Books,Wine,Wine Writer

Best Wine Books of 2010 ~ For your Holiday Shopping Needs ~ Day 1

This past year, I’ve received a good amount of wine books for my reading pleasure, and also for reviewing. I may have come across something for almost everyone for this holiday season.

Here are my categories below, so you can quickly know if there’s something on your shopping list. Please read below the list for more details:

  1. A wine (like a picture) is worth a thousand words (and thoughts)
  2. Adventurous and daring
  3. American Viticultural History
  4. Food & Wine Pairings
  5. Great read, really wonderful personal story
  6. Guide to California wines and wineries
  7. Home Winemakers Bible
  8. International curiosity, lovers of Portugal, its wine regions, wines, and culture
  9. Learning about Spanish wines ~ the Bible
  10. Massive references book for the totally absorbed
  11. Perfect pocketbook quick references
  12. Visual images, profound revelations with an aesthetic edge
  13. Wine lovers who love to love the best inexpensive wines

I surround myself with books, and will just be one of those laggards who never embraces a Kindle. (Sorry, Kindle, please don’t take it personally, but you just don’t smell and feel as organic as a book.)

After writing this epic novel of 2470 words, I realized that this is a great list, but way too long for one blog posting. I’m therefore breaking it up into a 2-days book list. What you don’t read about today, you can read about the rest tomorrow.


A wine (like a picture) is worth a thousand words (and thoughts)

  • Use Wine to Make Sense of the World, ($15.95), by Elliot Essman ~ Elliot Essman has earned a James Beard Foundation Journalism Award nomination for his writing in the “Spirits, Wine or Beer” category. Elliot’s a friend of a friend… our friend Jim Caudill, who is the public relations director for the Hess Collection. Jim knows that I write about books I read, so he had Elliot send his book to me during my summer reading… and along came fall. Now it’s time to get in some serious reading, and I returned to this very lovely book. Elliot has a certain sensibility with a great amount of passion, and his book is its living evidence. Elliot doesn’t merely drink wine, he drinks in its beauty, potential, and its ability to make sense of a lot of things beyond our five senses; like desire and lust, other people, the natural world, our bodies, language, and brains. This was a most delightful read, and I highly recommend it for those among us who are engaged in our senses and sensibilities.

Adventurous and daring

  1. daring pairings ($34.95), by Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein matches distinctive wines with recipes from his favorite chefs. I wrote that this one was about Vinous Pleasure… and it is. First of all, I really like Evan. He’s a sweet man who is very down to earth, and the son of a woman who is also quite famous. Her name is Joyce Goldstein, the beloved food writer, cookbook author, restaurant/food industry consultant. With the foundation of his formative years being guided by someone so brilliant, Evan was destined for also creating greatness. So… Just imagine growing up in that household; the sumptuous foods, the attention to eating well in order to be well, and the delightful aromas of daily life. The potential for greatness of palate is there, and this is why Evan is able to put food and wine together so seamlessly. For the food and wine lover, you can’t do better than this book.
  2. Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine ($19.95), by Mark Oldman is another wonderful author. He sent his book to me, because I had already read, loved, and reviewed Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine ~ An intoxicating wine book to treasure. As I began to read this new one, I feel in love with it, too, because it’s filled with wisdom and humor, a couple of his great attributes. Both of the above books have a chapter dedicated to Petite Sirah. If you know me at all, you know my own passion for this underdog grape variety. Both of these wine writers have now acknowledged the existence of PS I Love You in their writings. I can’t even begin to express what it’s like to start a national movement, and then see it as a viable entity in print. How do I love them; Let me count the ways, Ms. Elizabeth Barrett Browning

American Viticultural History

  • The Wild Vine, a Forgotten Grape and the Untold Story of American Wine ($25.00), by Todd Kliman ~ I’ve become a sucker for American viticultural history, because of my own involvement with the Petite Sirah variety. In this book, Todd explores the Norton grape. Todd’s a 2005 James Beard Award-winning critic for The Washingtonian. He presents this history of America’s Norton grape that includes coverage of its cultivation in the mid-1800s. This is an especially important read for me, because my Oak Knoll client produces a Norton wine, and Todd’s story will help me to market it with interesting facts for more wine writers to ponder in sound bytes. It’s his love of the Norton as an outsider grape, and mine with Petite Sirah that’s drawn me to understand his passion for loving a great underdog story. His easy reading style is a joy to take in, as I pondered the past of this all-but-forgotten important American cultivar. Love an underdog story? You or your recipient will find this really well written book totally captivating.

Food & Wine Pairings

  • The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wine & Food Pairing ($16.95), by Jaclyn Stuart and Jeanette Hurt ~  This book will help your reading family and friends to find the perfect pairings beyond what most people think:  i.e., red going with beef and white going with chicken and fish. The authors get into the similarities and differences in intensity, acidity, and sweetness of wines in relation to the tastes of many cuisines. It includes a master pairings list for more than 100 foods and wines, and has wine menus for special international dinners and flavors, along with wine and food resources. Big yum on this one and it’s a fun kitchen addition to anyone’s wine library. I store this one with my recipe books, versus my hard core wine books.

Great read, really wonderful personal story

  • Corked Wine: A father. A daughter. The wine trip to end all wine trips, by Kathryn Borel ($23.99) ~ A real favorite for me was written by Kathryn Borel. Kathryn wrote a really poignant, personal story about a few really important issues going on in her life at the time of the writing. After reading her book, I remember coming across another review of her book that seemed a bit harsh, and I thought, “There’s someone who’s never walked in her shoes.” In some ways, I had, and I reached out to her. I had read her book and fell in love with her, having raised three daughters of my own… She’s their age. I wanted to comfort her, and I did, not about the other review, but about her life’s views. The book and her writings are fabulous, and would be a great read for any wine lover who loves it real and raw. Her book is also a great little learning curve for anyone who wants to begin his or her wine journey into the French countryside.

Guide to California wines and wineries

  • The New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wine & Wineries ($27.50), by Charles E. Olken and Joseph Furstenthal ~ This book is a follow-up to Charlie’s Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wine & Wineries. The operative word for this one is “New.” If anyone is going to know California wine, Charlie’s the man, along with a handful of others that I greatly respect. His main focus is California wines, and has made it his life for as long as I can remember. Charlie’s a trusted resource…. So trusted, in fact, that I once asked someone within the few wine magazines that are considered the benchmark resources, “How do I get my client’s wine onto your radar screen?” The person asked, “Has it been reviewed in Connoisseurs’ Guide, yet?” Yeah… he’s that important. Meanwhile, the wine industry historian Charles Sullivan, a man who is considered the quintessential wine historian in California has said of Charlie Olken, “I have depended on Charles Olken’s Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine for more than 35 years. This new Guidebook is a prefect complement. No other book comes close to its thoroughness, accuracy, and usefulness. It is a must for travelers in California’s wine country.” (Charles Sullivan is the author of Zinfandel and A Companion to California Wine.)

Day 2 Continuing…

12 Responses to “Best Wine Books of 2010 ~ For your Holiday Shopping Needs ~ Day 1”

  1. 1WineDude says:

    It’s been a damn good year for wine reads!

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    Yeah, hasn’t it, Joe?!

  3. Hello Jo,

    I am one of the readers who won the Corked book from your blog a few months back. I am studying in France (Masters in Wine Business) so the book was mailed to my parent’s home in San Antonio, TX. When the book arrived, my mom had taken a peak at the book and told me she wanted to read it before sending it to me. After she read it, she told my dad about it. He then wanted to read it and finally it was packed up in a care package and sent to me here in France 🙂 I ABSOLUTELY LOVED this book.

    One of the things I love most is how you feel as though you are sitting smack dab in the middle of Borel’s brain. You are able to watch the thoughts swirl around you, becoming tangled and untangled again, trying to fight for the chance to be processed by the brain. I am the sort of person who thinks at a million miles per hour, with thoughts 20 layers deep and quite possibly in x amounts of dimensions. I imagine if I were to write a book of this nature, it would come out something like Borel’s style of writing – all over the place with thoughts, in a beautifully random and chaotic tango. Reading this book was like looking into a mirror of my thought process.

    I think Borel is a gifted author and has a way with words. I find her descriptions of the wine, the scenery, and her other vinous experiences to incredible. Lastly, I love her honesty and frank style. I look forward to reading other books by her. I am very happy my name was in the drawing and thank you for having it and sharing this book.


  4. Jo Diaz says:


    I’m going to make sure that Kathryn sees your comments. I know she’s going to be delighted.

    I, too, am ready to read anything she writes in the future!

    Thanks for weighing in. What a fun root the book took in your household.

  5. Dennis says:


    Just thinking that Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Wine Course, is revised often, and is missing from the list. Its a good read for those just getting started or others that might be expanding their horizons. Granted that it does cover a lot of ground, it provides a good deal of fast learning.

    Any thoughts?


  6. Jo Diaz says:

    Hi, Dennis,

    Point well taken. It’s only missing from my list, because I didn’t receive a copy for review.

    With all that I do (and you know how busy I am with so many fingers in so many pies), that I don’t even have time to buy wine books, anymore. The karmic universe, instead, delivers them right to my door. I have a sense of obligation to at least say thanks, by finding what I love most about the book and then share.

    Good that you added your own book recommendation to the list ;^)

  7. Hi Jo–

    Thanks for the very generous mention of my new book. I was up in your necks of woods last night, visiting with people at the Sonoma County Wine Library. The reception accorded the book was very heartwarming, and I am reminded once again what a valuable resource our wine libraries are.


  8. Jo Diaz says:


    You’re so welcome. I think I’ll read all the details in my flight between here and Portugal!

  9. Jo–

    Perhaps you take one of those portable readers along.

  10. Jo Diaz says:


    That’s never going to happen for me. I know it will be different with my grandchildren, but I like the smell and touch of a book way too much. I just can’t get it up for those devices, as much as I love all other technology.

    With Kindle and the like, I’m going to be a marketing laggard… never going there.

    That said, I always said I’d never use a microwave, and was I ever wrong (popcorn).

    Your book has vibrant colors on the cover that draw me in. I love how the gloss of it allows my hands to slide over book. I like seeing the depth of your writings, in the 455 pages… And the index… Who doesn’t love an index!

  11. Thanks, Jo, for such kinds words about my book, Use Wine to Make Sense of the World.

  12. Jo Diaz says:

    My pleasure, Elliot.

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