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Words About Wine
A feature of Robin Garr's Wine Lovers' Page

Book Reviews:

"A Cultivated Life" and
"Napa Wine - A History

By Jim Dove

© Copyright 1997 by Jim Dove. All rights reserved.

For those of you interested in wine related books, I've just finished a couple that may interest you. The first was A Cultivated Life -- a Year in a California Vineyard, by Joy Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyards. The next diversion was Charles L. Sullivan's Napa Wine -- A History. Reviews follow:

A Cultivated Life does exactly what it promises, taking the reader, month by month, through the joys, trials, and tribulations of wine growing at Iron Horse, a Sonoma County winery producing Sparkling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Pinot noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Whether it serves it's clandestine objective of turning the reader on to Iron Horse wines, ala Kermit Lynch, is questionable.

Joy is best described as an ex-flower child turned nouveau riche dink (dual income no kids). The book balances the details of wine making - from dosages to dealing with phylloxera -- with sometimes insufferable anecdotes, like the time George Reidel accepts her apology for not using his stemware in their tasting room. "No need to apologize, Joy. Baccarat is very expensive. Not the best but very expensive." Stories like this, and how Joy decided to trade in her BMW for a Land Cruiser can be taxing. At the same time, the book is informative and reasonably entertaining. No, it's not going to make me go out of my way to buy or sell Iron Horse wines. Actually, I'm even more contemptuous of them given their questionably high pricing. But yes, I would read it again even though I know I would have liked it more if I were a snobbish sort of woman aspiring to be president of the local Junior League.

I'm not so confident I'd read Napa Wine -- A History again. It's in need of some serious re-work. The book is a disjointed amalgamation of over 100 years of Napa Wine history. Charles Sullivan gives new meaning to the term chronological. In the same breath though, I've got to solute the guy. He's the first to try and piece together a comprehensive history of the Valley. The book goes back and forth, here and there. In short, it is confusing. Filter through all of the bad editing though, and the book provides some serious insight into the cultural, political, and economic evolution of Napa Valley. Hopefully, the next version of this book, or the next history of the Valley, will take all of this useful information and make it a bit more, say ... palatable.


Jim Dove is a management consultant and wine enthusiast from St. Louis.


A Word About 'Words About Wine'

If your love of wine inspires you to want to write an article or essay about the subject, or if you've had a wine-related article published in print that you'd like to share with wine lovers on the Web, I'll be happy to consider placing it on the Web in this new feature of my Wine Lovers' Page.

Although I can't offer to pay for submissions at this time, I'd like to see this feature become a showcase for serious wine journalism and essays in a format longer, more thoughtful, and less transient than message board discussions.

I'll be happy to consider both previously published work (as long as you retain copyright rights) and unpublished work, and while I reserve the right to reject submissions on the basis of content or style, I'll make every effort to be generous in those judgements and err on the side of inclusiveness, in order -- I hope -- to build a good collection of quality Words About Wine. If you'd like to propose an article now or show me one that you've already written, please feel free to send me E-Mail.


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