books


Boy, was Christmas a bonanza when it comes to books! I have been reading non-stop thanks to my in-laws, Kathryn and the Berkeley Public Library.  (By the way, re: Kathryn’s and my friendly disagreement, I agreed to only purchase books I consider as reference books, or a classic must haves, and use the library for the rest.)

The books I read over ‘winter break’: 

The Billionaire’s Vinegar, by Benjamin Wallace, thank you Eric Cohen (daddywinebucks.wordpress.com) for the recommendation.  I could not put it down, gone in 72 hours.   The book traces some of Bordeaux’s Chateau Lafite bottles that were supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson and were sold at record prices at auctions and privately.  It has everything–mystery, international intrigue, and obscenely rich people paying obscene amounts of money for very old wine.  There are elaborate wine auctions, multi-day wine tasting, gourmet dining extravaganzas with all the big names in the wine world–critics, writers, collectors and winemakers.  The amount of detail is mind boggling.

Red White and Drunk All Over, by Nathalie MacClean.  Loved it. The woman loves wine and it shows.  I mean, not just the whole lifestyle nonsense with the semi-euphoric fruit bowl descriptions you get from some wine writers.  She is funny too.  Check out her instructions on how to properly open up a bottle of  Champagne.  And her lovely recounting of her experiences in Burgundy, starting with a Domaine De La Romanee Conti private tasting; thru her experiences as a sommelier and finally to a ‘damn the torpedoes’ dinner with Jay McInerney.  Reading this book is like listening to a good friend telling entertaining stories.   Part way through the book I had a nagging suspicion that Ms MacClean has been snooping around my house. How else could I explain that I have just about every book she mentions?  I can almost understand the references to several of the wine books I own and Kermit Lynch etc. etc., but, when she mentioned the Long Tail by Chris Anderson,  I knew something was up! Fess up Nat!

The Emperor of Wine , by Elin Mccoy ,a fascinating tale of how an unknown lawyer from  Monkton, Maryland, Robert M. Parker Jr., became the most influential wine critic in the world.  Creating an almost religious following, he changed the way wine is made and eventually created what appears to be a backlash movement (see The Battle for Wine and Love)  against his preference for big, fruit forward, high alcohol wines. Very detailed and thorough writing by McCoy who used to be  Mr. Parker’s editor  at Food & Wine magazine and hence had unprecedented access to him. Regardless of which side of the Parker debate you fall, this book is a must read.

The Battle for Wine and Love, or How I Saved the World From Parkerization, by Alice Feiring; I had high hopes as I walked down to Kermit Lynch and bought the book (I missed the book signing in August, darn!)  While a good read, I came away slightly wanting.  Given the ambitious title, I was hoping for some convincing arguments to be made.  Instead, most points came down to a difference in taste preferences. Based on the title, I had hopes that Ms. Feiring would use the opportunity to make a good case against the homogenization of the wines currently underway, in her opinion, to impress the mighty palette of Mr. Parker.  I was hoping she would make a logical and convincing case against the creation of McWines and in support of diversity of wine styles.  She didn’t in my book.  For me, the book was also too diluted by anecdotal stories of her love life. Maybe that was the point of her approach, that wine is like love—you may encounter many disappointments before finding your one true love.  Not sure.  But it seems the search is still on for someone to save the world from “Parkerization.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kathryn, my lovely wife, sometimes gives me a hard time about the pile of books I have collected over the years that sit by my bed side.  She thinks that rather than buy these books, I should better utilize the libraries we fund so generously here in Berkeley (a topic for another entry) and she decries the sheer numbers of wine books we have.  I need your help.  Am I being unreasonable in my obsessions?  Collecting and reading so many wine books?  Or is this a realistic number of wine books a reasonable wine lover and winemaker would have?

 Adventure on the Wine Route, by Kermit Lynch. This is a tale of Kermit’s travels throughout the wine regions of France in search of the best wine to import. Kermit Lynch, besides being our favorite local wine merchant for the last 25 years, is formidable figure in the wine world.  He is also one of the few Americans to receive France’s highest honor:  the Légion d’honneur. This was in recognition of his influence in bringing about some changes for the better in French wine making. He is also one of the first importers to start shipping wine in refrigerated containers.  Some of his stories are funny and some are sad (buying wine in Burgundy was no picnic 20 years ago.) Once we got turned on to Chevillon’s Nuits St Georges, there was no turning back. A must read.

 Romanee Conti by Richard Olney

What can I say that hasn’t been already said about DRC or Olney?  Just read Olney’s book and you’ll understand what all the fuss is about. Olney’s description of the Vendanges alone is well worth the book’s price. The description of the Pinot Noir grapes, the vineyards and the wine making methodologies of the most celebrated domain of Burgundy are pure poetry; the description of the food procession during the harvest, mouthwatering.

The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell

About how a Texan, T.V. Munson, saved the French wine industry, no really! In 1869 France, as well as most of Europe was devastated by the Phyloxra bug.  You see this habit of saving France started way earlier than you think. The book reads as good as any mystery novel.

 Knowing and Making Wine, by Emile Peynaud.   A very technical book that is at times a bit dated, but never the less a superb, thorough enology manual by one of the most renowned wine educator in France.  A classic.

 

I could go on….

Winery Technology and Operations by Yair Margalit

The House of Mondavi by Julia Flynn Siler

The Heartbreak Grape by Marq De Villiers

Techniques in Home Winemaking by Daniel Pambianchi

The Way to Make Wine Nicely written by our neighbor and fellow winemaker Sheridan Warwick

Vineyard Simple How To Build And Maintain Your Own Small Vineyard by Tom Powers

The Grape Grower by Lon Rombough

Pacific Pinot Noir by John Winthrop Haeger

 

What’s your vote?  Overboard or reasonable?  Any titles I have forgotten that you recommend?  Please feel free to comment.