What’s On Your Wine Reading List?

Since my goal is to read more wine books this year, I’d love to hear what’s topping your list these days!

Left on my shelves at the moment:

Drink This

Noble Rot

The Botanist and the Vintner

Beard on Food (ok, not really wine, but food…)

Among what I’ve already read: (Some I’ve written about, some I haven’t…)

A Vineyard in Tuscany

Judgment of Paris

Extremely Pale Rose

Passion on the Vine

Seasons Among the Vines

The Billionaire’s Vinegar

The Widow Cliquot

Vino Italiano

Bacchus and Me

Red White and Drunk All Over

The Accidental Connoisseur

Adventures on the Wine Route

So tell me winos, what’s on your winter reading list?

The Last Wine Book Club

Last year Dr. Debs over at Good Wine Under $20 proposed the idea that every month wine bloggers would get together, choose a book on wine, and all read it and review it. Initially I was excited because I have a ton of wine books sitting around.  But then reality set in and in all honesty I have neither the time nor the energy to make it through a book a month.  It’s a sad state of affairs, I’ll admit, but 3 years out I’m still recovering from the nightmare that was law school which zapped any desire to read I had. Couple that with a job that has me reading a ton of technical publications on a daily basis, and my avid wine blog reading, and I just couldn’t do it.  I participated a couple times, and thought, since I already have this month’s book and had read it, that I’d participate in the final edition of WBC.

Dr. Debs chose A Vineyard in Tuscany by Ferenc Máté for the last WBC. I purchased this book in December 2007 from R.J. Julia’s in Madison, CT. I actually read it ages ago, though apparently I never wrote about it for some odd reason. I truly thought I had. Last winter/spring I went through a period where I actually was reading a book a week…on the plane to and from Atlanta where I was detailed for a work project and had to travel to and from every week or so.  It’s possible the post got lost in the transition from Blogger to WordPress…I had some issues when I moved.

A Vineyard in Tuscany is a fairly quick read. I polished it off on the round trip flight to Atlanta from National Airport…about a 1.5 hour flight each way.  Then again, according to Matt, I’m the only person he’s ever met who reads faster than he does (a skill that did serve me well in law school!).  Or perhaps the book went fast because I wanted to gobble up the story of the Máte family as they purchased a vineyard, planted it, got through their first harvest, and bottled the wine.

Not only did they purchase a vineyard site, but they purchased a ruin site…that they fully restored. My favorite bits were when Ferenc insisted on chasing down ancient beams to restore the ceilings to their former glory as well as an old front door. I loved the dedication to making the restoration truly authentic and not just substituting modern materials.

I was as drawn into the restoration of the ruins as I was into the planting of the vineyard. Of course, the stories were interwoven, but at times, it seemed as if the focus was mostly on the house.  I think I would have enjoyed a bit more info about the vineyards and how they chose to plant the grapes they did.  At the same time, I cheered when they harvested their first grapes after 3 years of getting the vineyard ready and restoring the ruin.  And, the descriptions of their Syrahs made me want to hunt one down just so I could try it!

Overall, I loved the idea of building something from scratch–making it totally yours and just the way you want it.  The fact that it was a vineyard of course made it more appealing to me, seeing as how I still harbor the seemingly impossible dream of someday owning my own vineyard!

Many thanks to Dr. Debs for her efforts with the WBC, and my sincerest apologies for not being a better participant.

Are You Hungry?

Well, if you aren’t now, you will be after you read this book! My inlaws sent the book Passion on the Vine by Sergio Esposito to me as a birthday gift this year. I read it, as has been my m.o. lately, on a business trip, one of many I’ve taken this year.

I love Italian food, and I think Italian wine is pretty damn good too. I grew up with a tiny little Italian grandma who made her own pasta, served us plates of sauce drenched meat with every meal, and made the best baked ziti I’ve ever had.

Passion on the Vine details the life and times of the author and his family, following them from their home in Italy to a new, unfamiliar life in Albany where they did not know the language and the food was dull and processed in comparison to what the family meals in Italy. Sergio truly grew up with wine as a part of daily life, and it followed him into his adult profession, first opening a liquor store with his father and brother, then as a sales man for wine distributor, and eventually to opening his own specialty wine shop.

My favorite part of the book (and really the vast majority of it) accompanies Sergio and his family, including his wife, children, and parents, on a trip across Italy, as Sergio discovers new wines, eats delicious meals, and ultimately comes across a bottle of wine like he has never had before.

I drooled over the descriptions of the multi-course meals prepared with care, over the wine consumed with them, and was jealous over his adventures at various Italian wineries. The book made me want to go scoop up as many native Italian varieties as possible and cook up delicious cuisine to go with them. A great easy to read book for my many (sadly domestic) business travels!

Living Part of My Dream

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher as a sample.

I make no bones about the fact that I want to buy a vineyard and make wine. I know I’ve never done anything of the sort, but hey, it’s just a pipe dream, so I can wistfully think about it. Plus, I’ve recently discovered that I actually have a green thumb. But that’s it, I dream of giving up my life in the city and moving to the country to start a new vineyard or buy one that’s already there. Probably not likely to ever happen, so now I just drink the fruits of other peoples’ labors.

The book is Seasons Among the Vines: Life Lessons from the California Wine Country by Paula Moulton. Paula and her family picked up and moved from San Francisco to Sonoma County to start new lives as grape growers. They purchased a property that already had acres of land, and her husband kept his job in the city, leaving the grape growing and tending of the family and home mostly to Paula.

Seasons Among the Vines literally had me laughing out loud. The story is peppered with vignettes of the trials and successes of starting life as a farmer. I laughed as a cow came to call the vines home for a period, and was sad as the family fought in the first years over the inevitable troubles of owning a vineyard.

The book is interspersed with short sections on the technicalities of vine-growing, choosing your root stock, methods of training vines, etc. However, if you aren’t interested in learning about how to prep your vineyard for the winter, it’s easy to skip over these sections and get back to the story.

As with some other wine books I’ve read recently, I found myself rooting for the success of this family, against the improbable odds: coming from the city, knowing nothing about growing grapes of farming in general, and adjusting to life in a very new and different place. Ultimately, an easy read and a touching, personal story.

Mystery! Intrigue! Wine!

*Disclaimer: I received this book as a press sample.

All wrapped up into one book! Several months ago (yes, I’m incredibly delayed on this one) I received a copy of the Billionaire’s Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace from the publisher. I saw a wave of reviews in the blog world, and while I had read my copy, I didn’t have a chance to write up a review of the book until now.

I have never been so captivated by a wine book before. It read like a mystery and I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to keep reading to find out who (if anyone) was guilty and how the final proof was found.

The Billionaire’s Vinegar brought me into a world I cannot even imagine being a part of: wines that cost thousands of dollars, being opened on a regular basis, to “one up” the previous party. Tens of thousands of dollars of wine being opened in one evening. And the crux of the book: the $165,000 (yes, you are reading that correctly) bottle of wine sold at a Christie’s Wine Auction that purportedly belonged to Thomas Jefferson.

At times the book sways into the nitty gritty details of the science of dating wine, the intricacies of how bottles were made at certain time periods, and what distinguishes a fake from a real bottle, but overall, the geeky details made it even more interesting.

And this is no false tale. The stories of the lavish parties, the money thrown around at the upper echelons of wine collecting (or, in my opinion, hoarding), and the mystery of the Jefferson Bottles are all true.

I think the ultimate endorsement for the book comes in the form of my husband Matt. Wine geek he is not, history buff he is. I started to tell him about The Billionaire’s Vinegar and he wanted to read it. And read it he did, in less than an afternoon, he’d devoured the whole thing, and wasn’t even bogged down at all with the details.

If you haven’t had a chance to read this one yet I’d highly recommend it. The Billionaire’s Vinegar would also make a great holiday gift (yes, it’s September, we can start talking about holiday gifts because Christmas is only a few months away now!) for your favorite wine geek or history buff.

Hard to Put Down

Ever since I went to law school, I find myself with a short attention span for reading books. I think reading thousands of pages of case books a week in order to try to stay on top of your class material did a number on my desire to read. So I don’t read much anymore, which is a small tragedy for me, since I used to read anything and everything I could get my hands on, including backs of cereal boxes, random pamphlets, and even, at times, the dictionary.

So when I find a book that I actually want to finish, and in fact, don’t want to put down, I get excited. And that’s what I found in Extremely Pale Rose: A Very French Adventure y Jamie Ivey. I purchased this book on a whim from the local bookstore, R.J. Julia’s in my parents’ town, when I was visiting for Christmas.

Extremely Pale Rose details the adventures of the author, his wife, and one of their good friends, on a whirlwind adventure in France, searching for France’s palest Rose. It all started one afternoon at an outdoor cafe, where they sat drinking Rose with their niece Rosie. A language barrier and a misunderstanding sets them off on a year long challenge to find a Rose paler than the one produced at Chataeu Etienne or else facing the challenge of finding an English importer for the Chateau’s wine.

The books is told from Jamie’s point of view, as they give up their flat in England, and prepare to leave for France. Adventure after adventure follows the threesome through France, as they scramble to meet their one year deadline. I found myself saying “Ok. I’ll just read one more chapter, and see if they find a really pale Rose in the next town.” And then, after that chapter was finished, I just had to read the next. I was rooting for them throughout the book, wanting them to suceed, fearing they would not.

And do they? Well, you’ll have to read it for yourself to find out! An easy read, and it was perfect for my plane ride and lonesome hotel stay on one of my many work trips this year.

WBC #1 Round up posted and WBC #2 Announced!

Our host for the first edition of the WBC was David of McDuff’s Food and Wine Trail. He chose the book Vino Italiano as a massive tome for our first rendition of the book club, and the turn out was fantastic! 25 people participated and wrote reviews of the book. You can head on over to his blog to read the round up from all of the participants.

Next, the announcement for WBC #2 is up! Our host for the second WBC is Tim of Winecast. Time has chosen a much less daunting task in the form of the book Noble Rot: A Bordeaux Wine Revolution by William Echikson. You can read all the details over here on Winecast, but the long and short of it is: read the book, write a review, and post it on your blog or send it to Tim at winecast@gmail.com by April 29 in time for our next book club meeting.

Now, Noble Rot is less than a third of the size of Vino Italiano, so no excuses about the length this time! Let’s keep the momentum from the first WBC going and get an even bigger turnout next month. Looking forward to reading everyone’s reviews in April! I’ve got a ton of work travel coming up, so this time I shouldn’t be struggling to finish. Many thanks to Dr. Debs for the great idea of a wine book club.