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Sunday, May. 10, 2009

Prosser's Kestrel Vintners plays part in whodunit

Twins Zachary and Angelina Bartlett didn't expect to manage a winery.

But when their father, master winemaker for Lapis Winery, and wicked stepmother die in a plane crash, the two return to the family business, only to come face-to-face with their father's dark past.

Does that plot sound as juicy as a ripe merlot grape?

It might be fiction, but a new novel starring the Bartlett twins is set in the reality of the Mid-Columbia wine country and features Prosser's Kestrel Vintners.

For the Sake of the Vine, a joint project that debuts in bookstores in June, is spearheaded by Seattle-based Tigress Publishing, said Kristen Morris, the company's chief executive officer.

It's the first in a series of three Merlot Murder Mysteries, all of which bring together the art of books, imagery and wine, she said.

"The idea behind Merlot Murder Mysteries is to get a collaborative effort and partner with a winery to create a new work of art," she said.

That winery is Kestrel, whose staff helped the author, Adria Lang, get all the winemaking facts right.

J.J. Compeau, Kestrel's director of sales, said the Washington setting will be good for the industry.

"The idea that someone wanted to use Washington ... that was exciting to us," he said.

Morris said one goal of the series is to highlight Washington's wine industry.

"Washington makes great wine, and it hasn't really gotten the attention it deserves," she said.

Aside from offering a setting for the book, Kestrel also provided expertise about the winemaking process.

Winemaker Flint Nelson is the voice of fact in the book.

"He sort of tries to help the fictitious vineyard and give them advice," Morris said. "We wanted people that are wine lovers to read it and go, 'Oh yeah, they know wine.' "

The team working on the book also includes artist Steve Montiglio and writer D. Michael Tomkins.

Peter Atkins, screenwriter for some of the Hellraiser movies, is to write one of the three books as well.

Compeau said the artistic talent of the team was another reason Kestrel wanted to be involved.

"(The talent) made it seem like it was going to be something special," he said.

Once the book is published, the plan is to carry the artistic creativity into its marketing.

Morris said events featuring the book will happen across Eastern Washington, and she's working on a promotion with a national hotel chain where the book and a bottle of wine will be packaged with the room rate.

The film rights also are being promoted in Los Angeles, she added.

The second and third books in the series likely will continue to feature Kestrel, as the characters will stay the same, Morris said. Two authors will write the books, and the mysteries will be told from a different perspective.

"This book is very much like making wine. Every year, you have different weather conditions (that make the vintage unique). We really like the idea of introducing the new voice, and perhaps changing perspectives," Morris said. "We want to maintain the connection to Eastern Washington."

For more information or to order a copy of the book, go to www.merlotmurdermysteries.com.