Life is too short to read average wine books

Well, I’ve tried and tried to get into "A Very Good Year: The Journey of a California Wine from Vine to Table" by Mike Weiss.

I just can’t do it.

It’s not that it’s a bad book. And it’s not poorly written by my estimation. It has a natural flow to it too. It’s just that I know this stuff. The book delivers what is a fairly common set of discussion for someone in the wine industry: marketing

For someone outside the industry it may well prove an interesting, inside baseball-kind of read. But you better be interested in wine, secret yeasts, marketing mantras and discussion of the media.

I’m turning back to some other books I left on hold. I’ve been re-reading John Haeger’s "North American Pinot Noir." It’s a page turner. Still, It has been competing with  Peter Irons’ "A People’s History of the Supreme Court."

I think there is a message here. If you consider reading one of the true simple pleasure of life that deserves to have a good amount of time devoted to it, then you really need to pick your reading material carefully. It’s like that old wine saying, "Life is too short to read average books."

Posted In: Personal


2 Responses

  1. tom merle - July 11, 2005

    Tom, you are too close to the industry. But Eric Asimov, who took Frank Prial’s place at the New York Times clearly isn’t, though he’s required to be as close as any wine writer. Here’s what he said about Mike Weiss’ book (I happen to agree that tracking down all the dimensions of one release is a clever way to observe the myriad aspects of the wine culture, indeed a culture period.)
    “For a completely different sort of wine experience, consider the superb ‘Very Good Year: The Journey of a California Wine From Vine to Table’ (Gotham Books, $26). The author, Mike Weiss, a features reporter for The San Francisco Chronicle, had the novel idea of looking at every aspect that goes into the creation of a single bottle of wine, from vineyard to cellar to bottle to sale.
    Mr. Weiss portrays himself as not particularly knowledgeable about wine, though readers may suspect he knows more than he’s telling. After some deliberation, he selects as the centerpiece of his story Ferrari-Carano, a comfortably middle-of-the-road producer in Sonoma County that seems to embody all the hopes, dreams and pretensions of the California wine industry. More specifically, he focuses on Ferrari-Carano’s 2002 fumé blanc, a wine that Mr. Parker has never reviewed but The Wine Spectator does annually.
    In that bottle Mr. Weiss sees a tale that stretches around the world. He visits the little Mexican town of El Charco, where most of the fieldworkers come from and to which they return regularly. He goes to Portugal and France, the sources for corks and barrels, and to Reno, Nev., where Don Carano, the proprietor, made his fortune as a developer. At the center is Villa Fiore in Sonoma County, the big house where Mr. Carano and his wife, Rhonda, create their version of the lifestyle mythology that has become so important to selling California wine.
    Mr. Weiss finds human drama in almost every situation, and he tells a great story. He’s not above a gimmick. (A secret source nicknamed Deep Cork?) Even though Mr. Weiss, unlike Mr. Parker, is far more interested in the culture and business of wine than in its flavor, by the end of the book you will be yearning for a taste of the ’02 fumé blanc. Sadly, it has already been replaced in stores by the ’03. (Yes, I looked.)”

  2. Mike - July 14, 2005

    I have to say I enjoyed the book very much; my review is up on Shiraz. I’m not as close to the vineyard/winery/marketing aspects as you so I found some new and useful information. But the better parts of the book were the human stories, especially those of the Mexican vineyard workers. The Ferrari-Carano workers all seem to be legal (at least we are told that) but I wonder if there are any books out there on the struggles of illegals in the Napa/Sonoma vineyards? A book contrasting the vineyard owners and their workers would reveal some dramatic differences.

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