Great Summer Wine Reads

Looking for a good read about wine? Here are five books recommended by Sonoma County Winegrowers:

History of the Sonoma Viticultural District: The Grape Growers, the Wine Makers and the Vineyards
Compiled by the late viticultural historian and winemaker Ernest P. Peninou in 1998.

Inside the California Food Revolution: Thirty Years That Changed Our Culinary Consciousness
In this authoritative and immensely readable insider’s account, celebrated cookbook author and former chef Joyce Goldstein traces the development of California cuisine from its formative years in the 1970s to 2000, when farm-to-table, foraging, and fusion cooking had become part of the national vocabulary. Interviews with almost two hundred chefs, purveyors, artisans, winemakers, and food writers bring to life an approach to cooking grounded in passion, bold innovation, and a dedication to “flavor first.” Goldstein explains how the counterculture movement in the West gave rise to a restaurant culture characterized by open kitchens, women in leadership positions, and a surprising number of chefs and artisanal food producers who lacked formal training. 

Judgment Of Paris: California Vs. France And The Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine
The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History houses, amid its illustrious artifacts, two bottles of wine: a 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon and a 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay. These are the wines that won at the now-famous Paris Tasting in 1976, where a panel of top French wine experts compared some of France's most famous wines with a new generation of California wines. Little did they know the wine industry would be completely transformed as a result, sparking a golden age for viticulture that extends beyond France's hallowed borders to Australia, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand, and across the globe.

Then Paris correspondent for Time magazine, George M. Taber recounts this seminal contest and its far-reaching effects, focusing on the three gifted unknowns behind the winning wines: a college lecturer, a real estate lawyer, and a Yugoslavian immigrant. At a time when California was best known for cheap jug wine, these pioneers used radical new techniques alongside time-honored winemaking traditions to craft premium American wines that could stand up to France's finest. With unique access to the main players and a contagious passion for his subject, Taber renders this historic event and its tremendous aftershocks in captivating prose, bringing to life an eclectic cast and magnificent settings. For lovers of wine and anyone who enjoys a story of the entrepreneurial spirit of the new world conquering the old, this is an illuminating and deeply satisfying tale.

On California: From Napa to Nebbiolo… Wine Tales from The Golden State
On California explores the grapes and the people who have made California wine great. The pioneers, the boffins, the whizz-kids and scientists, many of whom tell their stories on its pages – some in precious archive material, others have set down their thoughts mid pandemic in 2021: Randall Grahm, Gerald Asher, Steven Spurrier, Paul Draper and Warren Winiarski take a bow

Perfectly Paired: The Love Affair Behind an Iconic Wine
Perfectly Paired is a moving, behind-the-scenes look at the making of one of Napa Valley's most legendary wineries, Silver Oak Cellars. In her memoir, Bonny Meyer co-founder and wife of wine legend Justin Meyer, provides an intimate portrayal of the love affair that infused Silver Oak's magical Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

Set in the romantic era of Napa Valley as it rose to world renowned fame in the latter half of the century, Bonny and Justin's love story began while she was a college student and he a monk. Their forbidden love could not be denied or contained and so began the next thirty years of their life together. They raised a family alongside owning and establish two wineries, Silver Oak and Franciscan. Through a heart-felt exploration of her life, Meyer weaves her beautiful story of love and loss, passion and grief. This story is proof positive that the love you have always dreamed of really does exist.

Pinot Rocks: A Winding Journey Through Intense Elegance
Michael Browne co-founded his first California winery, Kosta Browne, in 1997 with a few hundred dollars and the goal of helping people create meaningful moments with one another. In Pinot Rocks, Michael shares his journey and offers insight and inspiration for those who believe in the American dream and choose to never stop pursuing it. No matter the goals you set for yourself, this book will motivate you to follow your passions and turn your dreams into reality.

The Widow Clicquot: The Story of A Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It
Veuve Clicquot champagne epitomizes glamour, style, and luxury. But who was this young widow - the Veuve Clicquot - whose champagne sparkled at the courts of France, Britain, and Russia, and how did she rise to celebrity and fortune?

In The Widow Clicquot, Tilar J. Mazzeo brings to life for the first time the fascinating woman behind the iconic yellow label: Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin. A young witness to the dramatic events of the French Revolution and a new widow during the chaotic years of the Napoleonic Wars, Barbe-Nicole defied convention by assuming - after her husband's death - the reins of the fledgling wine business they had nurtured. Steering the company through dizzying political and financial reversals, she became one of the world's first great businesswomen and one of the richest women of her time.

Although the Widow Clicquot is still a legend in her native France, her story has never been told in all its richness - until now. Painstakingly researched and elegantly written, The Widow Clicquot provides a glimpse into the life of a woman who arranged clandestine and perilous champagne deliveries to Russia one day and entertained Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte on another. She was a daring and determined entrepreneur, a bold risk taker, and an audacious and intelligent woman who took control of her own destiny when fate left her on the brink of financial ruin. Her legacy lives on today, not simply through the famous product that still bears her name, but now through Mazzeo's finely crafted book.

A film based on the book comes out in theaters July 19.Watch the trailer here.

The World in a Wineglass
So much of today’s wine is mass-produced, industrially farmed, corporate-owned, and essentially, ordinary. In The World in a Wineglass, veteran wine writer Ray Isle explains that the way a wine is made, and who made it, can make a huge difference when you drink it—and why that information matters much more than knowing it scored 90 points. Or that it tastes like blueberries. Or “hints of violets and black pepper.”

Drawing on his deep knowledge and genuine appreciation of winemaking, Isle takes us on a tour of several hundred independently owned wineries around the world—everywhere from France’s Burgundy to Oregon’s Willamette Valley to the Itata Valley in the southern reaches of Chile—bringing the local vintners to life and describing the different wines they produce in vivid detail. Isle’s enthusiasm for the grape growers and winemakers who are working sustainably or organically shines through as he shares his love for the way a glass of wine can express the place it comes from and capture the essence of the person who made it. Focusing on wines people can afford, rather than $500 rarities, Isle shows us where and how to find the most interesting bottles out there today.

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Jamie Larson
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