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 2017 Wine and Spirits Books. And, here’s headed to your Black Friday shopping…

A Vineyard in Napa, by Doug Shafer, Fills in an Important Historical Napa Timeline

Written by Doug Shafer, this one is a library keeper for sure, in my Napa Valley history area. From the 70s until 2012, I really enjoyed reading about how it all began; why and how it’s still moving along really well. But, as Doug will tell you, it’s never been a completely comfortable bed of fluffy roses.

From the Shafer family, Doug segues into the Stag’s Leap District, and then into the Shafer’s extended family. Actually, chapters are quick and to the point, until you arrive at Chapter 23, and Doug introduces the time when John and he needed some help with winemaking. A much more fact-filled chapter introduces Elias Fernandez, in 1984, their long-standing and honored

Cork Dork, by Bianca Bosker, is a joyful story of learning the who, what, when, and where of the quirky inner sanctum of sommeliers.. Bianca is a down to earth SOMM, who’s a great teacher for the fun nuances of wine. She also writes about architecture, which complements her in a yin yang way… Science and emotion, all wrapped up into one very funny person. What a great sense of humor I found, throughout the book.

Page 46: Now, you can sip. Swish the wine around your mouth, then purse your lips like you’re about to say “oh no” and – oh no is right – suck in air over the wine so it feels like it’s bubbling over your tongue. “Aerating” the wine, the official term for wine snobs’ slurping, helps release its odor molecules, which combine with taste to form flavor. You’ll look ridiculous and probably lose friends, but you’ll get more from your wine.

In Vino Duplicitas – The Rise and Fall of a Wine Forger Extraordinaire, by Peter Hellman

From the very start, it will suck you in and have you turning pages for more. Highly prolific author Peter Hellman has detailed the steps taken by the world’s largest wine con man, ever.

In the world of wine, there are two divisions… commercial and collector. This story is about the surreal world of collector wines, and its cast of characters. (Bill Koch is my favorite. The glimpse into his personality, honestly – he’s a quirky, funny guy, on top of all else we know about him.)

As you read the book, take notes of wines on the collector circuit. (Great guidance, and you’ll know what your dream list would be.) Somehow, Rudy Kurniawan came onto that scene; and either swiftly progressed, or slowly connived his way, into a very exclusive club. It eventually got the best of him; stages are intriguing.

Making Your Own Wine at Home, by Lori Stahl. Making your own wine is done by a lot of home winemakers. And, if you’ve ever thought about making your own wine, right in the comfort of your homestead, there’s a great new book on the market. Written by Lori Stahl, and published by Fox Chapel Publishing, Making Your Own Wine at Home is a no nonsense book that’s a practical, how-to beginners’ guide. Lori gives us creative recipes for making grape, fruit, and herb wines. From Fox Chapel’s Website…

It’s easier than you think to make wonderful wine at home. Get started today with this practical guide to making your first bottle of perfect homemade wine. Author Lori Stahl demystifies essential winemaking techniques with friendly, jargon-free instructions and gorgeous color photography. She begins by taking you step by step through making wine from a kit, and then shows you how to go beyond the kit with creative additions. Soon you’ll be making your own flavorful wine from fresh grapes, apples, berries, and even flowers and herbs. This home winemaking companion offers a wide selection of seasonal winemaking recipes, new twists on traditional favorites, and sweet ways to enjoy and indulge in the wines you create.

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…

Rosé Wine, by Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, MW ~ Let me start with the finish.

Loved the book, read it to this very last statement on the back cover: If you’re a beginner, Rosé Wine offers the ideal starting point, and it also serves as a great resource if you’re an enthusiast looking to expand your horizons. Here’s to drinking pink! Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan has learned much more than the average person within the wine business, for instance, when it comes to this type of wine. And, as a brilliant educator, she now has written the quintessential book on Rosé.
If you love Rosé, it’s worth your time. If you’re just learning about Rosé, it’s worth your time. Wine Pro? Buy it!.

W(h)ine ~ 50 Perfect wines to Pair with your child’s ROTTEN behavior, by Jennifer Todryk, is so whiny and perfect in every single wine way. Got a behavior? Has she got a wine for you to fix that. Jennifer Todryk will have you choose a wine (Malbec) and pair it for certain behaviors (Temper Tantrum Wine). I was looking for Petite Sirah (given my history), but didn’t find it, among all of her varieties given the spotlight. For Petite, I was thinking all out warrior, ye-ha!, would have worked really well. Jennifer has covered so many other varietal wines, with so many other perfect tantrum storms, that I can just let Petite Sirah go for now.

If you’re a mom of small children, this book lets you know, you’re not alone. If you’re a grandmother, give the book to your daughters and sons, to let them know they’re not alone. Raising kids is the toughest job you’ll ever have, and if you can’t find the humor, when it’s all said and done, you missed a very important, adventurous boat filled with delights… beyond the tantrums, and some wine recommendations that will give you the giggles, at the end of the (long) day, before you hit the short, sleepless night.

White with Fish, Red with Murder, by Harvey Mazuk, is a murder mystery set in San Francisco and Russian River Valley in 1948. Harley Mazuk’s novel is one where you imagine Art Deco influences, with Humphrey Bogart (playing P.I. Frank Swiver) and Lauren Becall (Cicillia “Cici” O’Callaghan, as a brunette) getting it on in more ways than one. He calls her “doll,” she a vixen who’s sassy as all get out, and the intrigue, suspense, and sensuality draw you in… in this who done it, and why it’s been done to whom novel.

Does it help that it’s set in my neighborhoods? Yes, completely for me, while it will educate others to wine country, California Bay Area style. Even though Harley Mazuk was born in Cleveland and now lives in Maryland; he knows these neighborhoods well, though, while he shares his love for California wines (and the business life-style side of it, shaped into this well-crafted novel).

White with Fish, Red with Murder heralds the beginning of a stimulating new series… Thank the good lord for that, because as you realize you’ve just read the final words, you’re already hankering for more.

Wine Triva, by Dick Rosano ~ New Publisher, Board & Bench: Dick Rosano has a re-released book. Author of other these previously released wine books:

  • Tuscan Blood: A mystery set at a winery in Tuscany
  • Hunting Truffles:A mystery involving the grant theft of truffles in Alba, Italy
  • Wine Heritage: The Story of Italian-American Vintners

Dick Rosano, an accomplished mystery writer is a former wine and food columnist with The Washington Post and Wine Enthusiast. He’s taking a lighter look at wine, in this new collection of quotes and trivia. Dick is known for capturing the spirited thoughts of legendary figures from Leonardo da Vinci to W.C. Fields, from Ecclesiastes to the Talmud. Dick says that “in this book about the high life – and low lifes – of drinking wine, I’ve just published Wine Trivia.”

How To Be A Wine Expert, A Beginner’s Guide, 3rd edition, $15, amazon.com, makes learning about wine fun and easy with an emphasis on the three keys to wine appreciation: color, bouquet and taste. The essentials of more than 100 of the world’s best wine varieties are covered including:

Pinot, Pasta, And Parties, by Paul Sorvino and Dee Dee Sorvino

From Spaghetti and Meatballs, to their favorite veal stew, Pinot, Pasta, and Parties is a great primer on authentic Italian cuisine. Written by Dee Dee and Paul Sorvino, this is one Italian cookbook that belongs on anyone’s shelves, who love Italian foods. It’s filled with special dishes that we all know and love as traditional fare… Now, we can learn how to prepare them all, if we haven’t already done so.

Filled with old-time recipes that everyone’s Italian grandmother used to cook on Sundays, for lunches after church, which slid into an afternoon of hanging out with la famiglia. I highly recommend this book for anyone who’s wanting to have an authentic Italian food and wine experience, including an entire menu per chapter… It will help you to know regional wine varieties, and what Dee Dee and Paul pair with those foods. For someone just starting out (we all did at one time, right?), this book should be on that person’s cookbook shelf.

Excellent for me, and probably the same for you, too ~ James Gabler

Jim Gabler is a graduate of Washington & Lee University with degrees in economics and law. He served as a finance officer in the U.S. Army. He practiced as a civil trial lawyer for both the defense and plaintiff. He lives in Palm Beach with his wife. The following are his wine books.

Dine with Thomas Jefferson and Fascinating Guests: an account of 25 fact-based dinners at Monticello, the White House, Paris, Philadelphia, and the French wine country. The dinners center on four of Jefferson’s passions: wine, food, conversation, and travel. The guests are a who’s who of famous people of the time. A perfect companion for those who appreciate wine, food, travel, interesting conversation, and the camaraderie of fascinating people.

An Evening with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson: Dinner, Wine, and Conversation. Travel back in time to 18th century Paris and spend an evening with two of the most extraordinary men in history who loved wine and food and changed the world for the better. In the comfort of Jefferson’s residence, join Franklin and Jefferson for dinner, and in response to your questions they tell in their own words the most interesting stories of their lives. “A brilliant roman à clef around the lives and travels of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin,” Robert M. Parker, Jr.

Passions: The Wines and Travels of Thomas Jefferson: “Brilliant”…”Magnificent”… “Remarkable”… “Exciting”… “Superb”… Winner of the 1995 “Veuve Clicquot Wine Book of the Year,” and a Robert M. Parker, Jr. “Wine Book of the Year” selection. “With the touch of an artist, Jim Gabler brings to life Jefferson’s passion for wine.” The definitive work on Jefferson and wine. $25, Amazon’s Direct Link

When I wrote The Winemakers of Paso Robles, as a title, The Book just followed in my thoughts. Then I realized that that doesn’t even come close to The Book, because it’s THE BOOK.

The photography is by Julia Pérez, Paul Hodgins has written the text, Mira Advani Honeycutt is the curator, and George Taber wrote the foreword, with 56 winemaker interviews. Each story has it’s own flavor, and it all tastes like juicy, delicious wine.

  • It’s the quintessential holiday book to give, to anyone who loves a really beautiful coffee table book.
  • It’s the best gift for Uncle Dave, because everyone knows he already has everything, right?
  • It’s the best wine library book, of the published kind.
    • Yes, I have library space for it.
  • It’s ginormous, so you look good with it, just don’t try to hold it in one hand; that doesn’t work well.
  • The colors will delight your eyes, the images of people will make you smile.
    • There are a LOT of happy winemakers in Paso!
  • Their winemakers’ weather worn hands are genuine, as are they.