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An Ideal Wine: One Generation's Pursuit of Perfection - and Profit - in California Hardcover – June 28, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (June 28, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061704237
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061704239
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #314,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

From the author of the acclaimed Angels’ Visits comes an inside look at how a handful of ingenious winemakers has transformed—and been transformed by—the California wine industry over the past four decades.

In the 1970s, a group of idealistic baby boomers was attracted to the seemingly romantic world of winemaking. Over the course of nearly forty years, however—as competition from abroad increased, wine eclipsed beer and spirits as American adults’ beverage of choice, critics came to control the marketplace, and corporatization took over the industry—these young aesthetes would learn that wine is an unforgiving business. They would have to be clever to survive in an increasingly cutthroat atmosphere, and no one was more innovative than Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard—the court jester and bleeding conscience of California wine, its most original and amusing figure. But Grahm is only one of the restless visionaries who, having chosen wine as the vehicle through which to fulfill their dreams, ended up changing the rules of the industry by adapting to its demands. From high technology to hardball entrepreneurship, from handicapping scores to holistic farming, each vintner operates by his or her own definition of an ideal wine.

In this lively, sweeping account that spans the early seventies to the present day, David Darlington employs a sharp journalistic eye to profile a group of wine pioneers. A tale of vision and disillusion, brinksmanship and pragmatism, nature and business, politics and culture, An Ideal Wine is a fascinating look at an ever-evolving industry that reflects the values of our society and our civilization.

About the Author

David Darlington is the author of four books: In Condor Country, Angels’ Visits (published in paperback as Zin), The Mojave, and Area 51. A special correspondent for Wine & Spirits and a recipient of a 2008 James Beard Foundation Award for Writing on Spirits, Wine, or Beer, he also won a National Magazine Award for Public Interest in 2009. He lives in Berkeley and Mendocino County, California.


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Customer Reviews

Wine enthusiasts will be shocked by what they learn about wine making by reading this book.
Stuart D. Harman
The two bookends of this story, Leo McCloskey and Randall Grahm, are perfect foils and seem, for all their differences in approach, to be on the same quest.
Robert Holland
Much of this book delves into the history of the California wine industry from the 1970s to the present.
Erika Borsos

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Gary K. McCormick VINE VOICE on May 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"An Ideal Wine: One Generation's Pursuit Of Perfection - and Profit - In California", David Darlington's story of the California wine boom that started in the 1970s, is (unintentionally, I'm sure...) an ideal companion/follow-on book for the California wine enthusiast who has already read former Time magazine correspondent George Taber's "Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine".

Wine enthusiasts know the story: in an unthinkable upset to the status quo of French wine dominance, two Napa Valley wines came out on top in the red and white wine categories. "An Ideal Wine" picks up the story from that point, in effect -- relating the tidal wave of change in the California wine industry that reverberated from the revelations of the 1976 tasting.

The "...One Generation..." description in the title is somewhat misleading, for while Darlington describes the efforts of the new generation of California winemakers of the mid-'70s and '80s to produce wines that would rival those of the French wineries (while making a profit--no easy task...), he focuses on two in particular, Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards and Leo McCloskey of Ridge Winery, and later his own wine analysis firm, Enologix. Other players in the field are mentioned somewhat in passing, with only two, Dick Graff of Chalone Vineyards and Jess Jackson of Kendall-Jackson Winery, being dealt with in any detail.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Wandering Hoosier VINE VOICE on May 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I must admit that I enjoy drinking wine but would hardly call myself a wine connoisseur. That being said, "An Ideal Wine" is not written for someone who wants a simple overview of the business of making wine in Napa Valley. "An Ideal Wine" is much better suited for someone with an in-depth knowledge of wine who wants to read about the background of a few Napa Valley Wine Producers.

"An Ideal Wine" gives an in-depth look into the Napa Valley wine industry from the anecdotes and views expressed by Randall Grahm and Leo McCloskey. David Darlington tells a story about the factors that determine a wine's taste, such as the terrain where the grapes are grown and the timing for grape picking. He also discusses different techniques for growing grapes, aging wine, and the synthetic techniques used by many wine manufacturers to introduce different flavors into wine that the American public favors.

I found the discussion about Enologix, a California corporation that designs and markets uality analysis and models for predicting the taste of wine, to be particularly interesting. Before reading the book, I had never realized that many wine manufacturers have their wines chemically analyzed for taste.

Overall, though, I was disappointed in the book. I found it poorly organized. The chapter sequence did not flow well and the folksy nature of David Darlington's writing made it hard to follow the story that he attempted to tell. Furthermore, I would have liked the book to give more weight to a "generation's pursuit of perfection--and profit" and less to the individual anecdotes of McColsky and Grahm.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Paul E. Richardson VINE VOICE on July 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you think the California wine you buy in the grocery/liquor store is the result of patient western farmers harvesting, pressing and fermenting the grapes they have grown on their own land, then bottling them for sale after carefully aging them in oaken casks, you are sadly mistaken. This may have been how things were in California 30-40 years ago, but not any more.

The wine business has become [mostly] just another form of factory farming in the US, with winemakers buying and blending grapes from all across California, swirling in a some optimally-shaped oak chips for a carefully spec'd duration, fermenting with bioengineered yeasts, ripping the wine apart by centrifuge and double osmosis to break it down into its constituent elements, then recombining the liquid in "just the right" chemical combination to satisfy the consumer consensus for a full-bodied cab or a lightly sweet chardonnay.

David Darlington brilliantly chronicles the journey that has grown California's wine industry from a patchwork of Napa farmers to a multi-billion dollar food chemical industry. And he does so by bouncing us back and forth between the yin and yang of this development: (a) those (few) who feel wine is all about spirit and terroir ("opera in a bottle," one brilliantly puts it), about experimentation and dynamic interaction with the soil, and (b) those who see winemaking as primarily a commercial chemical process. The former (a) are represented by Randall Grahm, a brilliant and quirky winemaker of Bonny Doon fame. The latter by Leo McCloskey of Enologix.

But it is not a black and white battle of art versus science.
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