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Bottled Poetry: Napa Winemaking from Prohibition to the Modern Era Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 301 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1St Edition edition (January 21, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520202724
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520202726
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 3.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #527,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

For wine connoisseurs, a winery's Napa Valley location on a label generally indicates a certain quality. Historian Lapsley renders a detailed overview of winemaking in the Napa region, focusing primarily on activities from the repeal of Prohibition in 1934 through the 1970s. Lapsley recalls the dominance of so-called sweet or dessert wines before the emergence of the fine wines that are now overwhelmingly associated with northern California and goes on to track the eventual development of premium dry varietal wines and the determined wine makers who first produced and marketed excellent wines with great character--in the tradition that currently exists. Alice Joyce

From Kirkus Reviews

Forget the flowery title, a bit of whimsy from Robert Louis Stevenson. What Lapsley (Univ. of California, Davis) has produced here is a business school history of Napa wine in which poetry plays little role. American winemaking has come a long way from its immigrant roots, and no aspect of the industry rivals the economic success of the Napa Valley producers, those folks who can be said to define the notion of American premium table wine. Why?, Lapsley asks. He suggests the answer lies in ``promoting brand and region, in introducing varietal wines, and in adopting new technology and science.'' Lapsley introduces a gaggle of characters from the Napa wine trade--Andr‚ Tchelistcheff, the Mondavis, Gustave Niebaum of Inglenook--and struggles to make critical scientific advances understandable to his audience (malolactic fermentation tinkerings and protein-instability battles). But his emphasis lies in the economic whys and wherefores: Why did Beaulieu have enough capital to go fancy? How come Berlinger sold out to Nestle, Beaulieu to Heublein? What caused the slumps in the wine industry this century? Instead of assaulting readers with dreaded winespeak--a prose as deeply purple as any zinfandel--Lapsley pummels them with comments from the director for corporate business development at Coca-Cola and snippets from Arthur D. Little studies on the growing fashionableness of wine in upper-income groups in the 1970s. While Lapsley provides intriguing nuggets, he also projects an irksome snobbishness: petit sirah is deemed vulgar; Cabernet is his bet, which doesn't show a whole lot of imagination. An air of dissertation pervades this book, drawn as it is form doctoral studies, and Lapsley comes across as dry and formal- -very much like the Bordeaux grape he so appreciates. (map; 23 b&w illustrations, not seen) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mark Vincent on May 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book about a year or so ago and for some reason couldn't get motivated to read it. However, once I finally picked it up and started reading, I was quickly hooked and blew through it in a day or two. For anyone seriously interested in American wine and its history, this is a fascinating and highly insightful overview of Napa Valley wine from the end of Prohibition until the 1980's, by which time Napa was the premier name in American wine.

I am pretty familiar with the general history of American wine and have read a fair amount about California wine. Nevertheless, it was fascinating to learn how winemakers and marketers evolved from the truly awful Californian wine at the end of Prohibition into producing good wines people would buy and enjoy drinking. Its focus is heavily on those companies that drove the initial success of Californian wine post Prohibition - Beringer, Beaulier, Charles, Krug, Christian Brothers, and Inglenook - and it concludes with a postscript, written in 1996, that updates the reader on the ultimate fate and status of those companies.

I highly recommend this book for the insights it provides into the forces that shaped an industry and led wineries from the mass selling of bulk wines of plonk character into the production of bottled wines of premium quality. The author does an exceptional job of detailing the re-emergence of the wine business in America, including the cultural and business forces that drove both the eventual emergence of quality wine and the making of Napa's premier image. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in wine, as well as for students of both history and business; it includes great insights into how the successful companies marketed and promoted their wines to achieve their success.

You'll find it an enjoyable and interesting read. I rate it 4.5

Mark Vincent
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By cp on August 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book has many well documented details about how American winemaking emerged, was sustained, and progressed into how it is presently.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You might want to read this fine history as a part of a course of studies in viticulture or enology. It will complete your understanding of how we got to where we are today in winemaking, especially in the heart of California. For those wine enthusiasts interested in the rich history of winemaking and enjoy a good story, this volume goes down well and has a fine finish!
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