The best wine and food books for 2013 is a recounting of books I’ve read over the year. I enjoy recommending what I think would enrich and enlighten your life, only because that’s what they’ve done for me. I’m going to guide you toward what would work for whom, too, in the process with categories.

Coffee Table

99 bottles of wine

I love this one, as one of the best coffee table books of 2013, which will also work very well into 2014. In a word, Stunning

In a few words… Some of you may remember the 1960s, when album covers were the art du jour. Today, wine labels qualify as art du jour. It takes an inordinate amount of time and talent to give a client several visual options to represent their liquid art appropriately. A label has to draw in a potential customer, long before a cork is pulled. This book is CF Napa’s brand designs… For more than 35 years, CF Napa has been producing labels of the highest quality. I’m also happy to say that I’ve worked with several of their clients.

The day I got my book, I could still smell the ink. Now, the ink aromas have been replaced with me still enjoying the thumbing through of the book, because it also explains how each label came to be. Insight is so fulfilling.

Napa Valley Iconic Wineries

Gorgeous is gorgeous, it’s just that simple and Panache Publishing continues to turn around beautiful books. Napa has some truly magnificent and iconic wineries, and the Panache Partners has captured 40 really fine examples of style and architecture that will keep you (and your guests) thumbing through this, or any of their books, for a very long time.

My favorite winery feature in the book is about the Robert Mondavi Winery, of course, because I’ve worked there. It begins, “At the age of 53, with little money but full of energy and visions, Robert Mondavi changed the course of the U.S. wine industry.” What isn’t said here, but we all learned through his inspiring life, is that at the age of 50(+) years old, life can begin anew in marvelous ways. Being in one’s 50s is not an “age glass ceiling,” unless you let it be. It’s an age of opportunity with an entrepreneurial spirit released from one’s life employment restrictions. A sprawling image of the winery… How many times have I walked around that property educating people about Robert Mondavi, his wines, and the winery? It’s a very transformative image for me, of course.

Historic Recounting

Celebrity Vineyards, written by Nick Wise

….about Napa, Tuscany, and beyond is a great wine read…

Nick Wise has written a really great book about Celebrity Vineyards; one that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading. His style, grace, and stories about Napa, Tuscany, and beyond, about superlative wines and extraordinary vintners, is very informative and parallels my own story… so much so that I immediately found that common bond and was drawn in. Accompanied by his new writing partner Linda Sunshine, this is one fascinating read.

Divine Vintage by Randall Heskett and Joel Butler

Divine Vintage  is the most important body of work in modern history to present our past of “following the wine trail from Genesis to the Modern Age” (its subtitle). This is not to discount its Modern Divine Wine Trails. These findings are also very generous. Remember, this is not a religious book, just one that chronicles the role that religion has played along the long and wineding [misspelling is deliberate] way.

Also, not to be missed, the absolute best map ever of Divine Vintage: Biblical Wine World Wine Lands. How I’ve searched to try to put everything into context… At last, we have that pieces of the puzzle, for those of us who can’t get enough scholarly information in visual context.

“Gracianna,” inspired by true events

Many winery stories begin with someone having a passion to make wine. This one dates back to an animal husbandry lifestyle in the Basque Pyrenees Mountains, as told in a paperback copy simply called, “Gracianna.” Written by Trini Amador, it is a story of how his maternal great grandparents, John and Gracianna Lasaga, both made it from the French Basque Pyrenees to the United States. On the surface, this seems simple enough; although, having personally made it across the Rocky Mountains from Maine to California, I can tell you that any 3,000 mile exodus is never simple, enough or otherwise. There are stories in that kind of move from one place to the next that are somewhat fascinating.

Once I began reading John and Gracianna’s story, as told by Trini, I didn’t stop until I finished all 277 pages of the book, because it was more than fascinating… It was compelling…


A Man and His Mountain, the Everyman who created Kendall-Jackson and became America’s greatest wine entrepreneur, by Edward Humes

This book was given to me by my vintner friend Ron Rubin. I’ve yet to read it, because I’m so busy doing the research on a book I’ll also be writing; however, I feel it’s important to list this one for 2013… If only because I worked for Jess Jackson years ago. I can tell you this… The man was brilliant, and had as many friends as he had enemies. Jess Jackson was a “take no prisoners” kinda guy. With that kind of personality, people either love or hate you… I know this to be true from my own personal experiences with my own personal dealings. It’s hard for me to even tell “white lies,” as my grandmother used to call them. I’m one of the people who appreciated Jess Jackson. I admired him… I’ve got to read the book really soon.

I’m going to quote Jess’s winemaker Randy Ullom, in a story published in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Who better to know the man and tell you what you’ll find in this book… I’m very excited to read it.

“Randy Ullom, senior vice president and winemaster at Kendall-Jackson, is depicted in the book as the globe-trotting vintner who led Jackson and Banke through wild vineyard searches in South America. Ullom said passages of the book brought tears to his eyes as he recalled meeting upon meeting with the charismatic personality.

“’It was a very candid book, which brings legitimacy to the story,’ Ullom said. ‘It’s not glossed over. It’s reality.’” Santa Rosa PD


From Barefoot Cellars to Motivational Speakers…. Learn from the best

So, what was it about Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey’s marketing strategies that made them so successful? They’ve spelled it out very succinctly in The Barefoot Spirit, and I’ll share this much with you… It’s everything the wine industry doesn’t do… It didn’t embrace pretentious ideologies or advertising, it was down home friendly. It was all about fun and wine being a part of an easy lifestyle… It spoke to the inner fun-loving person in all of us, making light of wine in its beachy, barefoot theme… and was way ahead of labels being cutesie, applying a non-vintage to the bottles, and appealing to a younger demographic.

Wine Marketing Online ~ How to use the newest tools of marketing to boost profits and build brands

Wine Marketing Online ~ How to use the newest tools of marketing to boost profits and build brands is a powerful new book by Bruce McGechan, published by Wine Appreciation Guild. Bruce McGechan has consulted wine businesses large and small, from one edge of the world to the other. He is the founder and managing director of, an internet wine marketing advisory firm based in New Zealand.

For Wine Marketing Online… a book of this nature to being published is so timely, as well as topical; and, it’s a boon to anyone who takes the time to read, study, and apply it.

Wine Importing

How to Import Wine, by Deborah Gray

Wine importer Deborah M. Gray has written the book on importing, literally: How To Import Wine. I’ve read it; and honestly, if anyone wants to understand how to import into the US, this book is a MUST READ.

I wish I had read this one earlier in my career, before I had to learn a lot of the lessons in this book the hard way. Deborah’s easy reading style, and her sharing all that she learned in her importing career, makes this the most valuable tool in anyone’s tool box, who would consider importing. I’ve watched someone just starting out, someone who knew that he loved wine, but had never sold it, ever, and worse yet, had no wholesale relationships, even in his own neighborhood… Painful, is all I can say, to watch.

Avoid the pain, buy the book…


Food ~ as in recipe books ~ to go with your wines:

The Kitchen Pantry Cookbook is essential for any wine and food lover; Published by Quarry Books, written by Erin Coopey

The Kitchen Pantry Cookbook is essential for any wine and food lover, because it brings us back to basics; and that brings us back to better health. If you don’t care about your health, you don’t have to bother to read on today. You’ll just be wasting your time, because I’m going to be on a rip with this one…

Wine is liquid food, we all agree on that, right? Just the way a good soup is liquid food…

Gluten-Free Entertaining; Published by Fair Winds, written by Olivia Dupin

Gluten-Free Entertaining has only three chapters:

  • Planning the perfect party
  • Celebrating the holidays
  • Special occasions

I’m going to run with this one. While it’s not my favorite dish, Melanie – the daughter who will inherit this book – is Celiac. She loves a Green Bean Casserole, and this one’s for her. I’d pair it with an Oregon Pinot Gris. I’ve been working with many Oregon Pinot Gris producers, and tasted many of their wines. I know that the creaminess of this recipe and the acidity of this variety… along with a lower alcohol, would make this a perfect wine and food pairing.

If you’re Gluten Free… check out the books from Fair Winds. They’ve got you at the heart and soul of this company’s success.

Baked Doughnuts for Everyone ~ From Sweet to Savory to Everything in Between; Published by Fair Winds, written by Ashley McLaughlin

Sugar isn’t the best part of your diet, but when holidays and other festive occasions arrive, it’s time to treat yourself for all the denial you’ve felt with passing up on sweets. Also, if you can avoid the fryolator, so much the better. A baked doughnut… what a concept. I have to admit that when I inherited my grandmothers doughnut cutter I went bezerk for a while. Let’s just say, I can cook a mean doughnut. Little did I know I could bake it, and more important with this book, there are 101 delicious recipes, all gluten-free.

Oh – my – gawd… I’m in heaven.

  • Orange Cream Soda Doughnuts
  • Cafe Mocha Doughnuts
  • Apple Pie Doughnuts

Do I have to write anything else about this book, except go get it?

Cheers to Vegans Sweets, Drink-Inspired Vegan Desserts; Published by Fair Winds, written by Kelly Peloza

From their Website: This innovative vegan baking book features 125 deliciously fun drink-inspired dessert recipes. It’s a cookbook that takes readers on a delicious tour of cafés, cocktail bars, and lemonade stands, where all the drinks come in dessert form. Imagine your morning vanilla hazelnut mocha re-imagined as a muffin, or relax on the beach with a margarita biscotti, or stop by the bar and order your brew in Guinness cake form. Instead of sipping your drink, now you can indulge in it!

From my palate… Extraordinary discovery of liquid flavors, which become solid assets.

How to grow sprouts; Published by Fair Winds, written by Rita Galchus

There once was a time when I was a stay-at-home mom. I loved my domestic role; and, yes, I grew my own sprouts. Now, I can revisit that period, looking for better methods. As I say that, I’m reminded of how I got sprouts, soaked them quickly, then placed them in a commercial jar (huge container). All I had to do was rinse the sprouts once a day, and within no time at all, I had produced organic sprouts.

This book is a valuable resource for basic home economics, and reminds me of how important Home Economics was in Junior High School years. I recently read an article in the Boston Globe: Bring back home ec! The case for a revival of the most retro class in school, written by Ruth Graham:

What’s wrong with young people today? It’s a perennial question, but a certain pattern can be detected in the concerns being aired right now. There’s health and nutrition: Almost a third of Americans under age 19 are now overweight or obese, habituated to a diet of cheap processed food. There’s financial literacy, with debt spiraling up to unsustainable levels as students juggle increasingly complex burdens of credit payments and student loans. And there’s the general issue of self-sufficiency, with record proportions of young adults living with their parents, unable to patch together the means and the will to set up house for themselves.

Books like the ones I’ve listed above are not be your typical “wine cook books.” They’re your typical Health Cook Books, that many of us would be far better off reading and adapting to, if we want to live happy, healthy lives… That also includes wine for those health benefits.