Each year I enjoy putting a list together of the best wine and food books I read throughout the year. This year is no exception. Here are my 2016 Wine and Spirits Books. And, here’s headed to your Black Friday shopping…

A Zentrepreneur’s Guide ~ by vintner Ron Rubin and Stuart Avery Gold

We’ve got secrets. Secrets that we’ve shared with you these many pages, with the impassioned hope that you will share what you’ve learned with others who seek an inward light through a shadow of change. p. 142

When people, as gifted and talented as Ron Rubin and Stuart Avery Gold, want to make the world a better place by giving people the tools to enrich their lives (and in this case it is I who received the benefits with their book), you’ve just got to go for it.

Blinders ~ Michael Amon

I’ve been in wine business since ’93. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, along comes Blinders!

In fact, I can’t remember ever devouring a book this quickly. And, even if I hadn’t been flying, for some time off, I still would have put everything non-urgent aside and just read through it. Michael Amon’s debut book Blinders is a must read, if you love to be captivated by the first sentence onward… Simple, easy, no frills, “Trilby saw her before she saw him.”

Blinders, if you don’t know, are people who taste wine blindly, and then go on to name 1) wine grape variety, 2) year produced, and 3) wine brand producer. Take the idea of sommeliers, then imagine a bumpkin in a pumpkin patch. Now, you’re on your way to an exuberantly lively and amusing great time.

Bourbon Curious, Second Edition ~ Fred Minnick

If you don’t know anything at all, it’s best to start with the best person to explain the mysterious. In this case, a spirit… I was exposed to Bourbon as a kid, because it was my mom and dad’s favorite spirit. Then, it got revisited via the culture of Mad Men’s exploits. Now, thanks to Fred Minnick, I understand so much more about bourbon and whiskey, and am looking forward to that moment when I order my next spirit, but it won’t be a Manhattan.

According to Fred, bourbon, like wine, has its own culture. If you love bourbon, this isn’t news to you. Minnick calls it the most misunderstood spirit on liquor store shelves. I’m betting that he’s right.

Corkscrew ~ Peter Stafford-Bow

This is a classic and is my #1 recommendation for the audacious among us for the holidays.  I laughed so hard I cried occasionally. This is a very, very funny man, and not intended for the delicate among us.

I’m glad I lived long enough to read this one… This is the funniest book I’ve ever, ever laugh-out-loud read. I thought I was telling tales when I wrote Road Warrior Survival Guide… Doesn’t even hold a candle to what I just finished reading. Corkscrew, The highly improbably, but occasionally true, tale of a professional wine buyer. I can promise you, you don’t know anyone who’s more funny… Entertaining to the Nth degree, really jolly. If there’s a glass ceiling for how much you can laugh while reading a book, Peter Stafford-Bow has broken it.

Drinking with the Democrats ~ Mark Will-Weber

My first thought was Camelot. I, as much as anyone else, was as entranced as everyone else. I also didn’t realize until just now, that both presidents have ties to assassination. Pure Coincidence.

Meanwhile, what was Camelot like, during those years while we were asking ourselves what we could do for our country… amid avoiding the Vietnam War?

Joe Kennedy‘s fortunes were a result of being connected to the Mafia, ergo, they owned the presidency (whether or not we enjoy knowing that). Enough documentaries have emerged from history for us to be informed – as possibilities…  Mark writes: “… it is hard to envision Camelot-or at least the Jack and Jacky version of it-without daiquiris, the occasional Bloody Mary, or the finest French champagne.”

Drinking with the Republicans ~ Mark Will-Weber

You may not remember Chester. He didn’t win an election. He became President after James Garfield‘s assassination. Garfield was president for only 200 days… This one is a lesson to be considered, when choosing a VP. If a dandy has been chosen, then don’t be surprised when the party animal takes over. Arthur’s wife Ellen Herndon died suddenly in 1880, before Chester had taken office, so Chester Arthur’s sister Mrs. Mary McElroy came into the White House to serve as First Lady. Both of them had an appetite for splendor, and they spent equally well.

Fruitful Aging ~ Tom Pinkson

It’s a very spiritual book and since wine is a spirit… It works for this wine blog, in my humble opinion, especially for my spiritual friends, of which I have plenty.

Tom begins, “A silver tsunami of increasing longevity is sweeping across our nation. Over the next several decades, the number

of Americans over age 60 will increase by nearly 70 percent, the largest increase for any age group in the population… Will it be positive? Fulfilling? Meaningful?”

Tom’s book is all about giving people the emotional tools to begin living now, so that there will be no regrets, by presenting a panoply of examples for what’s important as we prepare to exit stage right. Tom makes certain that we know, as elders, this is time that has the potential to be our best years yet, as we continue to define our worthiness, repair what’s yet to be mended, and provides exercises to that end.

If a glass of wine or two comes into that quality of life, too, I know Tom won’t mind, since we’ve been at a party with a good amount for wine for those who wanted it.

Red Mountain ~ Boo Walker

Red Mountain by Boo Walker is a novel that will draw you in, hold your attention, and have you up in the middle of the night because it’s nearly impossible to put down, wanting to know what happens next.

The challenge of a really great book, and this one is one of those, is that, for its readers it’s a reminder of our life cycle… It can begin with great joy. As it evolves, it has its intermediate moments of joy turning into learning curves for growth. And, like a dearly beloved family pet, its life is shorter than ours, so we have to take deep sighs at its “The End.”  We eventually have to put it to rest in our libraries, for perhaps a revisit from time to time. I know that’s why I’ve schlepped my library from Maine to California, from Windsor to Geyserville, and the good gods only know where to next. But, schlep I will. Red Mountain is a keeper, and I’ll revisit it from time to time…

Swallow This ~ Mark Phillips

I love this guy Mark Phillips… He’s the brains behind WineTasting.org.

His site begins with “Making Wine Fun.” Yes, indeed, he’s got quite the sense of humor. I learned a long, long time ago, make what they have to learn be as much fun (and funny) as possible, and even the most complicated concepts become easy for nearly everybody. And, he also subliminally admits, wine is complicated. Say what you want about it needed to be easy, but even Mark admits to some lotus layers still unfolding. It is what it is… A magical mystery ride.

A trilogy, parts 1 and 2

The Charlemagne Connection ~ R.M. Cartmel

With my father having been to Burgundy, I was led right into this wine-based, mystery novel. From the moment I opened the book, I was engrossed, loving The Charlemagne Connection. It’s one of those where it’s really hard to put it down. I’d awaken at 3:00 a.m., and decide to read for a couple more hours, after having taken it to bed with me the night before. It’s that wonderfully written.

And I thank David Clark (my father was a David Clarke, too), because he’s guided R.M. with bits of viticulture that I know (from 20+ years in this business called “wine”). However, because of France’s history of wine (imported by the Romans when they invaded Western Europe, until Charlemagne drove them back to Italy), the lexicon is so much more rich than what we know in our very new US wine grape growing history, that I learned even more.

The page corner folded down moment ~ p. 85-86

The conversation resumed as if it had never been interrupted. ‘Do you really think they’d steal stuff?’ Truchaud asked?

‘Oh come on. The only way to stop people stealing stuff is to give them enough money so that it doesn’t hurt to buy it. I suppose it’s partly our fault for pricing the good wine the way that we do, but why make it cheap when fat cats are very willing to pay loads for it? I would even go so far as to think the fat cats wouldn’t buy ours if it were cheap. There would be no exclusivity. That’s what they are really paying for, you know; a label to when the plebs don’t have access.’

The Richebourg Affair ~ R.M. Cartmel

A book of “who done it” in France’s Burgundy region of Nuits-Saint-Georges… It is the first in a series of two novels of “Not all is at it seems in the peaceful vineyards of Burgundy…”

If someone you know loves a great mystery novel set in wine country, this one will make someone very happy, this holiday season. It’s set in the methodically arranged vineyards of Burgundy, and things get a bit rumpled for a short time, with Commander Charlemagne Truchaud, our hero detective.

The Secret of Altamura ~ Dick Rosano

If you’re looking for a wine county novel to read, Dick Rosano’s books won’t disappoint you. He’s an excellent author. Also, for your gift giving, when a friend or family member is an avid reader and loves wine, this is for their library that won’t disappear, once the bottle is opened. Some of us love our wine libraries. Anything Dick writes is highly recommended in my world.

Prolific is the word that best describes Dick Rosano, and that’s prolific with five stars. As was written in The Washington Post:

“Original in conception, well-researched and deftly written.” The Washington Post

The Secrets of My Life: Vintner, Prisoner, Soldier, Spy ~ Peter M. F. Sichel

Reading Peter Sichel’s memoir is like taking an advanced course in not only wine history, but also wine in wine marketing. Sichel touches upon the American market. But, more important to those of us who already know a bit about the United States’ wine history, his adventures as they relate to Europe, including what happened to the business of wine during World War II, connect some very important missing dots in wine history’s chronology. At least it did for me. This is an advanced course for anyone who’s serious about understanding the business of wine.

It’s also a real eye opener for someone just learning about wine. It will equally move you into a fast forward mode.

Vertical ~ Just in and reading it as I write this ~ Rex Pickett

Miles and Jack are back… If you loved Sideways, as the book and/or the movie, here we go again, as Miles trips his way into Oregon wine county, slurping Pinot along the way. Unabashedly, he dumps a dump bucket over his head to please an adoring crowd… What else is coming?

I can sum it up in one paragraph:

It takes just a little bit to get going, because Rex Pickett was laying out all of the poignant parts of his story that would be unfolding. One doesn’t just jump in with frivolity, when the story is more heartrending than one being wrapped up in wine country tomfoolery. Miles isn’t going to create the new next-best variety, either. Miles becomes a man of honor.