Georgia Ford is in the midst of being fitted for her wedding gown when she looks out the shop window and spots her fiancé walking down the street.
Let’s just say in that moment her charmed world turns inside out. Ten hours later, the successful real estate attorney from L.A. is back home at her family’s vineyard in Sebastopol, still wearing her hip-hugging white gown and satin heels.
Thus begins “Eight Hundred Grapes” (Simon & Schuster, $24.95), a romantic novel that also is a love story about grape-growing and a Valentine to Sonoma County and its wine and tourism industries.
Released in June, the Sonoma-set story by best-selling author Laura Dave immediately vaulted onto an impressive array of hot summer and beach reading lists, everything from Glamour and Cosmopolitan to Marie Claire and USA Today. One writer suggested that reading the book itself is like a virtual vacation with “mouthwatering lasagna and breathtaking vistas.”
Serving as the setting in a popular novel — complete with references to familiar insider touchstones from the town of Graton to Highway 116 to La Gare Restaurant — is one more indicator of Sonoma County’s growing cachet as a wine-growing region and tourist and wedding destination.
While “Eight Hundred Grapes” is a light and fast 260-page read, it also tells an all-too-real story about the struggle of smaller, family-owned vineyards and wineries to weather the vagaries of Mother Nature and the powerful economic forces that are compelling many to sell out to bigger players. It’s a story playing out again and again in Sonoma County, most recently with the fall of the debt-ridden B.R. Cohn winery in Glen Ellen.
Dave, 38, who takes daily walks from her apartment to Cafe Luxxe in downtown Santa Monica, where she writes for about five hours, has already optioned the novel to Fox Studios and is writing the film adaptation herself.
Three of her previous novels — “The First Husband,” “The Divorce Party” and “London is the Best City in America” — have been optioned for the screen but have yet to see production. The fact that “Eight Hundred Grapes” has been picked up by the same charmed team that did the hugely popular “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Twilight” is a good omen, she points out.
Hollywood often takes the easy route when depicting Wine Country on the screen, subbing in closer spots like the Santa Ynez Valley. But Dave is adamant that no Southern or Central California vineyard view will capture the lush splendor of Sonoma.
“As a novelist turned into a screenwriter, I have less than no say,” she admits. “But I’ve told them that if you shoot this, you actually have to shoot it in Sonoma County because there’s no place in the world like it. In some ways, it’s irreplaceable.”
Dave is on her cellphone, waiting outside a classic 1920s Spanish style bungalow in Santa Monica that she and her husband, Josh Singer, are in the process of trying to purchase. Singer is a screenwriter and producer for “The West Wing,” “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Lie to Me” and the FOX sci-fi series “Fringe.”
The novel is set in a biodynamically farmed vineyard in Sebastopol called The Last Straw Vineyard. Georgia Ford’s father is depicted as a maverick, who staked his claim in what was then Apple Country.