Tuesday, February 12, 2013

By the Book

           The smell.  The feel.  The weight in one’s hands.  The sound as a page is turned.  The hardbound cover.  The dog-eared page where one last stopped reading.  From the title on the front cover to the plot synopsis on the back cover, I love all parts of books.  Books of any kind: fiction, non-fiction, mystery, thriller.  (Okay, so I’m not a huge romance fan, but other than that…).  I love books, and I love to read!  In the summer, especially, I am rarely found without a book close by.  I am such a veracious reader, that one year I made a personal goal to read 50 books in a year.  And I did it.  Beat that goal, actually, by reading 52 books in a twelve month period.  Because of this love of reading, it should come as no surprise that I have attempted to start my own small wine, reading library. 

            The first books I added were nothing but fun mystery novels by Michele Scott, set in California wine country, featuring tasty recipes with possible wine pairings throughout the plot of the book.  I read the first three in quick succession several years ago—Murder Uncorked, Murder by the Glass, and Silenced by Syrah.  Now Scott has seven total books in this Wine Lovers Mystery Series that wine, mystery, and recreational reading lovers will adore! 

            The next book I added to my collection reflected my growing love for wine and special occasions marked by wine:  Wine for Every Day and Every Occasion by husband and wife team Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher.  In this book, these two writers for the Wall Street Journal focus on special wines, but also wines made special because of the occasion when these wines are consumed.  I truly enjoyed this book because I mirror the authors’ thoughts that wine can make any event an extraordinary time, and many wines are made more extraordinary because of the special occasion.  The short chapters are pleasant to follow and leave a wonderful “finish” in the mouths and minds of readers.

            As my interest in wine became more serious, so did the wine books I chose.  After hearing so much about the history of California’s wine country in the 1970s due to the Judgment of Paris, I thought I needed more information on this subject.  Of course, the movie Bottle Shock imparted a partially fictional view of the judgment (I could do another blog about great wine movies); however, reading the book Judgment of Paris:  California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine by George Taber, who not only attended the tasting but researched the back stories of the wines and winemakers of the quintessential moment in American wine history, is a very important book to understand the U.S. wine industry.  The book is well written and informative.  Though not a narrative text, readers can follow the story as if it were.

            The next book important for wine lovers to read is The Billionaire’s Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace.  This real-life mystery has so many plotlines and characters that tell the complex story of the most expensive bottle of wine ever purchased and whether or not this wine was even worth a cent!  I enjoyed the very-early American wine history and the information about the French wines that Americans (especially Thomas Jefferson) loved.  I also really did enjoy the mystery plot about counterfeiting wines.  The many characters involved in the plot and the different time periods covered do make this book difficult to follow at times.  However, it is a story worth understanding.  I also look forward to a movie that may someday be made from this book, if the complicated legal battles can ever be settled. 

            Though California, Washington, and Oregon are still the heavy hitters in the American wine market, knowing about up-and-coming wine regions is also incredibly important.  New York State, particularly the Finger Lakes area, is an exciting part of the U.S. wine market today and has been an important part of U.S. wine history in the past.  Summer in a Glass by New York journalist Evan Dawson tells the past, present, and future of Finger Lakes wines in such a way that readers want to keep reading…and keep sipping New York wines!  True, I bought the book while I was vacationing in the Finger Lakes area, so getting to visit some of the wineries written about by Dawson was a treat.  However, the book is truly so well written that the stories of important and quality wineries leap off the page and into the hearts of readers.  (At least that is what happened for me!)

            I love the smell, the feel, the weight…not only of a good book, but also of an excellent glass of wine!  You will still often find me with a book in my hand.  Today, it is most likely to be a book about wine in one hand and a glass of wine in the other!  So cheers to reading.  Cheers to reading books about wine.  And cheers to toasting a great glass of wine while reading.  Both bring joy to hearts and minds!

Other wine books I recommend:

Wine and War by Donald Kladstrup and Petie Kladstrup
The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil
A Vineyard in My Glass by Gerald Asher

Other wine books on my “to-read” list:

A Vineyard in Napa by Dough Shafer, Andy Demsky, and Danny Meyer
The House of Mondavi by Julia Flynn Siler
Rock and Vine by Chelsea Prince

What books do you recommend for me?