Writing books is difficult work, often with limited payoff—by the time one factors in the research, writing, seemingly endless editing, and pretty much actually endless promotion, the hourly rate for the slog can often be depressingly low.
I know this because I’ve done it, and while both the process and payoff were both more enjoyable than I could have imagined, it gave me a newfound and even greater respect for those who’ve “put in the work,” as they say.
So I’m happy to tell you that two of my wine writing colleagues, who I’m also privileged to call friends, have taken up the yoke of writing two very original—and very excellent—new books that are well worth the attention (and the hard-earned shekels) of curious wine lovers [full disclosure: they sent me review samples, for which I probably owe each of them a beer or two].
First, we have Lodi! The Definitive Guide and History of America’s Largest Winegrowing Region by Randy Caparoso (Kitchen Cinco Press, 408 pages, $70). This hardcover coffee-table-style tome is one of the few wine books that actually lives up to its subtitle. Randy has long been on the promotional scene in Lodi (I have actually crashed at Randy’s house in a Lodi Zinfandel vineyard years ago), and remains its staunchest media supporter. It’s often said that every wine region needs a champion, and Randy is that champion for Lodi. He knows the ins and outs of the region better than anyone else alive, and that deep knowledge of hard-won experience bursts from pretty much every page of Lodi!. Randy also happens to be a gifted photographer, and the collection of stellar images sprinkled liberally throughout this gorgeously designed book paint their own picture of a wine region well into its new renaissance, and and would be worth the full cost of the book alone. As it stands, Randy is also a gifted writer, having been on the wine writing beat for decades. So you also get well-crafted yarns about Lodi’s history, importance, uniqueness, and best producers. It’s an overt love letter to a place that Randy cherishes, and manages to pull that off without even becoming mawkish. We need more wine books like this.
Next up is Brian Freedman’s Crushed: How a Changing Climate Is Altering the Way We Drink (224 pages, Rowman & Littlefield, $32). This well-written and important gem of a book would probably more accurately be subtitled “How a Changing Climate Is Altering the Way Wine Is Made,” but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the more poignant and pertinent wine book releases of recent years. The idea behind this one is a minor genius of a conceit: take a wine writer’s easy access to being invited around the globe to be wined and dined, and use it to highlight the connecting thread of how climate change is impacting how everything is done in the wine business, from farming, to planting, to harvesting, to wine-making. Through trips to diverse wine regions like California, Texas, South Africa, Brian weaves a common thread of a story, and paints a troubling picture of the wine business’ future (dotted with some hope here and there). His tone is authoritative and approachable, and in each of his journeys we react along with Brian in an everyman “what the heck is going on here?” fashion to wine’s changing landscapes demanded by rising global temperatures. It’s a page-turner with a message, making it a fantastic late-Summer read pick for wine fans.