Getting ready for Black Friday or Cyber Monday purchases? Here’s my annual list, based on favorite reads over the past year, so you’ll be ready to blast off…

The links I’m giving you take you to Websites where the books are now being sold.


First Steps in Winemaking If you’ve ever wanted to make delicious wine at home, this is the book for you. It will introduce you to the winemaking process in a month-by-month guide of what to do. By C. J. J. Berry (Paperback is $14.95 US, now on Amazon for $11.66)

Honestly, there are a lot of vineyardists willing to sell home winemakers some juice, from which you can all get started.

This book is NOT about just making wine from Vitis vinifera, though. It’s about making wine from whatever fruit is in season…Examples:

  • January wine: Barley, Fig, Corn, Prune, Raisin, Grapefruit, Citrus, Date, Instant, Jam
  • June wine: Green Gooseberry, Wallflower, Parsley, Sage, Pansy, Bramble Tip, Oak Leaf or Walnut, Black Currant, Red Currant, or White Currant

Please don’t scoff at fruit wines until you’ve tried them. I laughed about fruit wine until I tasted Bartlett Maine Estate Winery’s blueberry wine. I thought I was enjoying Cabernet Sauvignon! Then, I tasted Frambrosia from Oak Knoll Winery’s raspberry wine (Willamette Valley, Oregon) and then knew about the delights of pure ambrosia.

Home Winemaking for Dummies, by Tim Patterson (Paperback $19.95, Barnes & Noble $12.36)

Written by a very accomplished writer (and a great friend) who’s been a home winemaker for years, this book is an invaluable tool for getting it right. Step-by-step in a concise and methodical way, Tim delivers all that an aspiring winemaker would want and need. From mastering every step of the process, to selecting the perfect grapes and crafting a delicious wine ~ whether red or white, sparkling, rose, or dessert wine ~ Tim takes the reader on that journey in a fun, thoughtful, and provocative way. Tim’s a great educator, and this book will help your family and/or friends, who are aspiring, to get started. Who knows, maybe in a couple of years it will come back to you in the form of a bottle of wine!

I love his Ten Mistakes Most Home Winemakers Make as Least Once chapter. I wish I had read this before I gave winemaking a try. Maybe I should try again, using Tim Patterson’s suggestions, and call him when I’m failing – if and when I do.

Going along with the alchemy passion, Real Cidermaking On a Small Scale by Michael Pooley and the late John Lomax. (Paperback is $12.95 US, now on Amazon for $10.25)

Now… hard cidermaking was never on my agenda, but I’ve tasted it since and love it. Another back-in-print book (Original ©1999) is Real Cidermaking On A Small Scale. You’ll learn how to build your own cellar press, how to ferment, and how to properly store your cider for year round enjoyment. You can also make perry, a cider from pears. This is all just so yummy… This the season to ferment. What’s your pleasure? Head off to your favorite grocer to get your right mix of apples, or give the book to a friend who likes to share… Cheers!


The EVERYTHING Guide to Wine, by Peter Alig. (Paperback $16.95, on Barnes & Noble $13.25)

This book is exactly what it calls itself… It’s about everything wine (except Petite Sirah, and you know how Petite centric I am). This isn’t a criticism, just an observation, because I’m always looking for that “Petite” word.

I was delighted to read this very thorough book, and I also personally learned a lot  in the process. The author, Peter Alig is a Robert Mondavi Wine educator, as was I in days gone by. My experience with the Mondavi crew is that they’re an extremely knowledgeable group of people; and, I now easily see why Peter was hired.

This book is a SUPER book for both beginners and those who what to brush up on their wine knowledge. I’m going to devote an entire blog to this book shortly; however, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to tell you that if you’ve got someone who loves wine, regardless of his or her level, this book is going to be a very welcomed addition to his/her wine library. I read it while visiting my daughter in the south, and actually wanted to give it to her, but I couldn’t part with it. That should tell you something. I will, however, buy a copy for her, because she helps me with so much, and this book is an invaluable tool for her to have.

Peñín Guide of the Spain Wine 2011, by Grupo Penin (Paperback $35.00, Amazon $25.55)

Got someone who loves Spanish wines, or someone brushing up on them for that MS program, this book is a quintessential must have. More than 8,000 wines have been tasted and reviewed, more than 9,000 brands are reviewed, and the book has more than 2,000 wineries and their essential information included in this book. Regions are explained with maps, news, climate, soil, grape varieties, sub regions, and wines. What an invaluable tool for the Spanish lovers, for which I’m one.

This book proves the more we love wine, the more we love exploring through well written and well thought out texts. Highly recommended…

The New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wine & Wineries, by Charles E. Olken and Joseph Furstentha (Paperback $27.50, Amazon $18.15)

Charlie Olken is a comfortable old friend. We’ve known each other for all the years I’ve been in the wine business. Take that as a hint as to his creds. I’ve been in the business nearly 20 years, and he was here before I arrived. He’s one of those people who knows everyone in the business, and seems to have written about most of them at one time or another. Who better to tell you what your friends and loved one will be finding along the way in the quest for wine knowledge.

Also, not be discounted, Charlie and Joseph’s words about the history of California wines are to be taken seriously. A plethora of knowledge, the pages are filled with lots of useful information that every wine lover craves.

Food & Wine Guide 2012, by the editors of Food & Wine Magazine and Mary G. Burnham (Paperback book, $12.95)

I’ve carried this one around with me, when I’ve gone shopping because it’s size is so perfect for carrying (for both men and women). Got a wine lover who likes to know what others have thought about a wine? He or she will love this handy guide. I particularly love the maps each year for region from around the globe. It always helps me to put everything into context.

Honestly, if you’ve got an aspiring MS or MW in the family or in the friend pool, this little guide helps so much to get where wines are from, while they’re out getting their daily beverages. Each section from around the globe educates the readers about regions, producers, and what to expect for prices. A must have… annually.


The Wine Trials of 2011, edited by Robin Goldstein, Alexis Herschkowitsch, and Tyce Walters (paperback $14.95, Barnes & Noble for $10.98)

This is a third edition, written in a very sassy style. There’s no pretension, just dots with bargain basement prices, with brands from around the globe, some of whom I’ve helped to build, interestingly. Big proponents of boxed wines, too, they help to set the record straight… you can get good everyday wine in a box. (I can still remember a person who touts her degree from a prestigious institute of higher learning ~ which makes her an expert in everything, I’d say. Telling her about boxed wines, you’d have thought that I has just arrived from another planet. She was never going to be convinced that wine in a box could be that special; but, she’s not in the wine business, never even tasted the wine to find out, and will never know what she’s missing.

Wines for this book were tasted blind; although they’re tasted within a certain price point… Let’s just say that there aren’t any Screaming Eagles thrown in to see how they’d do. All wines are $15 and under, and really good finds. If you’ve got a smart and savvy bargain shopper on your list, this is the stocking stuffer you’ve been looking for.



The Finest Wines of California, by Stephen Brook (Soft/hard cover, bound $34.95, Barnes & Noble, $25.29)

A fine accomplishment by author Stephen Brook, his introduction is filled with terroir, history, culture and viticulture, varieties and winemaking styles…

Contained within is a list of who’s who, and each vintner’s history… successes and failures along the trail to establishing success over the years. It’s an intimate look into each vintner’s life, and how each fits into the history of California that’s made this state become a world-class wine growing and making region.

The cast of the finest producers and their wines helps to chronicle California’s stepping onto the world stage… all by their meticulous winemaking styles. There are no commodity characters in this book, just real stars whose hard work and dedication have given California it’s new world class reputation…. From Jacob Schram to Robert Mondavi, to Joel Peterson… each fine wine producer has created the finest of wines of California, and your wine lover will thank you over-and-over again for this scholarly body of work.


One of my favs… “The Wild Vine: A Forgotten Grape And the Untold Story of American Wine” is a wild ride and excellent reading, by Todd Kliman. (Hard copy $25.00, it’s now $18.25 on Amazon)

The Wild Vine belongs in any and every library of serious consequence, that involves American history and the history of winemaking. Discover many hidden secrets of wine history never revealed before, and presented by Kliman. If you love wine and you love digging deeper in that passion, The Wild Vine belongs in your library, too. It’s a really great read and highly recommended for all people who love wine and its American origins.

Filled with intrigue and nearly forgotten history, this one takes you on a fun adventure though time with an all American Vitis grape, the Norton. Discover the players, beginning with Jamestown, Virginia. It’s all laid out with key players along this historical journey… From King James to Jenni McCloud, with Daniel Norton, Dennis Horton, and Missouri along the way… All for the sake of a true American cultivar.

Ohio Wine Country Excursions, by Patricia Latimer (Suggested retail is $24.95, is $20.10 on Barnes & Noble)

This book offers travelers a thorough history of the Ohio wine industry, and it also profiles more than 80 beautiful, quality wineries and vineyards. Included are detailed maps, hours of operation, ongoing events, and types of wine that you’ll find at each destination.

Let me say this… This book belongs in any serious wine library, because Patricia has captured every detail of each era, from the very beginnings to today. Whether it’s a private wine library or a public one, you’re library isn’t complete if it’s missing this book: Ohio Country Excursions, Updated Edition.

Latimer’s writing is engaging, educational, and impeccable with details. The romance is there, the aura is what we all know and love to be wine country, regardless of the location, be it Europe, California, or Ohio… It all makes sense for its regionality.


2011 “Best of the Best Cookbook Recipes” by the editors of Food & Wine Magazine. (Hard copy $32.95, it’s now $21.75 on Amazon)

I was recently asked if I would write a review about their newly released “Best of the Best Cookbook Recipes, from the 25 best cookbooks.” And then the book arrived… I sat with it for all of 15 minutes and realized that I had one of the best (if not the best) cookbooks for 2011 in my hands.

“How could that happen?” you might imagine. Well, it’s simple… It’s the highest quality possible, with recipes included from a star-studded list of critically acclaimed characters. And, to make life simple, each chef has his or her own section in the book. We’ve all come to know these chefs through cooking shows, and now they’re being delivered in small bites… This is the quintessential tapas of cookbooks for 2011.

Thumbing through it, Jose’s been cooking from it since it arrived, to not only celebrate those special moments during the onset of the holidaze, but to also turn mundane moments in something very special. If you know someone who loves food and wine, this book will make that person pretty darn happy.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wine & Food Pairings, by Jaclyn Stuart and Jeanette Hurt (Paperback $16.95, Barnes & Noble $14.95)

I recently read this one while on a trip to the East Coast. It was like enjoying being with an old friend; it was that great. Not only did each chapter make sense, but it was also great for nuggets of information for why the authors have written what they written…

This one I couldn’t put down from start to finish; however, I see where it can be one of those books that’s read on the run; a great commute book for picking up quick info while on the train, then storing that info until your friend or loved one gets to the super market to try things out.

The greatest piece of advice, not giving the entire book away, is to match flavors to flavors… acid to acid, sweet to sweet, etc. I just found myself referencing the book for a cheese pairing…

And, more importantly for me, I’m currently studying Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio. Regardless of the variety, you get a boatload of information for each cultivar. I’m working on a big project with Pinot Gris, and you’ve not heard the last of this book on this blog. I could read it 100 times, not tire of it and still pick up something new. This book is sure to please any oenophile!


Use Wine to Make Sense of The World~ by Elliot Essman (Paperbook $15.95, Amazon $13.35)

Use Wine to Make Sense of The World is interwoven with wine experiences about what he’s learned about it along the way, as well as how Elliot went looking for the love of his life through a wine hook-up marathon. He was prepared to have this involve the experiences of meeting 26 different women, if the need be.

Did he get that far?

Did he find love amid the juicy experiences?

I’m never going to tell, except to say, it’s a delightfully honest, almost heart wrenching journey. He spares us from most of the gory details of his dash-hearted experiences, but still lays down some pretty amusing observations for the outcome of each.

What I love most about Elliot’s book – with his wine rendezvous being a close second – are the places that he took me for wine varieties that he’s enjoyed along his journey. He’s so sensually developed. Both in wine and in women, Elliot is very expressive… And isn’t that what wine does to us? His book reveals it all, much to the reader’s delight.


The Everything Bartender’s Book... by Cheryl Charming… Let’s hear it for spirits! (Paperback $10.95, Barnes & Noble $6.98)

History of bartending; Alcohol 101; Beer; Wine, Champagne, Cognac, Brandy; Aperitifs, Cordial, Liquors; Vodka; Gin; Rum; Tequila (Ole!); Whiskey; Shots and Shooters, Multi-Spirited Beverages, Punch, Parties, and Holidays; Homemade Recipes; Mocktails… Is someone you know thinking about becoming a Master Sommelier in the near future… Get this book for him or her. It’s an invaluable pocket size guide. I’ve got a spirits guide in my family, and I know he’ll LOVE this one.

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