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A Tale of Two Valleys: Wine, Wealth and the Battle for the Good Life in Napa and Sonoma Paperback – May 11, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (May 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767907043
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767907040
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #470,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this brief, intoxicating book, Vanity Fair contributor Deutschman (The Second Coming of Steve Jobs) chronicles the year or so he spent as a freeloading guest at some of the finest homes in the Sonoma and Napa valleys in the heart of California's near-mythic wine country. He eavesdrops on conversations at the cafe and bookstore, talks to locals at the Tuesday farmer's market and indulges in bottle after bottle of fine wine (one even costing half a million dollars) at the best tables. While he is not shy about writing about his personal pleasure with life in the valley, he is no mere hedonist. He's also a fine reporter, who documents the force new tech money pouring in from Silicon Valley is exerting on the shabby gentility of the wine region. After revisiting some of the same territory covered earlier by James Conaway in Napa and The Far Side of Eden, Deutschman picks up the story in present-day Sonoma with the community's efforts to defeat the very same kind of luxury resorts that first made Napa the darling of glossy travel magazines. He serves up the drama glass by glass, starting with a rather mellow debate over loose chickens in the town square, building to the battle between the town folk and a luxury hotel developer, and culminating in an election fight between the new professional class and the bohemians for control of the Sonoma City Council. What remains longest in the memory are his portraits of the wine makers themselves-some known stars, such as Jean Phillips, proprietor of cult winery Screaming Eagle, and others less so. Rarely has such an exclusive world and its inhabitants been made so accessible.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Day-tripping with Vanity Fair contributing editor Deutschman in California.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I love the history and contrasts between Sonoma and Napa regions that are outlined in the book.
William B.
No go, I'm afraid; he probably gushed so much about himself that any real person up there was turned off.
Mary McGreevey
He could have done the same with the City Attorney of Sonoma, but he seems not to have bothered.
Craig A. Will

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By C. V. Manning on August 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Two things struck me about the book. First, the eccentric characters were not unlike those that one runs into routinely in a venue I'm more familiar with--small town deep south. Though flavored of California, of wine country, and of blue-state sensibilities, dress any one of the Sonomans in a blue sports coat and khakis and stick a bourbon-and-coke in his hand and you have yourself an everyday southerner of some stripe. Rich, poor, pretentious, humble, genuine, phony, romantic, hateful, kind, any of these just so long as slightly eccentric-cum-affected. Secondly, I noted a similarity in the characters' efforts to find transcendent meaning by pursuing pastimes with literal religious fervor. Wine, wine making, environmentalism, green space preservation, leisure--all find their place as the god of some Sonoman who otherwise found deity deceased in college and liked it that way, or so he thought. In parallel, take a less than rare southerner and find him worshiping on the gridiron any given Saturday or gleaning metaphysical truth from a blues man in a juke joint and you'll see the reverse image of your friendly Sonoman. I thought the book was well written and, intentionally or no, painted a clear picture of postmodern man's failure to find meaning. No idol satisfies, no passion fulfills, and A Tale of Two Valleys depicts that nicely.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Deutschman's book artfully chronicles the misadventures of "typical" Northern Californians in their native habitat. They're all here: the iconoclastic hippies, annoying activists, groovy corporate dropouts, disgustingly rich tech geeks, tyrannically earnest organic farmers and insufferable oenophiles. He pulls back the curtain on these spoiled, pampered, pompous, self-indulgent Northern Californians and their -OK, I'll admit it-utterly charmed, fascinating lives.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Stephen G. Kusheloff on July 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In paragraph after paragraph, Deutschman lauds the people of Sonoma, whom he sees as "reg'lar folks," while excoriating people from Napa, most San Franciscans, and anybody who stops at a winery for wine tasting. This is reverse snobbery at its worst. I quickly tired of Deutschman's pronouncements of who's a phony, and who's pretentious. Napa and Sonoma have plenty to offer, Alan. Leave your sophomoric value judgements out of it, especially when you revel in being a guest at a rich out-of-towner's weekend retreat in Sonoma.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Miles D. Moore TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
Alan Deutschman's "A Tale of Two Valleys" is a quick, reasonably entertaining read, but as someone who loves the Napa and Sonoma Valleys and visits them a couple times a year, I was hoping for more. Some reviewers have taken Deutschman to task for factual errors; it's plain he misspelled the name of California wine industry pioneer Agoston Haraszthy (though that might have been an editing or printing error), and he may well have totally mischaracterized Haraszthy's life, and other things in the book as well. In any case, I had a different problem with "A Tale of Two Valleys": Deutschman tells the story in the first person, thus making himself a character in the book. That in itself is not a sin--so did John Berendt in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"--but, unlike Berendt, it's painfully obvious Deutschman remains on the outside of Napa and Sonoma, looking in. To be blunt, whereas Berendt is a storyteller and an empath, Deutschman is a reporter and a solipsist. He introduces a bewildering number of characters in his tale of political and financial infighting in the Wine Country, but he doesn't come close to making any of them memorable, with the single exception of Maria "Ditty" Vella, a cheese broker from an old-line Sonoma family and an outspoken advocate of slow food, slow growth and respect for the environment. There's no equivalent here to Jim Williams, Danny Hansford or Lady Chablis; I weep for the loss of what Berendt could have made of genuine characters like Bob Cannard Sr., the chicken historian of Sonoma, and Ken Brown, the New York cabbie turned Sonoma hippie activist.Read more ›
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Janet Maslin's review in the New York Times called this book enjoyably wry and amusing and compared it to a young Tom Wolfe, and she's got a point. The book is light and entertaining, a compelling fast read filled with colorful characters. There's the man who spends $500,000 on a single bottle of wine, and the vintner with a barnful of vintage Porsches, Ferraris, and Bentleys on his Napa "farm," and the community activists who fight so that dozens of chickens can wander freely through the town square in Sonoma. The book gives an eye-opening insider's look at the wine country and shows what visitors rarely see when they come for a day of wine tasting or a weekend getaway at an inn or resort. The tone is humorous and bemused but the book also raises real issues about growth and development and direct democracy and how can we try to preserve the natural beauty and character of a place as more people flock to live there and threaten to ruin it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Charles W. Clowdis on May 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is GREAT! I have visited Napa and Sonoma frequently since 1968 and Alan tells this absorbing story in a facinating and entertaining way.
Only problem I have personally is his assessment of "Baron" Hazrathy. WHO convicted him of embezzelment?
He was vindicated and his cost of the trip to Eurpoe to bring back great vines was NEVER reimbursed as promised by the CA legislature....which seems to indicate this austere body was as duplicitous then as they are now!
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