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NorCal Wine Blog

Further Reading on Wine


Darlington, David. Zin: The History and Mystery of Zinfandel. New York: De Capo Press, 2001. (Also published in 1991 under the title Angels’ Visits.)

 A personal and engaging book dedicated to California’s unofficial official grape and the only varietal which is widely seen as being uniquely successful in the United States. You’ll learn about the origin of the grape, its history in California and about many of the wineries and people that have created its best expressions and made it so popular.

Dornenburg, Andrew and Page, Karen. What to Drink with What you Eat. New York: Bulfinch Press, 2006.

The accomplished writers, who both have formal training in both wine and cooking, have compiled an excellent resource in this book. While not a book that you would sit down and read from cover to cover, unless you’re me, it may well become one of your favorites. If you have a wine and don’t know what to serve with it, this book will help. If you have a food and don’t know what wine to serve with it, this book will help. And it will also tell you what not to pair with something, which is probably even more important. The book also includes recipes from some of the world’s finest restaurants, favorite wines and tips from some of its most respected sommeliers, and more. The book also provides pairing advice that goes beyond wine to include beer, spirits, coffee, tea and various bottled waters. You want this book.

Gold, Richard M.. How and Why to Build a Wine Cellar, 3rd Edition. North Amherst: Sandhill Publishing, 1996.

There aren’t many good books on how to go about planning, building and equipping a wine cellar. And, if you’re going to go to the trouble and expense of building a cellar, you’re probably going to be putting a lot of money into wine to store there. So, you really need to plan it well to avoid spending way too much money on the cellar or losing a lot of money through wine spoilage. There are a lot of companies and individuals who will consult on and build wine cellars. Many of them are good, but there are probably a lot who are not or who would not have your best interests at heart. This book is the best of the books on wine cellars that I’ve seen. And, while it’s not perfect, it will give you a lot of great information on different types of cellars, things you must do, things you must not do and, if nothing else, enough insights to help you manage any cellar consultant you may hire. Don’t build a cellar without it.

Kushman, Rick and Beal, Hank. A Movable Thirst: Adventures on the Wine Route. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2007.

The funniest and most engaging book related to wine that I’ve ever read, this is a must read if you’re interested in Napa wineries or just visiting wineries. Or just drinking wine. Get this book.

Lukacs, Paul. American Vintage: The Rise of American Wine. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.

This is a good and easy-to-read history of American wine. It’s not the most exhaustive but neither is it exhausting to read. It provides a fair and accurate survey of the origins and development of wine in the United States. It’s definitely worth a read if you like a historical perspective on our favorite beverage.

Lukacs, Paul. The Great Wines of America: The Top Forty Vintners, Vineyards, and Vintages. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2005.

An award-winning wine writer and a frequent contributor of articles on wine to the Washington Times, Lukacs took a very educated stab at identifying the elite wineries of the United States. Not only is the task one that is never final, as new wineries crop up all the time, but putting together such a list will always wind up starting arguments as would a list of the world’s best guitarists or most attractive women. Certainly, there can be no aspersions cast on the wineries included, just surprise at the omission of others. But, I guess you have to draw the line somewhere and he felt forty to be a good limit. Twenty-six of the forty wineries included are from Northern California and the descriptions of those wines are informative, interesting, and provide a good introduction to the varietals, AVAs, and winemaking philosophies of the area.

Parker Jr., Robert M.. The World’s Greatest Wine Estates. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005.

Robert Parker is one of the world’s most respected and talked-about wine writers and critics. And he’s probably the world’s most influential and controversial taster and reviewer of wines. His opinions and ratings on a 100-pt. scale can make or break wineries, have driven a score-centric approached to buying wine and have promoted, in the eyes of many, wines with big flavors and high alcohol over more elegant styles. This has unquestionably led many wineries to change the style of their wines. But, the man knows wine. This book is his take on the best wineries of the world. It provides a brief but very useful description of each of the wineries he’s chosen as well as tasting notes and scores for several of their recent wines. He includes twenty-three wineries from the United States, the most of any country but France. All but one of the U.S. wineries are Californian and all but two of those are from the area covered by Not all of these are included in the Lukacs’ book and vice versa.

Robinson, Jancis. The Oxford Companion to Wine, Third Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

This winner of the James Beard Foundation Book Award is often referred to as the Bible of the wine industry. Encyclopedic in format and completeness, it contains more than 800 pages of accurate, clearly written information on everything that is wine. Regions, varietals, wine-making terms, and even many wineries, are well-covered. The author, Jancis Robinson, is one of the most respected wine writers in the world, is a Master of Wine and one of the foremost communicators on wine. Very highly recommended if you are serious about wine.

Sharp, Andrew. Winetaster’s Secrets: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Joy of Winetasting (revised and updated). Toronto: Warwick Publishing Inc., 2005. Andrew Sharp was Canada’s foremost wine taster and educator. He also founded the InterVin International wine competition. This book is a detailed, often technical and, frankly, sometimes dry education on the science and methods of wine tasting. There is a lot of background information on wine and wine making in general as well. This is not a book for the casual wine drinker. But, if you have a thirst for knowledge as well as wine, then this is a great resource.

Taber, George M.. Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting that Revolutionized Wine. New York: Scribner, 2005.

An excellent recount of the famous tasting that showed California wines could hold their own with the best wines of France. Previously, California wines and New World wines in general had been praised but rarely without the caution that they were not a good as, wouldn’t age as long as, didn’t have the sophistication of European wines. And, many respected tasters claimed that they could tell the difference between Old and New World wines in a blind tasting with certainty. This tasting was by no means some final victory against these opinions, nor should it have been. But, it did radically change the conversation. More than just a narrative about the tasting itself though, this book provides a great history of some of Northern California’s best wineries, including Chateau Montelena, Ridge, Heitz and Stags Leap Wine Cellars.

Zraly, Kevin. Windows on the World Complete Wine Course (2008 Edition). New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2007.

Written by one of the world’s most respected, honored and prolific wine educators and writers, working through this book is a great way to educate yourself on wine. It’s clear, approachable, thorough and easy to use. It includes a wide range of information on wines and wine regions of the world. It provides guidance on which wines to buy and tasted for the different “classes” and includes test questions so you can check your progress. If you want to know wine but don’t have the time or money to take formal wine courses, or you want a thorough grounding before you take a class, then this book is for you.