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Grail, The: A year ambling & shambling through an Oregon vineyard in pursuit of the best pinot noir wine in the whole wild world Paperback – April 10, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Take the red hills of Oregon's Willamette Valley, a father-son winemaking outfit and one madcap wordsmith on a quest for the world's finest pinot noir. Let them ferment, and you've got a charming look inside the operations at Don and Jesse Lange's winery. An abundance of words (witness the book's subtitle), run-on sentences, rhyming, alliteration and stylized dialogue all contribute to a bacchanalian use of language that reflects Portland magazine editor Doyle's joyful view on both life and wine. With the author's bubbly sense of humor and sharp storytelling, dry facts become delightful tidbits. His descriptio of the grape vines' pollination process, for instance, bursts with sexual metaphors: "the wild seething scene in the vineyard, the vines fertilizing each other madly when no one is looking, the little tiny bras, the little tiny cigarettes, the recriminations at dawn." Like the wine Doyle writes of, these recollections are layered with subtlety and depth. Doyle ranges from discussing the basic pleasures of food, drink and conversation to ruminating on spiritual concepts. Perfect for wine aficionados and word lovers, this is a full-bodied, ebullient account. (May 30)
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Top customer reviews
Doyle is a competent and often entertaining writer, with occasional flashes of brilliance. He is informative and insightful, taking the role of aggressive reporter on the scene, being our eyes and ears, asking the kinds of questions that we, ordinary wine drinkers, would ask. I found, however, that his writing can slide into stiltedness, with an occasionally annoying affinity for alliteration. Sometimes, he's too self-consciously, awkwardly humorous. And at other times, he digresses off topic so far that you wonder why he included it in the book. Yet, he is also capable of mocking himself for having done so - which doesn't excuse it. It comes off as self-indulgence.
One insight that I found particularly interesting was the aversion of the winemaker to pass judgment on any of his competitors' pinot noirs. Doyle tries several times to get Jesse Lange to compare his pinot noir to those of his neighbors - in vain. Jesse doesn't rise to the bait because, as he says, he has live here (here being Dundee, Oregon).
On balance, "The Grail" is a worthwhile, entertaining read. It was a gift to me, and I turned around and bought three more copies to give to wine enthusiast friends.