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A Cultivated Life: A Year in a California Vineyard Hardcover – August 31, 1993


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Villard; 1st edition (August 31, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679419896
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679419891
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,795,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A chronicle of wine-making as well as a plug for Iron Horse Vineyards, her family's winery in Sonoma Valley, Calif., this first-person account of the wine-growing year also traces Sterling on her business rounds. We follow her as the vineyard's marketing director, dressed to the nines, traveling across the country and abroad, talking to consumers, offering tastings and creating or assisting at events designed to promote Iron Horse wines, which have been served at White House dinners. Sterling presents a seductive picture of the pleasures (and hardships) of making and marketing wine, and recalls her family's years in Paris, where they lived before buying the California vineyard in 1976. While much attention is paid here to her family's elegant hospitality, the book is also a layperson's guide to the intricacies of wine-making from planting the rootstock through nurturing the vines, harvesting the grapes and marketing the Fume Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet and sparkling wines.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Rambling, sometimes rankling account of a year spent producing, promoting, and peddling the wines of the noted Iron Horse Vineyards in California's Sonoma Valley. Sterling--daughter of the firm's original owners, and marketing and sales director of Iron Horse since 1985--packs in so much p.r. that this is like an infomercial between covers. Sterling describes the winery's yearly round of domestic activities--family get-togethers, anniversaries, gardening, entertaining the doyens of the food-and-beverage industries--with an air of superiority that's captured well in her father's observation that ``Ralph Lauren is just an imitation of people like us.'' The author also turns her attention to such wine arcana as the perils of phylloxera, a fungal disease that has decimated vineyards worldwide; the differences between cordon and cane pruning; and the complexities of the malo-lactic fermentation process. Also included are some snipes at rival wineries, mainly in nearby Napa Valley; plugs for various restaurateurs and their establishments (presumably Iron Horse clients); and name-dropping of a host of political and entertainment figures with whom the author and her family have come in contact. One of Sterling's more successful sections deals with wine experts and their metaphorical jargon--about which she says, ironically, ``more often than not, winespeak is merely pretentious and boring.'' Touted by the publisher as a successor to Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence, Sterling's tale merely proves that charm, like wine, often doesn't travel well. (Ten watercolors) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

2.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 21, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Perhaps the best thing is that I am from Sonoma County where most of the events take place. The descriptions of the towns, people and the ever present vineyards really struck home. The obvious joy that the author takes in her life and the wines her family makes permeates the book. She obviously lives a life different from the average person but seems to know it and appreciate all she has. Many local people are mentioned but almost always in a positive and entertaining way. The explanation of grape growing and wine crafting made me feel that even a non-wine drinker like myself could learn to appreciate the difference between good and bad wines.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By penny barker on September 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
A glass of wine will never be the same for me after reading this book! I will be searching for all the delicious flavors and nuances that Joy Sterling and her family look for while turning their grapes into wine. Her wonderful and detailed descriptions show it is no easy task but takes much physical labor, creativity and attention to detail. It involves dealing with the stress of nature's moods as well as turning out fantastic meals for tons of people whether one is feeling like it or not -- all part of the business. And yet the land, lifestyle (and perks!) of living this life seem to amply repay Joy Sterling for all the hard work. I loved her tongue-in-cheek style when describing the events of her life: her father remarking on her not wanting to go to law school with the comment "I guess that means you won't be president" or she and her husband, Forrest, in evening dress, down under the table untying dusty boxes of wine glasses in which to serve their wine at a wine fair! I found this book delightful and informative and will read it again.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 3, 1997
Format: Paperback
This book should be retitled "Portrait of a pompous boor." Here's a typical quote: "Father now thinks of us as landed gentry...He was wearing a Sea Island cotton shirt with a discreet 'B' monogrammed on the pocket, beige pants, his silver Iron Horse belt, and boots. I said, 'Daddy, you look like a Ralph Lauren ad.' I meant it as a compliment, but he was miffed. 'Ralph Lauren is just an imitation of people like us,' he said." I couldn't get past page 40. I would rather slit my throat than crawl through the rest of this book.
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