3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The nose is complex, but the finish is disappointing,
This review is from: A Very Good Year: The Journey of a California Wine from Vine to Table (Hardcover)
I was looking for a change of pace in my reading selections, and thought that I was going to get it with Mike Weiss', "A Very Good Year, " a chronicle about the intricacies of the wine industry.
What I got instead was a curious kind of viticultural deja vu.
After only a few pages I found myself back in "Moneyball" mode - only this time instead of following a baseball team around for a year, Weiss treats us to a year at the Ferrari-Carano vineyards. With open access (generally speaking) to all participants in the operations, from Don and Rhonda Carano to the scores of Mexican vineyard workers and their migratory family lives, the author provides vivid descriptions of the numerous details that are required to produce a quality wine.
And, the details are many, and the decisions are numerous and critical, such as "the Story," label composition, marketing and pricing strategy, cork selection (an amazing process), type of vine selection, soil composition, sugar content, crop size, Spanish speaking requirements, vineyard hierarchical culture, weather patterns and even the politics behind scoring positive reviews by The Wine Spectator.
We are provided with (muted) insight of the relationship/infighting between the meticulous grower and the fastidious winemaker.
All of this is very interesting stuff. In fact, good and bad, Weiss makes you appreciate what it takes just to get a glass of wine to a consumer. Unfortunately, the book is confounded too often by a writing style that is a bit disjointed, often repetitive, and a little disorganized. There is too much intrigue [albeit restrained] about the operational personalities, and the field workers at Ferrari-Carano, and too little clarity regarding why some wines taste better and cost more than others.
In the end, the book becomes a metaphor for the wine it primarily covers, Ferrari-Carano's "Fume Blanc." After describing the complexities of all the tedious decisions surrounding vineyard operations, and their ultimate proclamations that the 2002 vintage is among their best, critics scored their flagship wine as a disappointment. But, I am not sure that we ever understand why, despite the perfect growing conditions, excellent fruit composition and the record crop yield.
In the same respect, I believe that wine making is such an interesting subject among wine drinkers that more clarity by the author would have yielded a better product. For instance, there is more detail regarding the lives and times of the Mexican immigrants than clarity regarding the fermenting process (too oblique). This is really what wine lovers want to know - why do the wines of one vineyard taste differently from other vineyards even when they use the same grapes, or share the same geography?
Still, even though the true-life ending of the 2002 Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc was a disappointment, "A Very Good Year" does provide a significiant amount of information regarding the significant challenges inherent in the wine industry, and is well worth reading.