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My colleague Matt Kettmann is one of those insanely productive people who crams more output into a day than most of us do in a week. So I wasn’t necessarily surprised when he announced last year he was writing a book about Santa Barbara County wine in all his “spare” time. What did surprise me is that he and his partner in the endeavor — photographer and publisher Macduff Everton — managed to not only hit their deadline with the world on its head but also put out such a smartly written and beautifully presented product that wine aficionados and casual coffee table readers (I’m definitely in the latter camp) can equally enjoy.
With trend reports, a foreword by winemaker Richard Sanford, and other bells and whistles, such as a COVID-19 chapter, Vines & Vision now exceeds 120 chapters and 600 pages, profiling the region’s pioneers as well as newer faces who’ve dedicated their time, money, and energy in such ways that they won’t be leaving town anytime soon.
Kettmann, who’s been with the Independent since 1999 and now writes reviews for Wine Enthusiast magazine, answered a few of my questions about his new work.
How’d this project come about?
In the summer of 2017, Macduff had just put the finishing touches on Around the Table, which told the story behind the development of The Lark while sharing Chef Jason Paluska’s favorite recipes. I’d contributed a chapter on Santa Barbara County wines to the book and also helped with some critical last-minute edits, so Macduff wanted to meet for a drink one day to discuss a future collaboration.
Over pints of Guinness at the James Joyce pub that fall, he suggested, “We should do a wine book.” Having wanted to do something like that for a while — and figuring that my decade-plus of covering the region’s winemakers meant that most of my work was already done — I was game.
Why is this book needed?
Unlike Northern California regions like Sonoma and Napa, where countless pages have waxed on about their people and places, Santa Barbara wine country is decidedly lacking in books about the region, with just a handful published over its entire modern history. This felt like an opportunity to do my part in showing many others what makes our region so honestly special, from the unique geography to the colorful characters.
We figured it would be an easy path to publishing, focusing on a couple dozen important pioneers. But once we started, we couldn’t really stop.
How did you tackle such a large industry in one book?
By the middle of 2018, Macduff was regularly shooting the winemakers and grape-growers that I knew, and has been photographing them ever since, covering the sweaty depths of harvest, but also their families, hobbies, and other non-wine sides of their personalities, like Rick Longoria riding his Italian bicycle through the Sta. Rita Hills. As I started to write the chapters over a year ago, I quickly realized this would be no easy feat. Almost all of the chapters that I thought were already handled had to be re-reported and rewritten, and there were dozens of chapters that required completely new visits, phone calls, and research.
Did you get every winemaker in the county?
By no means is this an exhaustive survey — we’ve touched on about 100 wineries, but there are perhaps just as many that we did not include. But we feel that it’s the most earnest attempt ever to portray as many Santa Barbara County winemakers in as much depth as possible. I should say that Victor Geraci’s 2004 book Salud! and his recently published Wine by Design are great studies of the region’s history and growth, but not intently focused on the winemakers themselves.
Tell me about “El Buen Equipo.”
With so much of his own history spent covering the Maya people of Mexico, Macduff made an immediate and deep connection with the hundreds of farmworkers who do the hard work in the vineyards every day and began shooting portraits of them as well, toting a black backdrop along to every visit. That section expanded into a chapter called “El Buen Equipo,” or “The Good Team,” which features those farmers as well as people in every other role required to bring a vintage to market, from PR pros and marketing executives to wealthy proprietors.
How can people buy the book?
We’re sending the book to the printer this month, and it should be out in October. But like a highly allocated wine, we are only selling the $60 books by advanced order. The last day to reserve your copy of Vines & Vision is July 19.
If you miss that window, there may be one more chance to grab a copy in the fall; many of the wineries featured are also buying their own to distribute, although we expect their supplies to sell out fast.
Reserve your copy at vinesandvisionsb.com.
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