Grape Reads: Our very own blog contributor, Karina Roe, is back! And, she’s loaded up with a slew of fantastic reads for your summer vaca. Whether it be after work in the hammock with a good glass of wine, out on the lake over the weekend, or on the beach while soaking in some rays, she’ll literally having you salivating for more once you’re through reading this stack!
Libationary Literature for the Summer Bookworm
Minnesotans have two rules when it comes to summer:
1) No complaining about the heat and humidity, because winter is coming.
2) Hurry up and relax–winter is coming.
It’s always a race to fit in as many weekends at the cabin as possible, or neighborhood bonfires, or boating excursions on the lake. And if you’re like me, you also have a stack of books you’ve been saving up all year long, just waiting to be devoured. And since you’re on Amusée’s website, that means that those books are about wine, right? I thought so.
To kick-start your summer of reading, I’ve compiled a list of a few of my favorite wine (and other libations) reads, including everything from the I-can’t-put-it-down page-turner to the encyclopedia. (Literally!) Whether you’re looking for the perfect poolside paperback to accompany your glass of rosé, or something to browse through as you sip your morning mimosa, the following lists will give you something for each reading occasion.
The Beach Read
Shadows in the Vineyard by Maximillian Potter
A popular “whodunit” in book club circles, Shadows in the Vineyard tells the real-life account of the poisoning of the world’s most famous (and expensive) vineyards. It’ll also take you on a trip through Burgundian history to explain in a colorful fashion why exactly these vineyards are so revered in the wine world. Mystery and history?! Sign me up.
Napa: The Story of an American Eden by James Conaway
If you’ve been to Napa once, twice, or a hundred times, this is a must-read. To the lighthearted tourist, Napa is indeed a perfect Eden of wine, food, and serene landscapes. But to the wine lover who really wants to understand how Napa got to be Napa, you’ve got to read through some hard-fought battles, some heartache, and a good dose of disillusionment. But I promise, you’ll come out the better (and more appreciative of good Cali wine) at the end of it.
Wine & War by Don & Petie Kladstrup
I’m currently halfway through this one (after buying it a few days ago), and I CAN’T PUT IT DOWN. This husband-and-wife author team does an absolutely masterful job at re-telling World War II through French vintners’ eyes: the pillaging of their cellars, the harsh production demands put on them (apparently the Wehrmacht adored Champagne), and also their part in the Resistance. If you find your mouth hanging open at the end of every chapter, it’s okay—happens to everyone.
Liquid Memory: Why Wine Matters by Jonathan Nossiter
If you’ve seen Nossiter’s documentary Mondovino and were intrigued, pick up this book next. He deals with questions about wine snobbery, what it means for a wine to be authentic, terroir, and wine’s place in culture. His opinions are bold and his claims are shocking; but whether you agree with him or not, the point is that you’ll think and talk about wine, maybe in a way you haven’t before.
The Coffee Table Topper
The New California Wine by Jon Bonne
This beautiful book could pass for a beach read, a coffee table topper, and a study sesh book all at the same time! Jon Bonne, wine editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, artfully leads you away from the heavy-handed, high-alcohol Cabernet and Chardonnay that California has become so known for, and down “the way less traveled.” You’ll meet characters like Steve Matthiasson, Ted Lemon, and Tegan Passalacqua—prophets of a new era of California wine. With its beautiful photography and refreshing style of writing, this book will rejuvenate any weary wine lover’s heart.
The World Atlas of Wine by Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson
Atlas, encyclopedia, dictionary, a “who’s who” of the wine world—this gorgeous (and hefty) book has got it all. Go for the most recent edition (7th); Robinson and Johnson do a fabulous job at keeping up with the ever-changing wine world. And if you’re a map junkie like I am, you’ll be drooling over every page! I love this book for a quick tutorial on whatever happens to be in my glass at the moment, and it’s great for inspiration to discover new wines, too.
The Bathroom Reader
Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine by Madeline Puckette & Justin Hammack
Leave your phone on the picnic table when you visit the loo and spend your minutes doing business with this easy-to-read, eye-catching book. With the stunning yet simple graphs and charts designs, you can digest the wines of Spain or Italy in 60 seconds or less, and emerge from the John both relieved and smarter!
The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart
Even though this gorgeous, old-time apothecary-styled book reads like a dictionary, I’ve found myself gobbling up multiple entries at a time. Stewart takes you through each important plant and herb that’s used to create the world’s greatest drinks: from agave to wheat, bananas to tamarind, and allspice to birch trees. Your friends might wonder what happened to you after a half hour visit to the powder room, though…
The Sommelier Prep Course by Michael Gibson
Sometimes there’s nothing more rewarding than whipping out your notebook and pencil as you delve deep into the more serious side of your favorite libation! This exhaustive study book will give you a fantastic “fundamentals” journey through not only wine but also beer, spirits, and wine service. With short quizzes at the end of each chapter, this serves as a great “self-study” guide and will give you tons of confidence as a wine/beer/spirits customer and connoisseur.
Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher
I’m 100% stronger in my wine knowledge than my beer, but this book is my first go-to whenever I have a question about anything beer-related. Mosher writes in an interesting and succinct fashion, and has something for the beginner beer nerd as well as the cicerone. A definite “must-have” for the aficionado’s (or the merely “just interested’s”) library!
A History of Wine in America, vol. 1& 2 by Thomas Pinney
Finally, if you’re pining over your bygone days in your Master’s or Doctoral program and are in desperate want of something dense, detailed and utterly fascinating, invest in this two-volume series of A History of Wine in America by historian Thomas Pinney. Spanning America’s entire history as a wine-growing country (which is basically our entire existence, believe it or not), it leaves no stone unturned from the Mayflower arriving at Plymouth Rock to the present day. If you’re successful in finishing both volumes by the end of the summer, call me up and I’ll shake your hand and buy you a glass of Virginia Dare.
Truth is, there are so many wonderful wine reads out there—these few just barely scratch the surface of what’s available, no matter what occasion or mood you’re in. Let this summer be the summer of Libationary Literature! Cheers!