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A Hedonist in the Cellar: Adventures in Wine Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 24, 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Those who find most wine writing hopelessly recondite will eagerly quaff novelist Jay McInerney's A Hedonist in the Cellar, a collection of his essays originally published in House & Garden. Whether talking about a California chardonnay ("like a Ginsu blade concealed in a peach"); the wines of the Cote Rotie ("like Fitzgerald, [its] reputation was almost moribund at mid-century"); or the super Valpolicellas of Italian vintner Giuseppe Quintarelli ("his [wines] should be opened only in the presence of gods and stinky cheeses"), McInerney brings a novelist's gift and idiosyncratic wit to his personal investigations, which touch on the Rieslings from the Finger Lakes, the "forgotten whites" of Bordeaux, new developments in the wines of Chile and Argentina, spirits like Armagnac and artisinal champagnes, and much more. McInerney is a stimulating appreciator, so readers poring through his essays happily absorb viniculture and modus operandi, among other technical matters. In essays like "Translating German Labels" and "How to Impress Your Sommelier," they’re also prepped in buying and ordering. A wide-ranging tour of the wine world in sum, Hedonist is for all wine lovers, who will find in it much of what's been missing from so much other wine and food writing: the wit to do it well. --Arthur Boehm

From Publishers Weekly

Those who've ever thought wine writing was a bit sniffy will find McInerney's cheeky and informative squibs on wine a generous, almost ham-handed pleasure. In this collection of short essays, reproduced from his monthly column in House & Garden, the increasingly avid reader is enveloped in the various wines he tastes. It's sexy. But it's not just wine that's sexy here, it's also the people who have "caught the wine bug" and dedicate themselves to making their own labels. McInerney (Bright Lights, Big City; The Good Life) ferrets out the small winemakers, investigates their ethos and tastes their efforts with the same glee and tireless interest he dedicates to the big bottlers. This sense of discovery permeates each essay as he links the wine to its history, where the grapes come from and the culture that goes into its making. Readers will learn more than even the most dedicated oenephile can use, but everyone can be inspired to find the next bottle of something special for any occasion. (Oct.)
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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; Uncorrected Proof Copy edition (October 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400044820
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400044825
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,673,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jay McInerney is the author of Bright Lights, Big City, Ransom, Story of My Life, Brightness Falls, The Last of the Savages, Model Behaviour, How It Ended and The Good Life. He lives in New York and Nashville.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Christened "the best wine writer in America" by Salon, Jay McInerney is truly the master of the grape, sans pomposity. In the years since his previous collection, BACCHUS AND ME, he has traveled to more countries for his trade, sniffed more woody aromas and uncorked more bottles than most sommeliers in the world. His monthly House & Garden column is read by thousands of oenophiles worldwide. He is also the award-winning author of seven novels, including most recently the critically acclaimed THE GOOD LIFE. In his latest concoction, A HEDONIST IN THE CELLAR, McInerney combines his extensive and perpetually growing knowledge of wine with a penchant for telling a good cocktail hour story to create a collection that is thoroughly pleasurable to read and digest.

As all essay anthologies should, HEDONIST begins with an informative introduction, written in McInerney's comfortable, laid-back style --- much like an evening's first glass of wine. He writes of his formative years at his job as a wine clerk at a rinky-dink "boozeteria" in Syracuse, New York, called the Westcott Cordial Shop. It was there that he heard about the acceptance of his first novel by Random House, while studying under Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff in the Graduate Writing Program at Syracuse University. It was also there that he laid the groundwork for what later would be a career as a wine connoisseur, by reading the shop's books on wine and occasionally lifting a bottle or two to taste.

Ten years or so later, he was offered the wine column gig, despite his minimal training. "I'd never taken a class, or attended a wine tasting, or spit into a bucket..." Yet he managed to pull it off, purely for the love of learning about it and the enjoyment factor. "It's an inexhaustible subject, a nexus of subjects ...
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Format: Hardcover
It should first be noted that Jay McInerney was a writer long before he became a writer about wine. That's an important distinction, because it's easy to forget, when reading McInerney's witticisms and anecdotes, that he's also got a pretty good street cred as a wine authority.

"A Hedonist in the Cellar" is probably one of the more aptly named books ever to be published, because it's about a guy who truly loves what he gets paid to do. Unlike other books written about the perimeters of luxe lifestyles, McInerney's offering doesn't come across as a smug piece in which the author revels in highlighting what normal people will never get to enjoy.

In "Hedonist," McInerney gets beyond the froufrou language that causes most of the civilized world to arch a brow at wine lovers (and collectors and writers) and dismiss them as pompous snobs.

This latest book, a compilation of funny, frightfully easy-to-read essays about wine around the world, makes readers feel as though they've dropped in for a chat or were allowed to eavesdrop just outside the dining room door as a fabulous buffet of stories unfolds. McInerney -- and this is where the ordinary part ends -- takes readers to the hearts of the finest wine cellars and vineyards in the world. It's not an academic exercise, but rather like hitching a ride in the back of an old Mini (before they became fashionable) and rattling around for a year or so. In the case of the essays of the book, there are five years of writing.

He shares how the wine world works, what to look for in certain wines and, most important, how to find a wine you like and, by God, be confident in that choice.
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Format: Hardcover
"Sir, a woman preaching is like a dog walking on his hind legs. It is not done well but you are surprised to find it done at all."-Samuel Johnson

I want to get one thing straight before I begin: I wouldn't know Jay McInerny from Hugh McElhenny, so I don't want anyone to think that this review is colored by my previous experience with McInerny as a novelist or anything else. I understand this book is a compilation of short articles he wrote for the magazine House & Garden over a five-year span in the early part of this decade, although there are no dates on individual entries. That's too bad, because in 2007 there's virtually nothing new in the entire book, and if it turned out he wrote them all, let's say, in the period between 2000-2001, at least we'd know he was blazing some new ground at the time and it just took the rest of us a while to catch up. Instead I would describe the net effect as a romp through very well trodden territory with a half-baked, way-too-clever-for-his-own-good guide.

In the introduction, McInerny informs us that he came by his gig at House and Garden by accident, when a friend and editor suggested he combine his growing passion for the grape with his writing. Hence the Johnson quote above- should we be impressed that a novelist knows anything about wine, or perhaps go with the flow and quote Maximus from Gladiator, dripping blood in the center of the arena and shouting, "are you not entertained?"

My standard-bearer in this genre is Gerald Asher, who for 30 years has written brilliantly incisive articles about wine in Gourmet (The Pleasures of Wine).
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