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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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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
"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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I hardly EVER review books in Amazon, but I absolutely MUST say something about this one. If you are interested in California wines, this is a "must read. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Bill Taylor
Darlington provides a page turning peek into the personalities and motivations of several California winemakers, while illuminating the challenge in defining "what is great... Read morePublished on June 1, 2014 by Kip Summers
Just when I thought wine making was that magical evolution from farm to glass, involving the purist artistry human interaction involving fermentation, aging, blending and bottling,... Read morePublished on July 1, 2013 by Stuart D. Harman
Perfect contrast between artisan vine making in Santa Cruz mountains vs. following the Parker requirements in Napa with numbers drive economics.Published on May 31, 2013 by TMG
My most important takeaway is that great wine is grown somewhere that lends it soul to the grapes, with traditional methods a winemaker then coaxes a magnificent beverage that can... Read morePublished on September 18, 2012 by Doc Vino
David Darlington's history of one generation of the California Wine Industry is a very interesting read about a time and place that's long gone in spirit, if not in years. Read morePublished on May 17, 2012 by Thom Mitchell
This is an extremely well written book, I could almost taste the wine out of the kegs and the dust in the parking lot stirred up the Mercedes' tires. Read morePublished on April 20, 2012 by Barb
I am compelled to make a quick entry to testify to the brilliance of this book. It is a monument to great journalism, balancing accurate reporting with intelligent and perceptive... Read morePublished on March 15, 2012 by Brad Smith
An Ideal Wine by David Darlington is an inside look at the California wine industry and is an extremely interesting book. Read morePublished on February 18, 2012 by David Pruette