Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wine Book Round-Up

Next to wine and travel, my biggest obsession is reading, and wine related books are always in my "to read" stack. Over the last several months I received a variety books for review and a few I purchased myself. Here is a synopsis of what I've been reading.

Even though I live in California Wine country, there's always a new winery to discover or a legendary one to learn more about. The Finest Wines of California offers an imitate portrait of the authors favorite wines and the people who make them. I like books like this because unlike a complete listing guide, this is a highly personal and edited selection that hones in on the best, or in this case the finest, wines currently being produced in each region. Point Rating: 98

Reading Between the Wines by Terry Theise--

Reading Between the Wines is an odyssey thru the authors career as a wine importer and his musings on the enigma of wine. It's more memoir than wine commentary, but for the most part it works--think "My Dinner with Andre" wherein you, the reader, become Wally Shawn to Terry's version of Andre. Except Terry drinks better wine than Andre.

I liked this book for it's writerly approach to the topic of wine, although it did get a bit squirrelly with tangential digressions in places. Some sensory descriptors were rather over the top-- like the line on page 163, describing a Beaune Bressandes, 1969, in which Theise attempts to anthropomorphize a truffle and writes-- "If truffles had orgasms, they might emit this fragrance. Soy, sandlewood, shiitake, you know: Burgundy."

Hey, I'm all for a gripping essence of the moment descriptor and I understand the overwhelming emotion that can take hold of you in the presence of a great Burgundy. (I once described a Burgundy as having the scent of a warm puppy belly.) But truffle sex? Pass the bong Terry. Nevertheless, I think if ever there was a perfect book to read along with a great glass of wine--this is it. Point Rating: 96

The New Connoisseur's Guidebook to California Wine and Wineries by Charles Olken and Joseph Furstenthal--

The New Connoisseur's Guidebook to California Wine and Wineries offers a compendium of the wines and wine regions in California. It makes a great reference book as well as an ad hoc travel guide. I love the organization and layout of this book and the detailed maps. Along with a brief history of California winemaking, grapes and winery listings, the book includes sections about the geography and climate of various regions that I found the most interesting and useful. Point Rating: 95

The Wild Vine by Todd Kilman--

Written in a plodding pseudo-suspense style, I found The Wild Vine hard to get through, but was propelled to carry on out of sheer morbid curiosity to see if anything would actually transpire by the end. There was much factual information on Thomas Jefferson and his contribution to establishing wine in Virginia, but an entire book on the Norton grape is a difficult subject with which to keep a readers attention. I enjoyed the history and background information on the evolution of Virginia as a wine region, but the story of Jenni nee Michael Marsh, the transexual winemaker at Chrysalis that was threaded through the narrative, seemed melodramatic and oddly superfluous to the subject at hand. Point Rating: 75

Point Scale Breakdown:
100-95 -- Read it now.
94-90 -- Worth your time.
89-85 -- Nothing on TV.
84-75 -- Mow the lawn.

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