Fall and winter are two seasons that truly lend themselves to reading. I know there are always “summer reading lists” composed during vacation season, but I love to crack open a book when it’s cold or rainy outside and I have a bit of leisure time and solitude on my side. It helps if one is sipping a good vintage port and sitting beside a fire during these contemplative moments.
So, with great pleasure, I have been immersing myself in the latest offerings of books about wine. I should mention that these books are not only great to buy for oneself, but they’re also great gift ideas for the wine geek in your brood or circle of friends.
Charles O’Rear has just released his latest-and certainly most daring-wine book, Wine Across America: A Photographic Road Trip (Ten Speed Press, $35). This handsome coffee-table book (with text by Daphne Larkin) catalogs O’Rear’s two-year road trip across America, during which he visited wineries in each state of the union. The book represents 80,000 miles of travel and includes 300 of O’Rear’s amazing photographs. O’Rear photographed for National Geographic for 25 years, and this book demonstrates the artistry and daring of his photographic style.
O’Rear photographs people making wines in former bordellos, churches, mobile homes, and basements. Some are firefighters, others doctors or teachers. Some grow their vineyards alongside cornfields, others up the side of a volcano in Hawai’i. Still others farm a vineyard at an elevation of 6,900 feet in Colorado.
This book is for the armchair traveler and wine lover. While so many of us in California have come to view the wine business as a glamorous lifestyle, others across America remind us that, at the end of the day, the winegrower is still a farmer, and should be a humble one at that. Available from Amazon.com or at O’Rear’s Web site, wineviews.com.
Hip Tastes: The Fresh Guide to Wine (Viking Studio, $17.95) is a delightful and entertaining read. Written by 28-year-old San Francisco-based sommelier, Courtney Cochran, this book demystifies the finer points of wine enjoyment in a contemporary, fun, and intelligent fashion. Mind you, Cochran does not dumb down the process of understanding wine, but rather elucidates it in a way that is illuminating without being pretentious. Cochran includes handy food pairing guides, tips for tasting wine like a pro, label-reading essentials, and “surefire techniques for not getting ripped off in restaurants” in her small, compact book. A comprehensive list of wine retailers and consumer organizations in the back of the book also make it a great reference guide. Available from Amazon.com or hiptastes.com.
Author Rudolph Chelminski rocked the culinary world with his 2006 book, The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine. A regular contributor to The Atlantic Monthly and TIME, Chelminski is a skillful, engaging writer. Published this month, his latest book, I’ll Drink to That (Gotham Books, $27.50), reads like a love letter to Beaujolais, and in it, Chelminski celebrates Georges Duboeuf and French peasantry in general. He tracks the rise of the Beaujolais region’s eponymous “poor man’s quaff” and follows it to its eventual popularity worldwide. It’s a lovingly written book about Beaujolais and her people, culture, and history. From medieval times to modern-day restaurant lists, this is an enjoyable journey about a simple wine that eventually captured the hearts of wine lovers all over the world. Available from Amazon.com or penguin.com. This book also can be ordered from some area bookstores, such as Chaucer’s.