Among the many producers of wine info-graphics, WineFolly is the consistent winner in terms of creativity and the visual display of information. And now the minds behind these reliable graphics are coming out with a new book, available for under $12 when you pre-order on Amazon (sorry, U.S. only).
I’ve not yet seen the book, but perusing the preview on Amazon provides a good indication that it will be a useful and reliable guide to wine and the grapes that produce them. Wine Folly seems to have brought to wine literature what DK Publishing brought to tourism guides.
When Simon and Schuster’s publicist asked if I’d review George Taber’s latest book, I didn’t hesitate. I’d enjoyed his previous books “To Cork or Not to Cork” and “The Judgment of Paris” and a new book from the retired journalist, wine collector and author was likely to provide hours of enjoyment.
But his new book arrived at a bad time. I was in the middle of a wine club shipment and all my spare reading time was already divided between two biographies – one on Robert Parker and an out-of-print book on James Beard. These were forced to the back of my night stand with only a minor amount of fisticuffs and complaints, the books embodying the self-promoting characteristics of their respective subjects. And then I dove into “In Search of Bacchus“, and it was like taking a mental vacation to 12 of the best wine regions in the world.
This book is partly a travelogue written during his visits to a dozen of the world’s premium wine-growing regions. The reader is introduced to each new region with a relatively brief (~25 pages) overview of regional winemaking history and the three or four wineries most critical to its current level of success. Each region could easily justify a book unto itself, perhaps even several several volumes, but “In Search of Bacchus” is a useful introduction to each growing region. A temptation to travel.
These introductory sections are written in Taber’s identifiable style – high-toned, well-researched and erudite – reflecting his chops honed during his years as a journalist (and a well-schooled wine enthusiast). I found each of these sections quite useful, packed with useful bits of insight and information. As you complete each chapter, you’ll swear you’ve found the location for your next wine pilgrimage (honey we’ve got to go to this one, no wait, THIS one! no, no…)
Following each detailed section is a brief story about Taber’s experience at one of the wineries mentioned. While the entire book is written in the first person, this is where the reader feels as if he/she is actually looking over Taber’s shoulder. It is less fact-driven, more intimate, and only slightly frustrating in that many of the experiences Taber relates are not available to the average wine tourist without his insider connections.
Picking Nits I’m a fan of Taber’s work. But I do find his style a bit dry. Never does he squeal with delight, moan in the pain of a hangover, or admit to a lusty thought or other human foible. With his apparent writing skills, I’m sure Taber could craft an ode to make a lover swoon. But he doesn’t reveal that side of himself here, and while I appreciate his dispassionate professionalism, I’d also welcome a glimpse behind the Taber curtain from time to time. Otherwise, he might as well be writing about economics instead of the greatest, most sensual beverage on earth. I mean, the Romans also called Bacchus “The Liberator”, a God who could free one from one’s normal self through madness, ecstasy or wine!
In person, Taber strikes me as someone you’d enjoy sitting next to at a long dinner – interesting, unassuming, and friendly. See for yourself:
Wine & Tourism – Finding the Right Balance
One of the issues surrounding wine tourism is the issue of access. Taber doesn’t shy away from the fact that some wineries actively discourage tourists (well, mostly in Bordeaux, not surprisingly) while others put wine on the back burner with massive, tightly-packed tasting rooms, huge (and barely-trained) pouring staffs, and more souvenirs and paraphernalia than wine. Such differences exist between individual wineries more than between wine regions, with both extremes even found in tourist-hungry Napa. This book quietly raises the issue, and the wise wine pilgrim can then rely on the internet to develop an itinerary that suits their particular style.
Buying “In Search of Bacchus”
Despite these nits, with its release date so close to the holidays it seems obvious that “In Search of Bacchus” will be one of the biggest wine books of this holiday season, and I can’t think of another new wine book I’d rather read. Those interested in buying a copy for their favorite wine-lover can simply click here (also available as an eBook, though in Epub format only. I make no commission on sales of this book).
And now that I’ve completed the book and am nearing completion of this review, my books on Parker and Beard are over on my nightstand, fighting to see which gets read tonight. It appears to be a pretty good fight.
Dave the Wine Merchant
I was tired and well behind schedule when my electronic calendar informed me it was time to head to Sonoma. The nag.
It seemed like weeks since I’d returned my RSVP for the release party for the new book “A Passion for Pinot.” At the time the event sounded most promising, and I recalled the invitation mentioning something about several interesting wines being poured. But at the time I wasn’t swamped trying to get ready for this week’s wine club shipment. “To attend, or to tend to to-dos?” That was the question.
I attended. And I’m glad I did.
The beautiful Guest House at DeLoach Vineyards
I had to make a rather inglorious and early departure, embarrassingly conspicuous in the roomful of rapt attendees (right) at DeLoach Vineyards. But upon returning home I enjoyed this most pleasant event all over again as I perused its pages. “A Passion For Pinot” is a compelling combination of photographs from all over the world of Pinot (Mondo Pinot?) and enjoyable, informative but most accessible text.
Between these two influences, the book is a black hole that absorbs your attention and curiosity until suddenly you realize you’re late for dinner.
This text is from the pen (well, keyboard, most likely) of knowledgeable wine writer Jordan Mackay, who also moderated the fire-side chat for the panel of winegrowers at the launch event (below).
It’s photographic credits go to a duo of talented photographers, Andrea Johnson and Robert Holmes. Both were in attendance, and seem as beautiful as their photographs.
But it would be a waste and a shame to relegate this work to a seldom-read, only-occasionally-thumbed, coffee table book. The prose is too informative, and far too readable, to be left untouched by human eye.
The launch party was held in the classic wine-country setting of DeLoach Vineyards, hosted by the ebullient owner, Jean-Charles Boisset, and his charming French accent. President of Boisset Family Estates, Jean-Charles had dedicated his family’s business to sustainable, organic and bio-dynamic practices. And the results are impressive, judging by the delightful wines they chose to serve – The 2007 Green Valley Pinot and the 2007 Masut Vineyard Pinot (available here).
The Panelists poured and discussed a total of 8 different pinots:
Mike Browne of Kosta Browne Winery (photo at right) poured his 2007 Pinot from Koplen Vineyard, Russian River Valley and his 2007 Rosella’s Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands. Mike’s wines have often been big, alcoholic and well extracted. When asked about the March 11 NYT article by Eric Asimov “Finessed and Light: California Pinot Noirs With a Manifesto” Mike indicated he thought Eric was a few years behind the curve, and that the movement had started some time ago. But he also indicat3ed that some vintages simply gave themselves to big, ripe and alcoholic wines, and that he plans to continue making wines that reflect what nature provides.
Dan Goldfield of Dutton-Goldfield Winery poured his 2007 Pinot from Dutton Ranch, Freestone Hill Vineyard and his 2007 Devil’s Gulch Vineyard, (Marin County). Dan told the story of how he first came to know the fruit from Devil’s Gulch Vineyard – it’s owner, Mark Pasternak, approached him with an offer of free grapes in exchange for putting the vineyard on the map. Looks as if both parties benefited from Dan’s bold move, as the vineyard is becoming obscure no more, prized by many for its characteristics similar to the more famous Sonoma Coast AVA.
Adam Lee of Siduri Wines, poured his 2007 Pinot from Keefer Ranch, Russian River Valley and his 2006 Arbre Vert from Willamette Valley. Tasted next to their California brethren, this wine was an archetype of Oregon. Adam indicated this was his exact intent – he specifically sought an Oregon vineyard that would provide a true essence of Oregon, thus providing his pinot-philic followers an interesting contrast in styles.
Brian Maloney of DeLoach Vineayrds poured their 2007 pinot from Green Valley (Russian Rvery Valley) and their 2007 Masut Vineyard from Redwood Valley. This latter wine was an interesting myth buster, as it belied my prejudice that Redwood Valley was kinder to thick-skinned grapes like Petite Sirah or Zinfandel. Providing an interesting lesson in terroir, the Masut Vineyard is just north of Ukiah and Laughlin, in a region sufficiently cool to produce this complex and interesting pinot.
A day well spent, despite the clamor of my calendar.
Dave the Wine Merchant
Quote of the Day:
“A great Burgundain Winegrower once told me, ‘Cristie, women can have babies. Winegrowers try to replicate the experience by making Pinot Noir‘”