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Book Reviews | 1 Wine Dude - Page 7

Posts Filed Under book reviews

The Best Wine $1 You’ll Ever Spend

Vinted on February 18, 2010 under book reviews, wine books

This blog probably doesn’t attract as many newbie wine lovers these days as it does ‘intermediate’ wine lovers, other wine bloggers, and wine industry folk. 

Well, this is a post for those intrepid wine newbies, and the people who love them (or, the people who feel obligated to buy them wine-related gifts, anyway).

Because I own a house and have a young family, I spend approximately 25% of my waking hours (and just as much of my monthly net income) at the local Target store. And it was there that I discovered the best $1 investment that a wine newbie could make, piled up in a bin located in the “everything for a buck” section near the store entrance.  You know, the section right by the big red plastic shopping carts in which my toddler daughter spends 25% of her waking hours.

That $1 investment?  Wine For Dummies – Pocket Edition.

Yes, I’m serious.  Yes, at Target.

The book is 6” x 4” x 05.cm, and weighs a couple of ounces (or, approximately 0.015% the weight of the average mighty hardback wine tome).  It could literally fit into your back pocket and you might not notice it until the next time that you sat down after putting it there.

Many folks know the full-blown version of Wine For Dummies, written by wine education legends Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan.  The Pocket Edition boils down the Wine For Dummies content into about 50 pages of the essentials, omitting mostly the content on wine storage, collecting, and buying wine at the wine shop. What’s left is the same fun, accessible, and lucidly written prose found in the book’s bigger brother, with especially helpful info. on how wine is made, how to taste it, what’s behind the most popular varieties, and (especially useful) a short section that is the best and most concise corkscrew overview that you will ever read.

Interestingly, a good portion of that $1 content is also available for free on-line, in a slightly-less-handy-than-the-book-unless-you-own-a-smart-phone format.  The on-line articles don’t contain all of the text of the Pocket Edition but are handy in a pinch (here’s a sample of that corkscrew overview).

Anyway, it’s something to keep in mind the next time you’re trying to plan your escape-vector from Target (which, for me, begins the moment that I am pulling our car into the parking lot) – but it probably won’t help you get out of the place without spending $200.

Cheers!

Making Sense of Elliot Essman’s “Use Wine To Make Sense Of The World”

Vinted on February 11, 2010 under book reviews, wine books

I think I’m beginning to understand what draws me to certain things, whether they be people, works of art, musical pieces, bands, sports teams, or wines.  Yeah, it took me over 30 years, but I have made some progress.

And it’s not easy to describe, because there is no single word in the English language that really encapsulates it – at least, not one that I’ve found.

It’s a sense of being genuine.

I don’t mean transparent, or honest, or without fault.  I mean, something clearly being… itself.  What appeals to me most is when someone or something has a spark of originality that is obvious to its very core, because he/she/it simply doesn’t know how to be any other way.

Which is why I enjoyed Elliot Essman’s Use Wine To Make Sense Of The World (the author sent me a review copy).

In an odd way, Essman’s writing made me think about that, because at first I could not figure out why I liked his book, which at times felt a bit tedious (there are sections devoted to following his bouts with Internet dating, as told via the wine selections of each date that, while not nearly as cringe-inducing as it sounds, made me scratch my head and wonder what the hell I was reading).

But it all came together for me in the next-to-last chapter (“Use Wine To Make Sense Of Your Brain”).  Essman was playing me the whole time…

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Wine Satan or Wine Savior? An Interview With Wine Trials Author Robin Goldstein

Vinted on January 25, 2010 under best of, book reviews, interviews, wine books, wine publications

Depending on who you ask, Wine Trials author Robin Goldstein is either the wine world’s Satan, or the wine consumer’s Savior.

Whether you feel that Goldstein’s powers are being used for good or evil, you can’t say that he harbors a fear of shaking things up.  Goldstein became a polarizing figure in the wine world in 2008, when he ruffled the feathers of Wine Spectator by creating a fictitious restaurant whose wine list included some of their lowest-scoring Italian wines in the past two decades, and subsequently won their restaurant Award of Excellence.  The aftermath caused one of the most heated debates of the year in the wine world.

Goldstein also coauthored The Wine Trials, the first edition of which is the bestselling wine guide (for inexpensive wines, anyway) in the world.  The premise of the Wine Trials was simple: compare everyday wines to more expensive equivalents in blind tastings, and see which ones the average person preferred.  As it turns out, most wine consumers – to a statistically significant degree – enjoy the less expensive options; more feathers ruffled!

Goldstein has a new website, BlindTaste.com, and the 2010 edition of the Wine Trials has recently been released.  I tore through my review copy of The Wine Trials, and I found the first 50 pages (which describe the approach and science behind the book, and hint at its future implications on the wine industry) to be some of the most profound reading on wine appreciation that I have ever come across.  The Wine Trials doesn’t just poke at wine’s sacred cows – it skewers them, grills them, and serves them up with an inexpensive Spanish red (Lan Rioja Crianza in this case, which took the Wine of the Year honors in the 2010 Wine Trials).  A similar take on beer, The Beer Trials, is set to be released this Spring.

Robin kindly agreed to answer a few questions for our readers.  I’ll warn you that you should be prepared for a quick and opinionated mind – and you might want to pad the walls of your wine world, because that world is about to get turned squarely onto its ear…

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A Taste of Heaven (Book Review)

Vinted on January 5, 2010 under book reviews

Quick – how many abbeys are there in the U.S.? 

The answer is “way more than you’d think!

Abbeys – their contemporary ways of life, histories, and (most importantly) culinary delights – are the subject of Madeline Scherb’s first book, A Taste of Heaven: A Guide to Food and Drink Made by Monks and Nuns.

Part travel guide, part history lesson, part valentine to all things Catholic, and part cookbook, A Taste of Heaven makes for interesting reading and is structured around a gourmand’s fantasy meal (the book’s sections, in order cover Spirits, Cheese, Sweets, and Other).  Those who love beer and cheese will especially appreciate the substantial portions of the book devoted to Belgian Trappist abbey brews (such as Orval) and the abbeys of France (such as the walnut-liquor-enhanced fromage of Echourgnac), respectively.

Now, I’m not religious and this is not a beer and cheese blog (though I love beer just as much as I adore wine), and while I love my foodie friends I don’t share their keen ability to translate culinary thought-experiment (recipes) successfully into visceral reality (food that actually tastes good), and I struggled with whether or not I should cover A Taste of Heaven (which Madeline kindly sent to me as a sample copy).  But, I did in fact find a wine angle in this book, albeit a small one. 

Citeaux Abbey, situated just outside of Dijon in the Cote-D’or in France, is covered in A Taste of Heaven and the abbey’s history is fascinating.  Citeaux was founded in 1098 and initially struggled to find recruits for monks in an area of France that was already known as a lap of luxury.  At one point, the Abbey owned 10,000 acres of land in Burgundy, including… Clos Romanee.  That would probably be worth enough to buy a space shuttle nowadays.  Apparently, the cheese there is… well… heavenly to this day.

Those who get the travel bug to check out the famous Abbeys of Europe (or the not-quite-as-famous Abbeys of the U.S.) would do well to first check out A Taste of Heaven.  But be warned, by the looks of the butter, egg, and lard content of the recipes found in Scherb’s book, eating abbey food isn’t exactly for the (literally) faint of heart.

Oh, yeah – and whatever you do, don’t sing or chant along loudly with the monks (apparently that’s bad abbey-visiting form)!

Cheers!

(images: amazon.com)

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