Into the Earth ~ A Wine Cave Renaissance, Daniel D’Agostini with Molly Chappellet is a magnificent coffee table book, as well as pointing out all of the best wine cave resources of its time in subterranean California.

Into the Earth ~ A Wine Cave Renaissance, by Daniel D’Agostini with Molly Chappellet is this holiday season’s most gorgeous of all coffee table books, devoted to the wine business, that you could possibly give a loved one. Any books that publisher Panache produces is only of the finest quality, not only with content, but also with rich and fascinating stories. I was first involved with their “Spectacular Wineries” series, and even have some images in both their Napa and Sonoma ones. I feel very fortunate to have been at the right places at the right time with former clients. [US $50.00]

When I was approached to review this Into the Earth book, I knew before it even arrived that it was going to instantly be a favorite of mine.

There’s much to learn in this book, from the ideal 55-60 degrees found in all caves, with a humidity ranging from 70 to 90 percent, to how to actually photograph in caves ~ if you truly want only natural light with rich, warm hues. (Patience, my friends, needs to be part of that configuration.) I knew that Chinese laborers have worked in wine country, but hadn’t thought about them working in the Schramsberg Vineyards’caves in the 1880s. (Schramsberg is America’s first house of sparkling wine.)

Photographer and writer Daniel D’Agostini shares truly engaging stories of his explorations into wine caves for the last several decades, and Molly Chappellet is his creative partner for layout. This book is the culmination of their journeys and explorations. A rich history – to date – is included in this gorgeous book. It’s one that you could look at over-and-over again, as there’s so much to see of earth’s hidden and secretive treasures. It’s all very magical, and has induced me to discover more in the coming years, because now I have a thirst for wanting to see many of these caves on my own.

Each cave has its own history and special features that have grabbed my attention. The team of D’Agostini and Chappellet have a very easy writing style that is completely captivating. In this book, they were completely committed to unearthing every cave in wine country. Many of these caves have a lighting of enchantment. Sometimes lighting consultants have been brought in to decorate the ambiance. Jan Moyer, for instance, helped with the Far Niente cave; I like her work a lot.

Alf Burtleson is a name that you’ll find throughout the book, as a major cave developer for many of the wineries contained within this book. There’s a lot of mystery, romance, and meditation associated with his wine caves, as I reviewed his, especially.

Acoustics within a cave are very interesting. Just don’t whisper anything that you don’t want others to hear… word to the wise.

I can’t help but wonder, as I think of a “word to the wise,” why the Christian Brothers story isn’t considered. Upon visiting in the 1980’s (before the Culinary Institute), we learned that the wine caves completely collapsed unto themselves during an earthquake… Not sure which one, now, and can’t find in any researching. Perhaps people were more cautious just after the quake, and we’re now so far away from that history that people are back to digging deeply into the earth, again… I’m just thinking out loud here. [Today, what was the Christian Brothers Winery is now Greystone. Its exterior walls are 22-inch thick tufa stone. Built in 1888, the building has survived two major earthquakes. Greystone was used by the Christian Brothers to make sparkling wines from 1950 to 1989.]

There are many vintners within the book that grow grapes and just want to store them within the earth, and the delight and romance of doing so outweighs all risk factors. It just is what it is, and has produced some of the most exquisite locations you’ll ever see. Some caves along the way have been perfunctorily created, while others within the book have been elaborately constructed with regal main halls that lead off to other caves, all aglow with chandeliers and/or candelabras. Individually intriguing and stately, some even have bottles lining alcoves, creating an interesting contrast between the stone and the seemingly black bottle bunts.

Chronologies take a reader through the decades, so a reader is able to keep a good chronology going for further reference.

Different rock formations are found throughout caves, depending on each one’s geology. Types of stone also dictate what is and isn’t possible within the caves. Each cave has its own history and sensual stone shapes marked in time.

Personally, I know I’ve got to start my cave journey with Far Niente, Spring Mountain Vineyard, and Keller Estate; that I know for certain.

If you’re inspired, you need to start your journey by purchasing this book ASAP… The sooner the better. If you can’t afford two (one for you and one for a gift), purchase it early, so you can carefully read though the pages yourself to totally enjoy this treasure, before passing it along to that important person on your holiday list… Then visit that person often, to revisit the book, until you purchase your own. This is one book to treasure now and through the ages.

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