Hands braced on the wide window ledge, his eyes trained on the slopes of the lower vineyard, Carlo Cavaleri stared out the window of his home office. The dormant vineyards slumbered in the morning light of the late January day. Crystalline drops left from the rain that had slipped away with the sunrise wrapped the vines in their icy embrace. Rainbow splinters of rose-hued light shot from the sun’s reflection off the frozen droplets on the metal wires. The wood of the vines stretched out on the stainless steel, cruciform supports moaned and popped as gnarled branches, denuded now of their leaf canopies, expanded in the warming air. Trills of birdsong and the rustling of small forest creatures echoing in the still air heralded the new day.
On the upper slopes set back against the hills, the vines—clones of the rootstock brought from Italy by Nonno Giovanni over seventy years earlier—would, in the months to come, yield the grapes for the vintages which made the Cavaleri wines renowned. The limited cases of wine the grapes from these particular vines produced commanded prices equaled only by high-end foreign imports. The Cavaleri family guarded these vines with the jealous zeal once accorded the virtue of unmarried daughters. Even now at the early hour, workers walked the rows checking for problems as they pruned away the dead wood from the vines, speaking to each as though it were a favored child.
The cold, winter rains combined with the moderate Mediterranean-like climate of the Sonoma Valley presaged a bountiful, successful fall harvest for the winery. Nothing in the peaceful scene outside the moisture-edged panes of his office window could account for the foreboding that had awakened Carlo. He paced back to his desk and reached for the phone a second before it chimed the ringtone he’d assigned to his twin, Paolo.
“I hoped you’d call. I tried your office earlier, but no one answered. Thought I’d try to catch you at lunchtime. Is everything okay? I woke up thinking about you.” He sat back in his leather swivel chair, stretched out his long khaki-clad legs, and put his loafer-shod feet up on the desk. He closed his eyes and imagined his twin, Doctor Paolo Cavaleri, five hundred thirty miles to the south in San Diego, gazing out his own office window and smiling at the sound of his brother’s voice. Carlo dragged a well-kept hand with its short nails and smooth cuticles through collar-length dark hair the color of aged wood. The open-collared shirt he wore under his pullover sweater matched the deep sapphire blue of his wide-spaced, deep-set eyes. The light calluses on his palm caught at the loose knit of his silk cable knit sweater.
“I knew you were, but this is the first chance I’ve had to sit for five minutes. I had a seven o’clock review session for some of my students this morning. How’s everything around the farm?”
The farm to which he referred was the ninety acres of vineyard owned by their parents Elena and Lucido Cavaleri. No matter how far away their travels took the twins, the vineyard was home, the place where love, good food, and family provided the firm grounding for their very different personalities.
“Everything’s about the same around here. I think Pops is out communing with the vines right now, but I can’t see him from my window.” Carlo had dropped his feet to the floor, rose from his slouched sprawl, and walked over to peer out the window. No one moved along the Chardonnay section. “I heard Mom carrying on about ‘my-son-the-doctor’ to a group of visitors yesterday. She always liked you best.”
Elena Cavaleri’s my-son-the-doctor snickered. “Mom’s no fool. Her description sounds a lot more impressive than ‘my-son-the-wine-broker.’ The only one of us she likes best is John Christopher, but only, I hasten to admit, because he came first.”
“Oh, and aren’t we thankful for our older brother. As the heir, he gets the duty and we can do what we please with our lives.” Carlo reminded his twin. “That is, if he ever gets back here. I think his tour of duty in Afghanistan ends next month and he’s due out of the Reserve in September. Good thing—at least he’ll return in time to help with the harvest.”
“You’ve heard from Earmuffs then? I didn’t think he would be able to give out that sort of information.”
“No, I made a note of it when he left and have been marking the days off the calendar so to speak. Older-brother-knows-it-best syndrome notwithstanding, I’ll be glad when he’s back safe, sound, and lecturing us on the error of our ways.”
The earmuffs sobriquet was a relic from their childhood days when John Christopher received his first stereo headset and proceeded to wear it all the waking hours of the day, whether he’d connected it to his portable tape player or not. The twins, five years his junior, had twitted him about it ever since. John Christopher, now an Army Major in the California National Guard, had outgrown the need to retaliate on a physical level, not that they hadn’t all pounded on one another from time to time during their younger days. Instead, he treated them with the indulgent tolerance of an adult for unruly children, an action that still infuriated his two younger siblings, but left them unable to hit back.
“On another note, are you up for one of our adventures this next weekend?” Paolo’s voice held a tinge of suppressed irritation.
Carlo paced back to the desk. The sunlight glittered off the slight moisture on the windows, leaving glistening rainbows in its wake and cast a swathe of bright light across the contents spread out on its surface. “What do you have in mind?”