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2008 Focus on Wine Books
Jonathan Levine 2008
January 2008

****IceWine: Extreme Winemaking, Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser, Key Porter Books, 2007 $40.00 Mr. Ziraldo is the founder and owner of Inniskillin winery in Canada's Niagra Peninsula and Mr. Kaiser is his wine maker. Given their credentials, the book is, as expected, a hymn to Ice Wines in general but more specifically Inniskillin and the Niagra Peninsula of Ontario. The book is beautifully packaged and the art work terrific. However, it is quite technical and concentrates almost exclusively on Canada and wines from Ontario. Not much time is spent exploring Ice Wine from other parts of the world, nor does one find a summary of styles of these delectable tipples. A chapter on the methods used to produce Ice Wines, and the pros and cons of each, would have helped, as would more information on what to expect from Ice Wines produced from different varietals. There are several delicious recipes but at the cost of a bottle of Ice Wine it is doubtful that I will be using it to make Icewine French Toast.

Amazon ISBN Number: 1552639266

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****The House of Mondavi, Julia Flynn Siler, Gotham Books, 2007 $28.00 A fascinating book that is also an excellent read. Ms. Siler, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, knows how to tell a story. Her writing style is breezy and the subject matter riveting for anyone interested in wines and the almost soap opera saga of the Mondavi family. While focusing on the rise and fall of the Robert Mondavi Empire, it traces the history of the family and retells the story of the internecine fighting between Robert and his brother Peter for control of the family business. It delves into Robert's relationship with his children, and explores why the company had to be sold. All told against the background story of the rise of the California wine industry and Napa specifically. In many respects the story has overtones of a Greek tragedy and in the hands of a writer such as Ms. Siler it becomes a compelling tale.

Amazon ISBN Number: 1592402593

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2007 Focus on Wine Books
Ron Kapon
December 2007

**** Vintage Humor for Wine Lovers, Malcolm Kushner, Kushner & Associates, Tradepaper, $9.95 If you love wine and humor as I do you will devour this book in one sitting. There are hundreds of jokes, quotes, one-liners and funny news items. There are also many famous New Yorker cartoons throughout the book.
A few examples-" I shall drink no wine before its time! OK, it is time"- Groucho Marx
"Wine is like sex in that few men will admit not knowing all about it"- Hugh Johnson
"It's a naive wine without any breeding, but I think you'll be amazed by its presumption"- James Thurber
"Sir, if you were my husband, I would poison your drink"- Lady Astor to Winston Churchill
"Madam, if you were my wife, I would drink it"- Winston Churchill
"The only thing that should come between people and wine is the cork"- Andrea Immer
Ok, you get the idea; now get the book and start laughing

Amazon ISBN Number: 0970457890

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Jonathan Levine
February 2007

Biannually I am asked to judge the Wine and Spirits Books category in a prestigious journalistic competition. This year I reviewed close to 30 books, and would like to pass along my thoughts to the Tasters Guild New York members. Books are in no particular order within the stars category. Where known, the suggested retail price is noted.

The following review of wine books will appear in my monthly column, Over a Barrel, in the Wine Investor Buyer's Guide. The WIBG is a monthly publication which reviews about 100 wines a month.

**** Keys to the Cellar, Peter Meltzer, Hardcover, John Wiley $29.95 Everything you want or wanted to know about wine collecting and wine auctions. Meltzer is the longtime auction specialist for the Wine Spectator and knows from whence he speaks. The style is easy to read and interesting. A book with a lot of information for anyone who is interested in the topic.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 0471473596

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**** The Wines of France, Jacqueline Friedrich, Paperback, Ten Speed Press $19.95 Friedrich, a well-respected author who wrote the definitive work on the Loire, has prepared a useful guide for the purchase of French wines. Most guides are vintage oriented and therefore out of date as soon as they are released. This book is oriented toward the regions of France and concentrates on house styles, which are less likely to change. Very useful and nicely organized, but the small font is a drawback.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 1580086888

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**** Romancing the Vine, Alan Tardi, Hardcover, St. Martin's Press $25.95 The author sold his NYC Trattoria, Follanico, and moved to Italy where he spent a year working in the vineyards and in the cellars of Barolo. The book is his account of the year adjusting to life in the wine country. He introduces us to a variety of characters who seem to embody the spirit of the vine as well as of Italy. Well-written and very interesting. A must read if you have any illusions about chucking it all and working in a vineyard.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 031235794X

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**** A Hedonist in the Cellar, Jay McInnerney, Hardcover, Alfred Knopf $24.00 The author sold his NYC Trattoria, Follanico, and moved to Italy where he spent a year working in the vineyards and in the cellars of Barolo. The book is his account of the year adjusting to life in the wine country. He introduces us to a variety of characters who seem to embody the spirit of the vine as well as of Italy. Well-written and very interesting. A must read if you have any illusions about chucking it all and working in a vineyard.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 1400044820

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*** Perfect Pairings, Evan Goldstein, Hardcover, Univ. of California Press $19.95 Goldstein, who is a Master Sommelier, gives practical advice on matching wine and food. Not only does he make suggestions but advises which wines to avoid with certain foods. Like Friedrich he stays away from vintages but looks at producers and their styles when making recommendations. The book also contains recipes.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 0520243773

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** The Wine Atlas of Canada, Tony Aspler, Hardcover, Random House $60.00 Aspler is Canada's leading wine writer and also a mystery novelist of note. (His mysteries all contain a wine theme.) Another book that is useful for research or for those with an interest in Canadian wines. The material is well-presented and text is easy to read. Good visuals add to the books enjoyment.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 0679313346

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*** Sake: Modern Guide, Beau Timken and Sara Deseran, Hardcover, Chronicle $18.95 A complete guide to sake, including chapters on its history, sake rituals, how to taste it, and the like. There is a list of fifty sakes to try with an explanation of each. There are also recipes for foods to match with sake and the use of sake in cocktails. A book for any serious oenophile.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 0811849600

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** Rogov's Guide to Israeli Wines, Daniel Rogov, Hardcover, Toby Press $19.95 A narrowly focused book with a small font that detracts from the enjoyment. Not for casual reading but fills a void in the literature. Extensive coverage of the Israeli wine industry.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 1592641717

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** At Home in the Vineyard, Susan Sokol Blosser, Hardback, Univ. of California Press $24.95 Sokol Blosser is President of the eponymous Oregon winery. The book relates her experiences in the wine industry with emphasis on her role a woman in a male dominated industry. The sub-title: Cultivating a Winery, an Industry and a Life, sums up the focus of the narrative. The stilted writing style detracts from the interesting story.       
Amazon ISBN Number: 0520248651

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** The Simple and Savvy Wine Guide, Leslie Sbrocco, Paperback William Morrow $14.95 Sbrocco has come up with an innovative format for her book. Instead of the traditional chapters, she has developed chapters on which wine to drink depending on your mood, with food, by seasons and for a reason. Her many tables are useful and provide price range, a special reason for each wine and web sites for further information. Well-written and captivating.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 0060828331

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** The Art of the Bar, Jeff Bollinger and Rob Schwartz, Hardcover, Chronicle $24.95 While there are recipes for numerous cocktails, this is much more than just a book on how to mix drinks. It delves deep into the art, as opposed to the science, of mixology. The authors are the bartenders at a well-known San Francisco watering hole and bring their personal experiences to life in this well-written book.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 0811854981

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** Windows on the World Complete Wine Course, Kevin Zraly, Hardcover, Sterling $24.95 Before 9/11, The Windows on the World wine course was probably the most successful wine program in the country. The updated, 2007, edition of the basic text is still a very useful tool for anyone interested in oenology.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 1402739281

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** About Wine, J. Patrick Henderson and Dellie Rex, Hardcover, Thomson Delmar Learning $54.95 An introductory wine text book written for American Culinary Federation program. It is a decent enough text covering the basic wine regions of the world as well as chapters on wine basics and a section on the business of wine. The latter topic includes chapters on selling wine and developing a wine list. A useful text for the neophyte who wants to learn about wine in a structured manner.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 1401837115

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* The Ultimate Bar Book, Mittie Hellmich, Hardcover, Chronicle Books $19.95 A handsome book that is loaded with information on setting up a bar, the history of cocktails and over a 1000 recipes. A serious defect is the slick and colored paper that makes the small font even harder to read. Given the depth of material the price is quite reasonable.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 0811843513

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* The Art of Decanting, Sandra Jordan, Hardcover, Chronicle Books, $16.95 Too small for a coffee table book, but that is what it looks like. Very nice photographs and slick paper. The material focuses on all aspects of decanting wine including decanters, funnels, corkscrews, etc.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 0811856798

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* Wine Access Buyer's Guide, Stephen Tanzer, Paperback, Sterling Publishing $14.95 Tanzer is the well-known and respected editor/publisher of the newsletter- International Wine Cellar. As such his writing style is informative and enlightening. This book gives average prices of many wines, but since these are current vintages, they will soon be dated.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 1402728166

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* The Way to Make Wine, Sheridan Warrick, Paperback, Univ of Cal. Press $19.95 An easy to understand, and perhaps over simplified, guide to making wine. This could be useful for someone who wants to make wine at home but has not yet attempted this task. The book presents the subject in a straight-forward linear manner and includes such useful items as a check list of supplies and materials that will be needed.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 0520247191

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* Infused, Susan Elia McNeal, Hardcover, Chronicle Book $19.95 Everything you wanted to know, and then some, about infused spirits, including how to make your own infused liqueurs. There is also over 100 recipes for cocktails made with infused sprits.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 0811846008

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* Hugh Johnson Pocket Wine Book, Hugh Johnson, Paperback, Mitchel Beazley $14.95 Hugh Johnson is the dean of English language wine writers and this is the 30th edition of his Pocket Wine Book. As the name implies the book can fit into an inside pocket of a suit jacket or easily slip into a purse. It contains a wealth of information about numerous wines and can be helpful when visiting a wine shop or when ordering wine at dinner. The small print makes the latter difficult given the subdued lighting in todays restaurants.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 1845331028

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* Hemingway & Bailey's Bartending Guide to Great American Writers, Hemingway and Bailey, Hardcover, Algonquin Books $12.95 Certainly a unique approach; the book lists. in alphabetical order, great American authors and provides a quote about drinking from each. Then there are several short paragraphs about the writer being featured and a recipe for a mixed drink or a cocktail. Would be a nice "stocking stuffer."      
Amazon ISBN Number: 1565124820

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* Andrea Robinson's 2006 Wine Buying Guide for Everyone, Andrea Robinson, Paperback, Broadway Books, $12.95 My objection to these books is that they become dated so fast. There is a lot of information and the author is a top professional who knows her wines and her craft. Well-organized and easy to read.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 0767915461

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* What to Drink with What You Eat, Andrew Dorenburg and Karen Page, Hardcover, Bulfinch Press, $35.00 The authors have tried to match various wines with different foods and vice versa. They will list a dish (say Tuna) and then suggest wine types to accompany the entree. They do not, however, take into account the various methods of preparation or the sauces that might accompany the dish.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 0821257188

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Kevin Zraly's American Wine Guide, Kevin Zraly, Paperback Sterling $12.95 A fairly useless book. It lists the major wineries and the American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in each state. However, it does not provide addresses, phone numbers etc. fort the wineries.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 140272585X

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The World's Greatest Wines, Bettane and Desseaume Hardcover, Stewart, Tabori & Chang $45.00 While this is a large book, close to 600 pages, it is superficial at best. The authors have identified what they consider to be the world's best wines and devote one page to each. There are numerous photographs, which are stunning, but this material can be found in other sources for what I am sure is less money and in a more inclusive format.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 1584795573

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Viva Vodka, W. Park Kerr, Hardcover, Chronicle Books $16.95 A book devoted to vodka and cocktails made from vodka. There are chapters on the history of vodka, how to make infused vodka and about 75 recipes for vodka based drinks. Only for a real vodka fanatic.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 0811851761

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The Cork Jester's Guide to Wine, Jennifer Rosen, Paperback, Clerisy Press $14.95 A cutesy book that tries to teach via humor. It fails on both counts.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 1578602777

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The Best Cellar, Jeff Smith, Paperback, Volt Press $14.95 A book on creating a wine cellar and collecting wine. Peter Meltzer's book does it so much better.       
Amazon ISBN Number: 1566252423

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Secrets from the Wine Diva, Christine Ansbacher, Paperback, Sterling Publishing $14.95 A pretentious book with the sub-title: Tips on Buying, Ordering and Enjoying Wine. The book breaks no new ground and there are similar books which do it better. The writing, however, is crisp and enjoyable.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 1402730365

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Book Review
Jonathan Levine
February 2005

North American Pinot Noir, John Winthrop Hanger, Hardcover, Univ. of CA Press $22.02 A scholarly, albeit at times dry, look at the past, present and future of Pinot Noir in the US. The author knows from whence he speaks and thoroughly covers the subject. In discussing the wines and vines of North America, he remembers to also discuss the connection and comparison to Burgundy. There are excellent maps and profiles of the leading Pinot producers.       
Amazon ISBN Number: 0520241142

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Book Review
Jonathan Levine
February 2005

The Wines of Bordeaux, Clive Coates, MW, Hardcover, Univ of CA Press $37.80 Coates, a well-respected author and Master of Wine, describes the unique characteristics of all of the Bordeaux regions and profiles several hundred properties and their wines. A must for anyone who wants to learn more about Bordeaux, especially the lesser known regions.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 0520235738

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Book Review
Vivian Tramontana
December, 2003

Wine for Women: A Guide to Buying, Pairing, and Sharing Wine, by Leslie Sbrocco (Author) $24.95   Leslie Sbrocco provides an excellent explanation of different wine regions and grapes, how to taste wine, how to pair wine with food and offers personal recommendations on particular wines. Her analogies for the female audience are funny but some times over the top. However, these analogies will make it easier to understand the wine industry terminology. This book is a wonderful guide to aid anyone to learn about wine. Unfortunately it is only aimed at the female audience. Leslie should produce another book for all genders. If you drink, or buy wine, this book will improve your understanding of wine.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 0060523328

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Book Review
Ron Kapon
October, 2003

Bordeaux - A Consumer's Guide to the World's Finest Wines, Fourth Edition by Robert M Parker, Jr- Paperback $60.00 This is Mr. Parker's 12th book and the 4th updated edition of his best work. No-one can deny the tremendous effect of a positive review by Mr. Parker on sales. In 1,200 plus pages he covers the vintages between 1961 and 2001. For the first time he has included wine labels (more than 700) which is a useful tool to enable readers to find wines using a visual cue. In addition, he has retested and reevaluated many wines. There is also a visitor's guide to hotels and restaurants in Bordeaux and a glossary of wine terms. If you drink, buy or sell wine, you must have this book.      
Amazon ISBN Number: 0743229460

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Book Review
Yinnie Tse
October, 2003

How To Pronounce French, German and Italian Wine Names, Diana Bellucci, Luminosa Publishing Inc.- Paperback $30.00 An ambitious pronounciation guide to the common wine terms, regions and names in six languages (15,000 words in total), it would have been a must-have if more time had been spent laying the foundation to using the guide. For example, a guide to pronouncing the alphabet or common components would have been useful. Another weakness is that the book does not take the American linguistic patterns into consideration. Americans tend to pronounce 'a' as "ey"; however the French generally pronounce it as "ah." Overall, a useful book for people who have a basic to intermediate knowledge of the Western European languages but not for the complete novice.       Amazon ISBN Number: 1932253335

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Book Reviews
Jonathan Levine
April, 2003

The New American Bartender's Guide, John J. Poister Paperback $14.00 Cocktails are in. If we needed any proof (pun intended), I recently received six books on cocktails. This one is the best. A general introduction and very comprehensive list of mixed drinks in an easy-to-read layout. A must book for any bar or person who wants to know how to prepare a Froupe or Red Cloud.       Amazon ISBN Number: 0451205243

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Michael Broadbent's Vintage Wine, Michael Broadbent Hardcover $50.00
An update of his classical review of wines. Written in a concise style, his use of language is masterful and in a few short sentences gives the reader a complete understanding of the wine and aging potential (if any). My favorite source for understanding old wines.       Amazon ISBN Number: 0151007047

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Oz Clarke's New Wine Atlas: Wines and Wine Regions of the World, Oz Clarke Hardcover $60.00
A comprehensive and definitive look at wine regions of the world, including smaller regions and newly emerging wine areas. Well researched and easy to read, and the panoramic maps are a real asset. This thespian turned wine writer has a smash hit.       Amazon ISBN Number: 0151009139

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Vino Italiano The Regional Wines of Italy, Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch Hardcover $35.00
The state-of-the-art book on Italian wines. Well written, this is a must for anyone who wants to know what is happening in the Italian wine scene. The book is organized by regions and the entire peninsula is covered. The recipes provided for the various regions were contributed by cookbook author and restauranteur Lidia Bastianich. A nice, but superfluous, touch.       Amazon ISBN Number: 0609608487

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Great Taste Made Simple, Andrea Immer Hardcover $27.50
Immer is an extraordinary wine educator and sommelier. Her writing style reflects her teaching style -- breezy, conversational and engaging. The subject is matching wine and food and she does it very well. This time the recipes that are included are germane to the subject. She does an excellent job in suggesting wine and food pairings and explaining why the combinations work.       Amazon ISBN Number: 0767909070

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The Craft of the Cocktail, Dale DeGroff Hardcover $35.00
DeGroff is America's best known mixologist. The sleek book is written on shiny paper and includes photos and drawings. Not what I want in a book about preparing cocktails. A nice coffee table book, but too pretty to really be useful behind a bar.       Amazon ISBN Number: 0609608754




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