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Passion on the Vine: A Memoir of Food, Wine, and Family in the Heart of Italy Hardcover – April 22, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At a young age, Esposito and his family move from Naples, Italy, to Albany, N.Y., where he first falls in love with wine in the basement dining room of his uncle's house. Even as he reflects on the poor quality of those first sips, he understands he was consuming the sense of family and the spirit of his crazy yet adored uncle. After opening a store in Albany, he moves to Manhattan to work as a sommelier in the early 1990s. There he partakes of haute cuisine and affluent wine collections, while learning the hierarchy of international wines. While French wines are considered the pinnacle of the industry and Californian wines are gaining interest, there are very few Italian wines of note. With a fiery passion, he determines to bring appreciation of the wines of his homeland to America and opens Italian Merchant Wines, where he continues today to import highly selected Italian wines. His writing is exuberant, and his wine descriptions evocative. A bottle of Ribolla reminds him of staring at a cracked painting of a beautiful woman from long ago. For lovers of wine, this is a full-bodied read about one man's passion and the many delectable moments along his journeys. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

Esposito’s earliest memories anchor firmly in the smells, tastes, and sounds of the suburban Neapolitan village of his birth. There he first encountered the raw materials from which sprang a gloriously vibrant cuisine. In 1974 Esposito departed Naples for upstate New York. He became decidedly American, but he never abandoned his Italian roots. Esposito appreciates the uniqueness and the unpretentiousness of good Italian food: “simultaneously no big deal and the biggest deal possible.” Summers in Europe gave him an ever-greater appreciation for wine, and business partnership with Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali allowed him to turn his passion into a thriving import enterprise that gave him the opportunity to share with American consumers his appreciation for the full spectrum of Italian wines. In these pages, Esposito recounts adventures and discoveries across the Italian peninsula as he sought out the best vintages to offer in his Manhattan retail shop. --Mark Knoblauch

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway (April 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767926072
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767926072
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,204,355 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you have any interest in wine, food, travel, culture, history, family, and people as I do, then I recommend you read this book - I enjoyed all of it. Basically, it's a memoir of the author's move from Italy to the U.S. as a boy, and how his interest and love of wine and food inspired him to learn more about wine, open an Italian wine store in New York, and through his travels, continue his wine education.

He describes his travels throughout Italy in quest of the finest wines produced in that country (and the world) and understanding what motivates and inspires the people who make them. Along the way the reader gets taken for the ride through the beautiful wine making regions of Italy, and introduced to some of the iconic figures (some a bit eccentric) of Italian wine making. The author describes in detail his meetings, conversations, and tastings with these producers, and we get an inside perspective of how some of these icons have passionately and steadfastly respected history, terroir, and nature in crafting memorable wines they believe in. You'll visit their wineries, meet their families and partake in meals the author shared with the wine makers. Together they discuss the importance of food and wine pairing, and how, when done well, enhance each other and represent one of the essential aspects of an enjoyable and elevated quality of life.

I imagined myself as a secret participant of the winery cantina visits and mealtime conversations he describes in the book. As a person who appreciates good wine and food, they were absolutely riveting for me as it enabled me to learn more by getting a peek inside the minds of these great wine makers.

When you open this book and begin to read, it is much like a bottle of fine wine that develops and evolves over time. It has varying layers of characteristics that enhance your enjoyment, promote thinking, and will stay with you even past the last drop, or the last page.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although I don't have even a single corpuscle of Italian blood in me, my wife is 100%. Her grandparents on both sides were immigrants who came to Newark from the town of Avellino, which is about 45 minutes east of Naples, and if known at all in America, it's probably as the alleged hometown of Tony Soprano. Naples, of course, is far more famous for crime, but it's also the ancestral home of Sergio Esposito, author of Passion on the Vine, and it provides the springboard for his worldview and life's work.

So I know a little about life in a Southern Italian family, at least through osmosis. It would also probably constitute full disclosure to add that I have an amateur's abiding interest in Italian wine, as evidenced by a number of Amazon reviews I've written on books that deal with this specific subject.

Throw in the fact that I've been to Esposito's Italian Wine Merchant store in Manhattan a number of times, and you'll probably understand why I had certain preconceptions about this book before I ever opened it. In hindsight, I probably would have been better served if I had read it blind (pardon the atrocious mixed metaphor), and like a blind wine tasting, known nothing about it before I tried it. I was kind of hoping for a book that celebrated the true and the beautiful in Italian wine, but also the accessible, in the sense that you shouldn't need to take out a home equity loan before you buy, as would be the case if you were chasing '05 first growth Bordeaux. You certainly can find good, authentic QPR (quality/price ratio) wines in Esposito's store. Unfortunately, you won't find them in the book, but I'll return to this theme later.
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Format: Hardcover
While I have come to appreciate Sergio's vast wine knowledge by way of his weekly e-Letters (through Italian Wine Merchants), I was intrigued when I heard about Passion on the Vine. Honest, engaging, personable and humorous, it brought me to a new level of understanding about the patience required to appreciate wine, from its production to its later enjoyment (or at least analysis). A passage that has stayed with me is Sergio's interactions with the late, Bartolo Mascarello, a traditional winemaker from the Piedmont region, known for his Barolos. Sergio relays the events with such respect and fond admiration, as the two take in a half-opened bottle of 1978 Barolo. Waiting for the elder's cues for an approval to taste, Sergio is left waiting far longer than he initially anticipated. However, it is over the duration of this exchange (that is so eloquently narrated and moving) that you are, like Sergio in that moment, anticipating Bartolo's gracious admission for a taste. It is also in this moment that you witness Sergio's growth. Powerful stuff.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a FANTASTIC read!!! Anyone that loves good food, good wine, good friends and/or travel must buy this book! I have forced myself to go slow and savor but much like with a great glass of wine that is very hard to do! Everyone on my gift giving list is getting a copy. One of the best books I have read in a very long time to be sure.
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Format: Hardcover
Passion on the Vine is a wonderful, enjoyable book to read! Sergio Esposito is a marvelous storyteller and his book is an enjoyable journey through his remarkable life. I highly recommend it!
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