- Explore more great deals on thousands of titles in our Deals in Books store.
Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
When the Rivers Ran Red: An Amazing Story of Courage and Triumph in America's Wine Country Hardcover – June 9, 2009
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Special Offers and Product Promotions
“A cool history book for fans of wine and local lore.” ―San Fransisco Examiner
“…a lively account of the battle of the local industry to survive against aggressive government efforts to shut it down.” ―Sonoma Index-Tribune
“When the Rivers Ran Red" casts light on a less-understood aspect of that infamous period in American history -- an era whose familiar images of Prohibition usually don't include its effect on American wineries.” ―Nick Owchar, LA Times
“When the Rivers Ran Red" by Vivienne Sosnowski, chronicles the impact of Prohibition in California wine country. Intelligent, engaging, sympathetic and sharp.” ―The Kansas City Star
“Sosnowski's fascinating account of how Napa and Sonoma winemakers struggled to survive during the national insanity known as Prohibition fills a giant hole in the history of American wine. Wine lovers everywhere should thank her for tracking down survivors, many now in their 90s, who provided rich accounts of what it was like to live through that terrible nightmare. A tale well told, Sosnowski has a fine touch.” ―George M. Taber, bestselling author of Judgment of Paris
“Rich, moving and evocative, Sosnowski's exquisite writing brings to life a chapter of American history that has largely been forgotten. Anyone who enjoys California's legendary wines will absolutely adore When the Rivers Ran Red. A book to be savored, word by word. Were this a great bottle of wine, it would deserve 5 stars out of 4.” ―Don and Petie Kladstrup, bestselling authors of Wine & War: The French, the Nazis and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure and Champagne: How the World's Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times
“Sosnowski's When the Rivers Ran Red will defeat the misconception that fine California wine represents a recent phenomenon. This fast paced, crisply written account of California winemakers' battle to survive Prohibition breathes new life into this precious American tradition and shows in gripping detail how deep these vines' roots run in the soils of lovely Napa and Sonoma Valleys.” ―William Echikson, author of Noble Rot: A Bordeaux Wine Revolution
“Intensely moving, fast-paced, horrifying and inspiring in turns, When the Rivers Ran Red is a beautifully written, deeply researched story of liberty and tyranny, the love of life and the sickness of its enemies. I shall remember it every time I visit California wine country.” ―Hugh Johnson, bestselling author of The World Atlas of Wine, The Story of Wine and the Pocket Wine Book series
“The tentacles of the Volstead Act were powerful and far-reaching. In telling what happened in California's valleys during the difficult years of Prohibition, Vivienne Sosnowski puts a human face on the misery and desperation, but shows the courage and ingenuity that has ultimately led to the triumph of the State's wine growers.” ―Gerald Asher, Gourmet magazine, and author of The Pleasures of Wine and Vineyard Tales
“This tale of a little-known aspect of American history will be enjoyed by Californians, as well as oenophiles and history buffs.” ―Library Journal
“Sosnowski records in heavily researched detail the real effects of Prohibition on people who wished only to produce sound wine.” ―Booklist
“A rollicking story... It'll keep you awake on your [beach] towel.” ―The Miami Herald
“Sosnowski is a compelling historian… While the California wine industry is a juggernaut today and Napa and Sonoma are far different places than they were, this book will change the way you look at their wines, and you may find yourself tasting them differently knowing what that land and its people have been through....A cool history book for fans of wine and local lore.” ―San Francisco Chronicle
“Not until this book has anyone really examined the impact of Prohibition on the people of California's Wine Country. It's a story whose arc you know, yet in the telling it is far more powerful and engrossing than you might expect.” ―Book Editor's pick, San Francisco Chronicle
“Ms. Sosnowski's deeply researched story puts a human face on a tragic story.” ―Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Wine lovers, history buffs, and those interested in the history of many local grape-growing families are sure to enjoy Sosnowski's compelling, thought-provoking account of winemakers' fight to survive Prohibition. It's a book to relish, perhaps with a glass or two of fine wine.” ―Press Democrat
“Sosnowski offers a gripping account of Federal agents looking to seize wine and the winemakers who hid their vintages in ingenious ways. It's also a fascinating look at the birth of some of the California wine dynasties that exist to this day.” ―Wine Enthusiast
“The book is a powerful, well-paced account of Prohibition in wine country. It takes its title from the millions of gallons of red wine that were emptied into the rivers because of the new law, and follows the social damage, financial ruin and corruptino that came with the wine ban.” ―Wine Spectator
“Sosnowski has written a book that is detailed and colorful. Both historians and wine enthusiasts will appreciate learning about Prohibition from the side of the winemakers of Sonoma and Napa Valley. The particular approach the author uses gives readers a fascinating close-up look at winemakers shortly before Prohibition started and includes the years Prohibition was in effect.” ―Wine Trail Traveler
“Not until this engrossing book has anyone really examined the impact of Prohibition on the people of California's Wine Country.” ―San Francisco Chronicle's 50 Notable Bay Area Books of 2009!
Top Customer Reviews
I grew up listening to my grandfather tell stories about how he and his siblings would sit outside on the front porch and watch the 'shiners race their souped-up hot-rods to outrun the Revenuers past his house on the main road from the mountains of NC into the central Piedmont (folks: those are the origins of NASCAR!).
However, I must say I never really considered how the 18th Amendment and the subsequent Volstead Act affected the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma, and that's a terrible shame. This book taught me another important aspect of the Prohibition story and nightmare.
The author strikes a perfect balance, alternating between a general history of the Temperance movement and Prohibition itself in Washington and nationwide (including some great political intrigue), while telling personal histories (some from interviews, some from memoirs and other books) about the wine families themselves, the criminal element, the oft-necessity of bootlegging just to stay financially solvent, etc. Her text is meticulously researched with copious documentation, which I value highly as a student of History.
Her obvious love of this land shines through in this accounting of its people (largely a first or second-generation immigrant population of patriotic Americans, whether they be workers, bootleggers, or wine-artisans/growers). We leave this reading the richer for having explored her work.
NOT to be missed. FIVE wholehearted stars!
From there, the book goes on to detail the efforts to put Prohibition into place, the passing of prohibition and Napa Valley's reaction to those events up until Prohibition's repeal. This includes focusing on some of the area's key players and how they worked through the issues of the day. The tone of the book puts the wine growers in a positive light despite the fact that many broke the law by making and selling their wine despite prohibition.
Unfortunately for me, I just was not able to get into this book. For some reason, I found it rambling and somewhat boring. Frankly, I simply was unable to finish it. Perhaps it was the style. The author has a dry tone and very "just the facts Ma'am" sort of approach laden with statistics and figures. While this works well for a scholarly work, it makes it less accessible to the casual reader.
This is a scholarly book with a bit of human interest gloss on it to try to appeal to a broader audience. The gloss is minimal and just not enough to get past the focus on statistical effects and politics. The opening segment I described really was most of what human interest there was.
To the author's credit, this book is well researched and detailed. I don't doubt that to the serious scholar, her work will be incredibly valuable.Read more ›
Between the producers and the consumers stand a small army of enforcement agents, many of whom are consumers too. How these agents are bypassed, hoodwinked and/or bribed so that supply can find demand was a deadly game played on a national stage. A small part of that story is how the California wine industry survived during prohibition. This book covers Northern California's wine industry, enforcement efforts and how the law is evaded. It is not an easy read; the author has a dry legalist style that keeps this from being really enjoyable. However, he tells a good story, draws very good portraits of the people and displays a real interest in the subject. The book can be fun, can be boring and sometimes seems mostly legal. The author, to his credit, keeps his feelings to himself and is fair to all sides. This is not "The Untouchables" with blazing guns, one-way rides and big city crimes. This is grape growers and wine makers struggling to get by.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Must read for people growing up and living in the San Francisco bay area.
A history of California Prohibition period.
Very informative on the history of the trials and tribulations of wine growers and vintners prior to, during and after prohibition in the California wine country especially Sonoma... Read morePublished 20 months ago by LC
Vivienne Sosnowski's "When the Rivers Ran Red" is a decently written, decently presented history of the Napa and Sonoma Wine Country during Prohibition. Read morePublished on April 12, 2013 by Miles D. Moore
A last minute gift idea. Was not sure that it would arrive on time, but it did and came in excellent condition. Have not read it yet, but looking forward to doing so.Published on December 28, 2012 by Amazon Customer
Good read about California wine country during Prohibition. Perfect book for the beach. This book is well worth reading for anyone interested in the history of the area.Published on August 6, 2012 by Stefano
If you like wine, enjoy history, and getting into the realm of human interest; you put them all together and Vivienne Sosnowski has given that type person a great read. Read morePublished on January 30, 2011 by steve
One would think that I would know a little history, as I live in one of the Central Valley regions. I did know that wine production and grape growing were affected, but I never had... Read morePublished on January 21, 2011 by Frederick S. Goethel
This history is fascinating, but the story is so poorly told, I could not follow it, and quickly lost interest.Published on October 14, 2010 by HazelC
...very poorly written. This is too bad, because as other reviewers have said, it is clear the author did a lot of research. Read morePublished on October 13, 2010 by TomRV