“Magic. And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” -Roald Dahl
Before we begin let me ask you a questions. Could you be persuaded that certain plants have magical powers? How about believing in the existence of a magic wine? Since October is a time when magic is celebrated and mystery is relished, it seemed only fitting that this month’s title, Garden Spells, is a book that blends magical realism with a touch of Southern Gothic and a cast of unique women that are secretive, quirky and just plain fun to read about.
To join the Book Club Live Book Discussion of Garden Spells on Saturday October 23th at 1:00 pm PST/4:00 EST make sure that you are signed up to receive email notifications from Drink In Life (Email Subscription on right hand of the page) and Comment on this story post. You will receive an email invite to join the discussion. You can also follow @drinkinlifebookclub on Instagram, comment on the October Book post and ask to join the discussion.
Enchanting is the word that best describes this novel. From the first sentence, I was instantly drawn into the story by author Sarah Addison Allen’s descriptive prose. Allen’s literary style and ability to evoke images though her words, bring this story of the Waverly Clan and the small North Carolina town they live in to life. The Waverly’s have a reputation around town for being ‘different’ although the “magical” occurrences are nothing of great surprise to most of the town folks. The town simply accepts that the Waverley family are a curious bunch who possess special gifts some of which they would like to posses themselves.
The Waverley family have long been the stewards of a rather unusual property where apples from their tree tells people what the biggest event in their lives will be, while edible flowers and herbs aid in producing the magically endowed foods. Garden Spells is also a story of the bonds and difficulties found in any family, it weaves together two estranged sisters, Claire and Sydney Waverly, their elderly cousin, Evanelle and Sydney’s young daughter Bay who isn’t aware of her family legacy. Each Waverly has their own uncanny ability including knowing where things belong, giving people things that they will need in the future, and very special culinary and beauty skills that can change people’s lives. The Waverly’s whether they like it or not, have their own individual brand of magic.
I am keeping the story line of this book to a minimum because there are certain aspects of the book that deserve to be discovered through the course of reading it, not from telling you what to expect. Would you enjoy reading Garden Spells? You will if you enjoy escaping into a world filled with delicious culinary magic, including lush gardens filled with bewitching edible plants, intriguing old creaky houses, and a cast of lively and spirited characters who make you forget for awhile that magic isn’t real.
Author Stephen King is quoted as calling books “a uniquely portable magic” and I absolutely agree. After reading a number of Sarah Addison Allen’s books I think she is keenly aware of what it takes to make a book a magical portal for her readers as she spins stories with southern flavor, small-town charm, and a blend of captivating characters. Born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Allen was a literature major in college and following graduation her course as a New York Times Bestselling novelist was set in 2007 with the publication of Garden Spells.
With the success of Garden Spells, Allen continued to publish memorizing stories over the next five years including, The Sugar Queen, The Girl Who Chased The Moon, and The Peach Keeper. Soon Allen’s writing would be put on hold as she took a break when she was diagnosed at the age of 39 with late stage breast cancer. In 2014 she returned to writing and published her bestselling novel, Lost Lake. Now in remission Allen continues to write “Southern-fried magic realism” novels that have a real connect with her readers, including a sequel to Garden Spell, which was released in 2015 called First Frost.
Photography credit: Amber S. Wallace courtesy of Sarah Addison Allen’s Website.
Exciting News from Allen’s Website shares that there will be a New Book Coming Soon!
“At long last, my new book is complete! Thank you all for being so patient. As soon as there is a title and a release date I’ll be sure to share in my newsletter and on my social media pages. (I’ll also be shouting with joy from the rooftop, but I doubt anyone but my – probably very concerned – neighbors will hear that.) I know 2020 has been a rough one for everyone. Here’s to a wonderful 2021.”
Allen’s novels are spellbindingly charming and I eagerly await the release of her newest novel, you may even see it as a Drink In Life Book Club title in the future.
Like many of her novels Allen displays a great appreciation of good food in Garden Spells, and she acknowledges that the credit goes to her “fabulous cook” mother. Garden Spells is blooming with garden inspired recipes created by the lead character Claire who runs her own catering company and always seems to know what Waverly magic her clients need most from her culinary creations.
Garden inspired culinary creativity can go beyond the fresh produce harvested and include dishes that have been garnished with edible flowers and herb blooms. Nature always seems to have a way of providing us more resources than we may realize, especially when it comes to discovering what is edible in the garden. For those looking to experience all that nature has to offer or are just looking to add a little flavor into your life, you need only walk through an herb garden collecting both leaves and flowers to experiment with.
Fun Fact: All the blooms of herb plants are edible and most herb blooms smell and taste like the leaves of the same plant. Nowadays many high end chefs as well as home cooks are decorating their plates with edible flowers and herb blooms and the good news is that it doesn’t take any special skills to create edible masterpieces of your own.
Pictured here: Chives are a perennial member of the onion family that sport beautiful edible flowers.
According to the Waverly Kitchen Journal (found in the book), chive blossoms ensure that you will win an argument and are conveniently also an antidote for hurt feelings.
Chef Jill and I both believe in the ancient adage that “First we eat with our eyes” so we compiled a collection of recipes that not only get a flavor boost from ingredients found in the garden, but are also as aromatic as they are beautiful. The only question is are these recipes too pretty to eat?
“Yellow joy was radiating from her. When you’re happy for yourself, it fills you. When you’re happy for someone else, it pours over. It was almost too bright to watch.”
― Sarah Addison Allen, Garden Spells
On a warm late summer day, nothing can compare to just picked sun ripened tomatoes harvested from the garden. Tomatoes pretty much have it all, mouthwatering acidity, great texture, and a natural juicy sweetness. My recipe this month is a simple Yellow Tomato Bruschetta that compliments the crisp character of Medlock Ames Sauvignon Blanc. This Sauvignon Blanc is tailor-made to cope with the acidity of tomatoes, the bite of garlic and layers of fresh basil. -Elaine
Jill’s inspiring recipes are always brimming with unique flavors and they are definitely a feast for the eyes. In two of her recipes the addition of edible flowers add vibrant pops of color and bursts of flavor to these dishes. Where do you find edible flowers? You can source edible flowers by growing them yourself, finding them at your farmers market or look for a specialty site where you can order them. With their bright colors and appealing scents, edible flowers can instantly elevate any dish.
Fall is the perfect time to start an indoor window sill herb garden to grow Rosemary, Thyme, Parsley and more all winter long to incorporate in your culinary creations. For this Dry Rubbed Pork Tenderloin Jill pulls together some of the most flavorful and aromatic herbs for this melt-in-your-mouth tender pork loin recipe! Serve this succulent pork with your favorite Rice Pilaf and Pea Puree for the perfect comfort meal.
In Garden Spells, Claire cooks up so many delicate and intriguing things including lavender bread, crystallized pansies, violet white cake, lemon-verbena sorbet, and honeysuckle wine. Anything with apples from Claire’s backyard mischievous apple trees is typically not on the menu. September however, is the month of Apple harvest and Chef Jill couldn’t help but combine all of these flavors of Autumn with the delicate notes of a Lavender Syrup to pair with the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc from Medlock Ames. Be prepared to spend hours enjoying the comforting aromas of these fresh baked apple!
In Garden Spells the youngest of the Waverly clan, Bay, has a love of Strawberry pop tarts and Evanelle wisely gives a box of them to Claire before her sister and niece arrive. In this recipe Jill has whipped up a homemade re-creation of this childhood favorite with her Mystical Strawberry Pop Tarts, they are magically delectable bits.
Visit Jill’s Gourmet Dreams to find more of Chef Jill’s delectable recipes.
Medlock Ames was founded in 1998 by best friends Chris Medlock James and Ames Morison, who after college dreamed of producing the classic Bordeaux wines they enjoyed drinking with grapes grown in California. Their journey to winemaking began when they moved to California and started the search for just the right property, a search that ultimately led them to Chalk Hill Road where the towering Bell Mountain stood watch over more than a dozen of untended Merlot vines. This land spoke to Medlock and Ames triggering the start of their dream to produce wines with organic farming and a light touch during the winemaking process.
All Medlock Ames wine are made from 100% organic, estate grown fruit from their 338 acre estate which is also home to more than 800 olive trees. The property also maintains a 100% organic garden that is filled with various fruits, vegetables, and herbs. With their commitment to sustainability, in the vineyards, gardens and winery Medlock Ames was the ideal choice to partner with for Garden Spells, which is filled with enchanting garden references. Jill and I would like to thank Medlock Ames for being our October Drink In Life Book Club wine sponsor.
The 2018 Lower Slope Chardonnay is both ripe and crisp with a fresh youthful acidity and a wonderful spectrum of aromas and flavors. The perfect companion on a sunny Autumn day this Chardonnay has the unique ability of delivering a combination of tropical, orchard and citrus fruit aromas with sparks of minerality. The enticing green apple with hints of apricot flavors and luscious mouthfeel is attributed to Medlock Ames’ method of fermenting.
“Nearly half of the fruit in stainless steel keeping it on the lees, and stirred weekly to improve the body and mouthfeel, creating the opportunity to develop brioche flavors. We aged the remaining half in French oak barrels before blending. We hold the wine in bottle for nine months before release to allow the wine’s bouquet to come to the fore.” Medlock Ames
The 2020 Medlock Ames Sauvignon Blanc is intricately complex with sophisticated aromas of lemon, wild flowers and grapefruit zest. There is a mineral edge to the wine that lifts up the soft crisp acidity making this a literal joy in the glass Sauvignon Blanc. On the palate this structured full bodied wine delivers flavors of green apple, tropical fruit and citrus. A perfect summertime sip but definitely a wine to enjoy year round, it is an incredibly food friendly wine.
While I finished reading Garden Spells on a beautiful late August day my mind kept wandering to the bottle of Medlock Ames Estate Red that still needed to be sampled. After reading the wine profile on their website I quickly made a run to the store for a small chocolate cake and fresh strawberries to create my own private Garden Party.
Comprised of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec this blend left me completely gobsmacked with its warm rich cherry, chocolate and spice overtones on both the nose and palate. A lush and soft wine that finishes with pleasant hints of garden rosemary, pepper and sprinkles of graphite salt minerals. A delightful wine to accompany my garden party chocolate cake and strawberries.
You can order the Medlock Ames Wines featured here by visiting the Special Drink In Life Book Club page on their website where they have put together a special offer. Jill and I would like to thank Medlock Ames Winery for being Garden Spells wine partner.
“The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper”. William Butler Yeats.
In the act of reading both as a passion and as a pass time, there is power in books. If you enjoy reading magical realism books like Garden Spells here are a few other books that would be the perfect companion on a Autumn day.
With the success of Garden Spells, Allen wrote a sequel published in 2015, First Frost, that continues the story of the subtly magical Waverley clan, ten years later.
The Practical Magic Series by Alice Hoffman, an enchanting witch’s brew of magic, suspense, and romance. On Hoffman’s website she shares “You can read them in the order they were written (Practical Magic, The Rules of Magic, Magic Lessons, and the soon to be released The Book of Magic) or you can read them in chronological order (Magic Lessons, The Rules of Magic, Practical Magic, The Book of Magic). It’s up to you!”
“Magic Realism is not new. The label’s new, the specific Latin American form of it is new, its modern popularity is new, but it’s been around as long as literature has been around”. -Terri Windling
A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan is a historical saga that traces five generations of powerful witches, mothers and daughters whose magical inheritance is both a dangerous threat and an extraordinary gift.
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe travels seamlessly between the witch trials of the 1690s and a modern woman’s story of mystery, intrigue, and revelation.
Jill and I hope that we have inspired you to make some of these recipes to enjoy while you read Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. We would love to hear your thoughts on these recipes and the book. Cheers everyone and we hope to see you soon at the next virtual Drink In Life Book Club discussion.
Remember to join the Book Club Live Book Discussion of Garden Spells on Saturday October 23th at 1:00 pm PST/4:00 EST make sure that you are signed up to receive email notifications from Drink In Life (Email Subscription on right hand of the page) and Comment on this story post. You will receive an email invite to join the discussion. You can also follow @drinkinlifebookclub on Instagram, comment on the October Book post and ask to join the discussion.
“Claire lifted her glass after everyone had eaten. “Everyone make a toast. To food and flowers,” she said.
“To love and laughter,” Tyler said.
“To old and new,” Henry said.
“To what’s next,” Evanelle said.
“To the apple tree,” Bay said.”
― Sarah Addison Allen, Garden Spells
Previous Book Club Recipes from Elaine and Chef Jill can be found on the Welcome to the Drink In Life Book Club, the Drink In Life Book Club post and the Drink In Life Book Club-The Vintner’s Daughter post.
Images, content and recipes © of Drink In Nature Photography/Drink In Life Blog and/or Jill’s Gourmet Dreams.
As part of the Drink In Life Book Club each month Chef Jill and I strive to not only to create recipes that compliment our current book title but to also find a winery (or distillery) that is perfectly matched with the book, providing members a delightful tasting to enjoy as they read the month’s selection. The September title, The Vintner’s Daughter is set in both the Loire Valley and Napa Valley, specifically Carneros in the late 1800’s. For this reason it was only fitting to highlight a winery from Carneros and I was thrilled when Cuvaison Winery wanted to collaborate as the book club wine sponsor for this book title.
Napa Valley’s history is shaped by dreamers who pursued their passions in the landscape that would become one of the most famous wine regions in the world. Inspired by the artistry taking place in the valley, Cuviason set down roots in 1969 and set about making their inaugural vintage of Chardonnay. The chosen location was ideal for cool climate wines like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and ten years later in 1979 Cuvaison took ownership of 400 acres of highly sought after land in the Los Carneros district of Napa Valley. This prized land was ideal for growing a multitude of varieties and it also became the site of Cuvaison’s winery. By the late ’90s, Cuvaison expanded their grape growing to two estate vineyards located in the Carneros and Mount Veeder winegrowing regions.
Being early trailblazers of the Los Carneros region, Cuvaison is an advocate of cool climate vineyard driven wines that are an expression of the region. Their vineyards, which are sustainably farmed, take full advantage of slope, soil composition, and exposure to the sun to produce the best quality fruit. In addition to the sustainable farming practices initiated by Cuvaison they are also working to restore natural habitat to the area as well as enhancing their local watershed. Controlling each level of farming allows Cuvaison to produce wonderfully balanced and dynamic wines that showcase each unique estate grape characteristic.
“As part of our multigenerational approach to winegrowing and winemaking, at Cuvaison we strive to be a leader in the area of sustainability. From going solar to achieving our Napa Green Winery, Napa Green Land, Bay Area Green Business and Fish Friendly Farming certifications, we are dedicated to reducing Cuvaison’s impact on our environment, while continuing to look for new ways to create positive change for the environment, and in our community.” -Cuvaison Winery
Photo Credit: Cuvaison Winery
Situated in the heart of Los Carneros Cuvaison Winery is nestled amongst more than 200 acres of picturesque vineyards.
Set within this stunning wine region, Cuvaison’s gorgeous property has sweeping views of the valley.
Cuvaison is located at 1221 Duhig Rd in Napa, CA.
To book a tasting you can make an appointment on their website, call them at 707-942-2455 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Credit: Cuvaison Winery
Estate Tasting are $45 Per person and feature five of Cuvaison’s captivating wines. The seated tasting highlights the distinguishing characteristics of these Los Carneros and Mount Veeder estate wines.
Photo Credit: Cuvaison Winery
At Cuvaison’s Carneros location you can take a unique hike through their vineyards followed by an Estate Tasting and a boxed lunch as part of their Vineyard Hike and Tasting with Boxed Lunch (Per person – Retail: $80 | Club: $75) This special package is offered Friday – Sunday at 10:00 AM, by appointment only.
Rendering of Cuvaison’s New Tasting Room (Provided by Cuvaison Winery)
Cuvaison Winery is excited to announce a new construction project to enhance the visitor experience at Cuvaison’s beautiful estate vineyard and winery in Napa Valley’s Los Carneros AVA.
“Constructed in two phases, the first part of the project will focus on the Cuvaison Tasting Room, where a floor-to-ceiling sliding glass wall will be added, along with an expanded terrace. The second phase of the project will include the installation of beautiful open-air pavilions for VIP tastings and special events, which will be cantilevered above the south shore of the property’s scenic pond, and will offer idyllic views of the lower vineyard, as well as local flora and fauna surrounding the pond. To support the pavilions, Cuvaison will also be building an outdoor service area, additional restrooms and expanded wheelchair-accessible
parking. During construction, Cuvaison will remain open for tastings, and will be hosting guests
outside on a dedicated portion of the crush pad, and indoors in the winery’s beautiful barrel room, which will serve as Cuvaison’s interim tasting room.” -Cuvaison Winery
While they make enhancements to their estate tasting room, Cuvaison’s in-person tasting experiences are currently offered daily by appointment only in their barrel room and winery patio.
The estate grown wines from Cuvaison were the perfect wines to pair with the Drink In Life Book Club’s September title, The Vintner’s Daughter because they encompass the elegant and unique terroir, as well as the history of the Los Carneros region.
Bright red fruit notes of strawberry and raspberry along with hints of black cherry dominate the aromas of the 2019 Pinot Noir from Cuvaison. With every additional swirl and sniff you get inviting scents of wild flowers and herbs. On the palate an exciting freshness grabs hold of the fruit and warm spice elements and delivers a beautifully vibrant long finish. A real attention grabbing down to earth Carneros Pinot Noir.
Complex is a good word for describing the 2019 Cuvaison Estate Chardonnay. This Chardonnay has an inviting and intensely pronounced aroma of citrus, stone fruit and baked apples. Just the right amount of buttery vanilla flavors on the palate with some pleasant oak note joining in the background. A lovely example of a Napa Valley Chardonnay.
The 2019 Estate Cuvaison Sauvignon Blanc pairs a lively acidity with a collection of bright and intense aromas and flavors, like a spiced tropical fruit salad. Clean and crisp, with a delightful rich texture and a sleek finish. I can see enjoying this Carneros gem year round, sipped alone or paired with some takeout Thai.
For the Drink In Life Book Club, Cuvaison has a put together a special offer for members who would like to enjoy their 2020 Estate Sauvignon Blanc, 2019 Estate Chardonnay and 2019 Estate Pinot Noir while reading The Vintner’s Daughter. This wines are also used and paired in Chef Jill’s recipes available on the Drink In Life Book Club-The Vintner’s Daughter blog post.
Cuvasion’s Estate Vineyard © 2018 Marc Fiorito // Gamma Nine Photography
Images and content © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.