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Novelist behind zesty Gracianna sauvignon blanc

When Trini Amador Sr. was four years old he came across a loaded German Luger, a gun that was kept in his great-grandmother Gracianna's night stand.

Since most great grandmas don't have a loaded gun at their bedside, the curiosity about it lingered over the years and eventually prodded Amador to write the novel "Gracianna," weaving fact and fiction into a story that some reviewers call riveting.

Amador, who doubles as a novelist and a vintner, is behind our wine-of-the week winner -- the Gracianna, 2012 Kiwi's Blend, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc at $28.

The wine, which earned 4 stars, is zesty with complex aromas and flavors. It has notes of grapefruit, lime, lemongrass, herbs and spice. The Gracianna makes an impression; it's edgy.

"Sauvignon blanc originates from Bordeaux, where it grew wild," Amador said. "So many are unaware that sauvignon blanc gets its name from the French words sauvage ('wild') and from blanc ('white')."

The novel is also edgy, taking place at the beginning of World War II when Paris fell to German occupying forces.

The plot of the novel unfolds when Gracianna learns that her sister has been arrested and taken to a Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz, where Jews were held during World War II. The twists and turns revolve around her determination to free her sister with the help of a man. At its core, the novel is a love story, but one wrapped in suspense.

Amador said the most surprising part of his research was when he learned that a relative had numbers tattooed on the inner side of her left forearm, revealing she had been held captive in a concentration camp.

"It was chilling, but filled in some blanks for me to tell the whole story," Amador said. "Most do not realize the indiscriminant brutality of the Nazis, considering that part of my family was French-Basque Catholic."

The Amador family named their winery Gracianna, a tribute to their great grandmother and the meaning of the word -- "gratitude."

"When I was a boy, my great grandmother would tell me how thankful she was and to always be thankful," Amador said. "As a young boy that is not too meaningful, but as I grew older I came to realize that 'gratitude' is not something you just 'do.' One needs some years to understand that value, maybe you are 40 or 50 or even 60."

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