Monday, September 10, 2012

Wine books

Most wine books I’ve read over the years are now outdated.  I remember a fun paperback I had in the early 1970s that described wines from all over the world and rated recent releases.  It was especially useful for California wines, and I carried it with me to wine stores and would check off wines I tried and then make notes.  It would be way out of date today, but I do wonder what was the name of this old friend.  (Any ideas?) Matt Kramer's Making Sense of California Wines is a well written, interesting book but it was published in 1992 and has lost most of its relevance.  For the past 40 years, I’ve tasted and purchased mostly California wines, especially Napa Valley.  Although I love wines from other areas, especially red and white Burgundies, I just haven’t studied them that much.  Here are some recommended, fairly recent, wine books that are either universal reference books or relate to Napa Valley wines.  I’d love to hear from others on recommendations, especially for the many wine growing regions I know less well.

A Companion to California Wine: An Encyclopedia of Wine and Winemaking from the Mission Period to the Present-Charles L. Sullivan, 1998, I read this front to cover but it is better used as a reference book. Getting to be outdated but still interesting.
A Moveable Thirst: Tales and Tastes from a Season in Napa Wine Country-Kushman and Beal, 2007.  Rather dated but a fun romp through Napa Valley as two wine lovers visit 141 Napa Valley wineries.
A Wine Journey Along the Russian River-Steve Heimoff, 2005, Well written and interesting.  A real labor of love. Reads almost like a travelogue and really gets in to what Russian River is about. Anything by Heimoff is worth reading.  His blog is also very interesting.  Another of my favorite wine writers.
California Wine Country: A Sunset Field Guide-2007, Another tourist or visitor guide that is somewhat similar to Frommer’s but not as out of date.
California Wine for Dummies-McCarthy and Ewing-Mulligan, 2009, Not that bad but more for beginners.
Dreamers of the Valley: A Portrait of the Napa Valley-Cheryll Aimee Barron, 1995, An interesting and very well written book about some of the history and key figures in the Valley. Still relevant.  Barron is an excellent writer.
Frommer’s Portable California Wine Country-Erika Lenkert, 2004, A simple, very basic guide for visitors but dated. There is a 2010 edition with a different title, but I have not read it.
Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2011-Surely everyone who is into wines is familiar with this guidebook.  I enjoy picking up new copies every few years.
Insiders’ Guide to California Wine Country-Doppenberg, 2009 edition, More along the lines of the Sunset Field Guide and Frommer’s  and okay as far as very simple visitor guide books go.
Matt Kramer On Wine: A Matchless Collection of Columns, Essays and Observations by America’s Most Original and Lucid Wine Writer, 2010.  A fascinating book that is hard to put down.  Matt Kramer is an exceptionally good writer. Excellent.  Matt Kramer is probably my favorite wine writer, and this is one of my all time favorite books.  A must read!
Matt Kramer’s New California Wine: Making Sense of Napa Valley, Sonoma, Central Coast and Beyond-2004. This is getting dated but is still worth reading and has interesting comments on many wineries that are still in operation and the significant changes that happened in the 1990s. Kramer is always interesting.
Napa Valley: The Land, the Wine, the People-Charles O’Rear, Mostly photos but enjoyable to look through.
New Classic Winemakers of California: Conversations with Steve Heimoff, 2008, I found this interesting because I like to hear what winemakers have to say.  Heimoff is an excellent interviewer and one of my favorite wine writers.
Oxford Companion to Wine-Jancis Robinson, 2006, I read this front to cover last year and will use it in the future as a reference encyclopedia. Essential reading. Buy it!
The 30 Second Wine Advisor-Robin Garr, 2007, For the beginner but okay if you want something very simple.
The Concise World Atlas of Wine-Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, 2009 edition, Another one I read front to cover last year even though it is more of a reference book.  Fascinating maps and descriptions of wine regions around the world. Classic.  Buy it!
The Finest Wines of California-Stephen Brook, 2011, This highlights only certain wineries and many will wonder why their favorite is not described.  But it is a good guide to California wines and wineries with many photos and decent write ups.  Essential reading if you love California wines.
The New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wine and Wineries-Charles E. Olken and Joseph Furstenthal, 2010, A fairly up to date description of many significant California wineries, I usually enjoy anything by Olken.


  1. TJ,

    I really enjoyed Matt Kramer on Wine. I'll definitely these out--Heimoff's Russian River book may be my first target.

  2. I mailed both Heimoff books to you today, each in hardback. Hope you enjoy them. I especially liked the Russian River one and even wrote to Steve about it. I am an avid book reader and love to learn about interesting books so thanks for your list of reommended ones. Cheers, TJ

  3. "Fantastic article, it’s very comprehensive and exciting! it’s so helpful to me, and your weblog is very good. I am definitely going to share this URL with my friends. Just bookmarked this site."

    1. Thanks. There are so many wine books out there that it is difficult to keep up with them. And many are soon out of date. Cheers, TJ


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