No one could accuse Paula Moulton of being a coward.
The writer wanted to do something daring with her life after sending her youngest daughter, Alexandra, off to college.
Moulton ultimately decided to follow the lead of famed chef Julia Child and enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. But Moulton’s passion was not to master Coq au Vin. Her goal was to celebrate the grape in all its incarnations. For that reason, in the fall of 2011 she joined the school’s first wine management program.
And so it began, her adventuresome year in the City of Light.
“I decided to jump in and see if there was a net to catch me,” she said, with an easy laugh.
Moulton, 54, is a snappy dresser. She’s clad in a short dress, with a matching neoprene jacket (the rage in Europe, she said) and knee-high suede boots.
At her home in Sonoma, a farmhouse not far from the plaza, she has an orchard in full bloom. Mother Nature has given her with an abundance of peaches, nectarines and plums.
Moulton’s new book is “Seasons Among the Vines: Life Lessons from the California Wine Country and Paris,” and it highlights Cordon Bleu’s heady 10-month program.
The rigorous curriculum kept her stretching. She was a sommelier at the high-end restaurant, Citrus Etoile, on the Champs-Elysées for six weeks. She also spent time in southwest France as a cellar rat at Chateau Trolliet-Lafite in Bergerac for a month.
In France, she said, she was quick to learn this life lesson: Wine is food.
“The French always serve wine with food,” Moulton said. “At parties, they don’t serve any alcohol before all the guests arrive because they see wine as food. I want people here to see wine as food, as well.”
Moulton’s book is a pragmatic memoir. In addition to chronicling her life lessons in Wine Country and Paris, she teaches people how to grow grapes and make wine. The program, she said, enhanced her wine sensibility.
What inspired Moulton’s midlife venture? In a word, loss.
“I wanted to reignite that passion I had before I lost my husband,” she said.
Moulton heard the siren on that fall day in 2003, but she had no idea the wailing sound was signaling tragedy in her life. Chuck Moulton was killed in a head-on collision on Highway 116, not far from their Glen Ellen home.
“Grief never leaves you,” Moulton said. “The memories of your life, they never fade. Yes, time heals, but I never want to forget my past. It’s my life.”
Moulton makes three red wines and a chardonnay in memory of her late husband. Her brand’s name is “Midnight Moulton.” It was her husband’s nickname, because the doctor routinely made late-night rounds at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. The wine, produced in small quantities, is just for family and friends.
A blind date led Moulton to her second husband, dentist Stephen Bowne. They married in the summer of 2013. Bowne has a practice in New York City, so they have a bi-coastal marriage, split between their home in Sonoma and an apartment near Central Park in Manhattan.
“Falling in love once is lucky, and falling in love twice is a miracle,” she said.
Moulton gives Bowne high marks for rallying her on when she was studying in France.