The Best Wine Book of the Year…
. . . also just so happens to be one of the best wine books of them all.
Wine books are a funny bird. There a reams of learning about wine books (I myself learned at the feet of Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Complete Wine Course book back in the day) and then there are the super-nerdy, super detailed books about the genetic origins of Zinfandel and the like and not much in between— so if you’re a novice or an expert you’re fine, but if you’re in that middle ground, you’re hooped. That’s why the book by Bonné, who’s the wine writer at the San Francisco Chronicle and a Seattle native, is such a Godsend. It’s detailed enough that it doesn’t cover ground that well trod, but focussed enough that it really enlighten’s the non-Californain on what’s new and exciting in the state.
As the title states, Bonné is not that interested in the old breed Californians—the Mondavis, the Harlan Estates, the Viaders of the world. His heroes are the pioneers who are pushing the envelope on the Sonoma Coast or searching for heritage vines in the industrial setting of Lodi. He’s never more happy than when he’s describing the work of Winnipeg’s Steve Matthiasson, (who’s the Indiana Jones of the new Cali wine movement) or Tegan Passalacqua, the winemaker at Turley who’s never more comfortable than when crisscrossing the state looking for vinous history.
None of this would matter if Bonné couldn’t tell a good story, but he thankfully has a newspaperman’s canny pacing and turn of phrase such that the pages flip by. As an added bonus, there’s a great list of producers in the back that come in handy next time you’re in a cool wine bar in San Fran—instant street cred if you name check a cool climate syrah from Failla.