A case of sour grapes.
When wine critic Richard Wilson goes missing, his sister asks her ex-husband, Babe Stern, to ask around and see if he can locate him. Leaving the operation of his bar, Pancho’s, to his partner, Babe begins scouring the Napa Valley looking for his ex–brother-in-law. Wilson turns up in a vat of Cabernet Sauvignon at the Norton Winery with his head smashed and his hand amputated. Who wanted him dead? Quite a few vintners whose offerings he trashed in his newsletter, it turns out. But the lead Babe chooses to follow sends him to Burgundy, France, to chase down a young man named Jean who had been interning at Norton when Wilson was murdered. The investigation uncovers secrets that have festered for years, eating away at families, prosperity and vineyard productivity. Babe will narrowly escape death himself; two other wine writers will be less fortunate.
Restaurateur and former wine columnist Lewis’s mystery debut is short on character development and plot intrigue, but he’s knowledgeable about winemaking, wine tasting and wine pretensions.