The Sweetness of Life(10)

By: Kathryn Andrews


The winery sits on the outskirts of a town called Dahlonega, in north Georgia at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Living in a coastal town, I often forget how close and how remarkable the mountains are. The hills around the winery seem to roll and lush grapevines and orchards are in neatly pruned lines. It’s easy to see why the network producers chose this place—it’s exquisite and a backdrop dream.

“Have you worked here for a long time?” I ask Michelle as I turn back to take in the essence of the winery.

The building looks like an old stone mansion, or a small castle, and it’s made up of polished ivory stone and rocks. Each window is ornately shaped, there are two towers on both sides of the wooden double front door, and an east and a west wing. In many ways, it looks out of place with this part of the country, but at the same time, it doesn’t look like it could belong anywhere else.

I look past the large circular drive with an ornate fountain in the middle to the windows of the west wing, which fall in the direction Zach stormed off. Is he staring at me right now? Is he laughing or scowling? Not that it matters in any way, and actually, from what I know of him so far, he’s probably forgotten I’m even here.

Forgotten.

My heart sinks. I abhor that his indifference bothers me so much.

“I’ve worked here for about five years, and I love it.” Her answer is short and clipped. She shoots me a look that screams “loyal”. Not that I want any gossip about this place, but a friend might have been nice.

“Does it get crowded on a typical weekend?” I ask her.

“It really depends on the weekend. Obviously, harvest season is the most popular, but the surrounding towns often hold festivals throughout the year that bring in tourists as well. Plus, we host a lot of larger events and weddings.”

“I do love weddings.” I smile at her, and she gives me a genuine smile back.

“Me, too,” she says, and her tone is a little warmer. Maybe I’ll end up with a friend here after all.

“I love your boots, by the way. My best friend and I have a thing for shoes.” I kick up my left foot, showing off my most recent purchase: a pair of strappy, camel-colored Jimmy Choos. “But I’m thinking these might not have been the best choice to wear here.”

She laughs. “Thanks, and yeah, if you’re going to be working here for two weeks, I’m hoping you brought something a little more . . . flat.”

“I did, thank goodness.” A few years back, I bought a pair of rainboots and had my initials monogrammed on the front. I love them. They’re very Southern, and I figured they’d be perfect for walking around here.

“All right, I’m gonna take a golf cart.” She points to designated parking under a tree off to the left where there are three carts. “You follow me. The cottage is behind the main house, but it’s far enough that I don’t want to walk back.”

“Sounds good, thank you.” She throws me another smile, this one definitely less guarded and more open.

Driving down the gravel path and through the vineyard, a sense of calm settles over me. The vines, which are full of new grape clusters, are taller than the car, and the sweeping views of the hillside are breathtaking.

Too quickly, we pull up to the cottage, which is far enough away to feel secluded but still close enough that I can see the main house in the distance.

Stepping out of my car, Michelle comes to stand next to me as I stare in awe of my home and studio setting for the next two weeks. “This place is beautiful. I had no idea the property looked like this before I got here.”

“It really is. This cottage is the original home to the Wolff family. The main house up the hill was built in the twenties, just before the Great Depression. Of course, the cottage has been updated and modernized over the years, but it still has a quaint charm that everyone loves. Everything is set up for you inside—pretty standard, like a hotel room. I made a peach pound cake for a snack and stocked the kitchen for you since I heard somewhere you like to cook.” She grins at me. “Hopefully, you’ll have everything you need, but if not, give me a call at the main house. Oh, and there’s also an herb garden on the back porch you can help yourself to.”

I squeeze my hands into fists to try to contain my excitement. “I really have no words. This is incredible, and I feel a little guilty—it’s like work and a vacation all in one.”

She laughs at my enthusiasm and holds out a key. I take it from her and roll it over in my hand. It’s an ornate key. On one side is the winery’s logo and on the other is a vintage-looking bee.

I love bees, and I love honey.

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