dude raised his hand and said “Yeah, yeah. I’m outside if you need me.”