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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

3.3 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (May 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767907043
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767907040
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,607,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
(Possible Spoiler)

Granted, I entered into this account with an agenda of my own. Being a city planner, I was curious as to how the two cities would react to the development pressure forced upon them. There was nothing new here. Even in California you find 'good ole boys' holding onto the way 'we always done it.' The sides were drawn between the "environmentalist" the "historic group" and the "developers."

I have no idea who the winner was in this book. Greed, averice, and pompous attitudes appeared to be the winner in one area and the 'status quo' the winner in the other. The author bounced between the two seeming to favor the 'status quo' supported by the environmentalist/historic group. The developers are always the bad guys. However, the author did not hesitate accepting the hospitality and favor of the 'bad guys' in his quest to tell the story, which was interesting but not at all compelling.

The author did a decent job of holding the two communities side by side for a comparison. However, that was all that seemed to be accomplished.
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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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