Monday, January 28, 2013

The Best Books on East Coast Wine



Bordeaux and Burgundy and Champagne have spawned an entire industry of writers and books on the subject. First the French and then the English have fawned over these regions, literally, for more than a century and half. Later came Italy. Now, California draws down some considerable ink of its own..
But what of the East Coast? Recently, there has been a massive outpouring of ink splashed about on pages singing the praises of the men and women who toil so hard in the fields to create that amazing, captivating, intoxicating (in more ways than one) elixir…wine.
The best of these is Summer in a Glass, a tremendous book filled with the kind of stories that make any wine region even more romantic and heroic than anyone can imagine. And the writing is superb. What makes Summer so wonderful is that it is about the people and the wine. Don’t tell me about the wine…tell me the story behind the wine. While the only fault of John Hartsock's wonderful Seasons of a Finger Lakes Winery was to come out in the same season...a wonderful book.
The Vineyard by Louisa Hargrave to me is exceptionally well written, and a truly important book. Very rarely do you get such an intimate portrait of a wine family and the founding of an entire wine region!

Then next to me would be Richard Leahy’s Book Beyond Jefferson’s Vines for its combination of history and future think. I love the two Hudson Valley entries. Although hard to find, they are both incredibly well worth reading. The High Tor story is not so well known today, but an important story in its time. To read it and then Mark Miller’s memoir back to back is to get a sense of the valley and of a period that few people know or understand today.
Regardless, there is now a canon of wine books about east coast wine. And a worthy one at that. Of course, New York dominates…but Virginia is not far behind. A great group of books that will give you a tremendous opportunity to understand one of the fastest growing wine countries in North America!

It is a rich and entertaining list. One that deserves reading. One to be proud of.

SUMMER IN A GLASS by Evan Dawson, Introduction by James Molesworth
How did a brilliant German winemaker end up in a small region in upstate New York after leaving his family in the middle of a harvest night? How did a Danish-born winemaker lose his family’s wine estate in southern France, only to see his career revived in the Finger Lakes? Why are they here? How did they get here? And what is the world learning about the land they now inhabit?
These are the fascinating questions that permeate the wine in New York’s Finger Lakes region, and journalist Evan Dawson provides thrilling answers in Summer in a Glass: The Coming of Age of Winemaking in the Finger Lakes. After spending two years on the road, in the cellars, and in the vineyards with these talented men and women, Dawson tells their deeply personal stories in a way that stitches the new, emerging story of the region together. Some of the winemakers had to overcome family tragedy; others found love or returned home to follow their hearts. This is a wine book without focusing too heavily on the wine. Readers will feel personally connected to these growers and producers, all while absorbing the story of a region’s wines without ever encountering too much technical information.

Wines from the Finger Lakes are earning the world’s attention. This page-turner demonstrates why the attention is richly deserved. The end result might leave readers curious to open a Finger Lakes Riesling… or even seek out the region itself, which is transformed by its best winemakers into the very definition of summer in a glass.
Evan Dawson is the Managing Editor and Finger Lakes Editor of the New York Cork Report, the two-time winner of the award for Best Single-Subject Wine Blog. He writes several pieces weekly for NYCR. His day job is morning anchor of 13 WHAM News This Morning in Rochester, NY, broadcasting on the ABC affiliate (as well as the local CW channel). His on-air duties also include reporting on politics and public policy.


THE VINEYARD by Louisa Hargrave
An exceptionally wonderful tale of Louisa and Alex Hargrave's establishing of the first vineyard in Long Island. Especially with the shadow of the region’s 40th Anniversary hovering over the landscape, this book could not be any more important! In 1973, against the advice of experts and the experience of history, Louisa Hargrave and her husband, Alex, bought a run-down 1680-vintage potato farm on Long Island’s North Fork and planted ten thousand European wine grapes. Having begun her grape- growing adventure with the arrogance of youth and the assumption that she and her husband could figure it all out themselves, she was both humbled and transformed by the land, by her children, and by the generosity of those who helped along the way. At once wry and heartwarming, this is an odyssey as much about spirit and the connection to place as it is about the simple pleasures of a new wine.

BEYOND JEFFERSON’S VINES by Richard Leahy, Introduction by Dave McIntyre
For 30 years, Thomas Jefferson grew grapes in his Monticello vineyards in hopes of producing fine wine --but to no avail. Today that has completely changed. Virginia wine now has a reputation as some of the best in America, with increasing sales and more wineries (nearly 200) welcoming an ever-larger number of visitors. Richard Leahy, a former editor for Vineyard & Winery Management magazine, has written the essential book on Virginia wine, covering its history, interviews with the state's top winemakers, and updates on the latest industry developments.
Richard Leahy is a wine writer and consultant who has been reporting on the wines of Virginia and Eastern North America since 1986. He works with numerous wineries in Virginia and along the East Coast and has been writing for the wine industry since 1986. He became well-known in the Eastern wine industry as East Coast Editor for Vineyard & Winery Management, and is the Mid-Atlantic and Southern Editor for the ground-breaking Oxford Companion to the Wines of North America (2000), a regional editor for Kevin Zraly’s  American Wine Guide, and assisted Steve DeLong on his recent Wine Tasting Notebook. Mr. Leahy is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers, professional organization of leading wine journalists based in the U.K. Richard was the Executive Director of the Virginia Wine Experience in London in May 2007. The event was timed to coordinate with the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement and was a huge success — as written in an account in the Financial Times of London on 9/1/2007. Richard coordinates the conference program for the Eastern Winery Exposition, a major wine industry trade show for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern wine industries that takes place in Lancaster, PA annually in early March.

A GENTLEMAN’S GAME by Mark Miller
A tale of high art and design as well as hard work and sweat, as famous illustrator takes on farming in the Hudson Valley and establishes one of the signature wineries and a winemaking dynasty. In 1957, Mark and Dene Miller purchased a vineyard in Marlboro, New York, overlooking the majestic Hudson River and the distant Berkshires. They really only wanted a few acres of vines, from which they hoped to produce a few cases of wine for themselves and their friends. Yet out of that small dream grew something much more ambitious: the revitalization not only of America's oldest known vineyard but of the entire Hudson Valley winemaking industry. Told with charm and humor and illustrated with Mark Miller's own handsome drawings, Wine--A Gentleman's Game offers a great deal of practical information on grape cultivation and winemaking. Perhaps more importantly, however, their story, and the story of Benmarl Winery, also nurtures the hope lurking in many of us that, with the proper amount of courage and determination, we could do the same.
A noted illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post and other magazines, Mark Miller founded Benmarl Winery in 1957 on the site of a vineyard established by the early American viticulturist Andrew J. Caywood. In addition to winning many awards for his wines, Miller and Benmarl were at the forefront of the small farm winery movement in New York and played a leading role in securing passage of the state's Farm Winery Act of 1976, which reduced the annual licensing fee and also expanded allowable retail sales at wineries. Miller died in 2008.

THE VINTAGE YEARS: The Saga of High Tor Vineyards by Everett Crosby
This is a wonderful book about Everett S. Crosby's exploits in building the most famous winery east of the Rockies from 1950 to 1971. Excellent.
High Tor Vineyards merit favorable references in all our leading wine guides like Schoonmaker's Encyclopedia and Alec Waugh's Wines and Spirits (which lauds High Tot's ""very pleasant"" white and ""delicious"" rose). Behind every good wine is a story, and it is difficult to imagine a more felicitous one than Crosby's account of how he and his wife first became interested in viniculture, the early efforts which commenced in the Crosbys' Manhattan apartment, the eventual purchase of about 80 acres in the Hudson Valley at the foot of the Catskills which became High Tot Vineyards, the slow but satisfying growth of the enterprise, the continuous learning process about the science of winemaking, the experimentation with European hybrids, the pleasures of individualism in an age of mass production (the High Tor output has never been large), the minor irritants like wine critics who use such terms as ""Ropey. . . has good legs. . . tears readily"" (""Do these words mean anything to you?"" asks Crosby. ""They sure as hell mean nothing to me""), the famous High Tot vintage parties which had to be terminated in 1960 because the gate-crashers got out of hand, the encounters with the bureaucratic State Liquor Authority and the IRS, and finally sale of the vineyards in 1971 after eighteen years as quality producers. Crosby concludes with a few dry remarks on winos, the wine business' pricing structure, and that ""pervading evil"" -- government interference. Like the wine, the story has character. –Kirkus Review, 1973
 
 
LONG ISLAND WINE COUNTRY: Award-Winning Vineyards of the North Fork and the Hamptons by Jane Taylor Starwood, Bruce Curtis (Photographer) with a Foreword by Louisa Hargrave
If you love Long Island wine, or know someone who is a fan, then you need to run, not walk, to your nearest bookstore and buy Long Island Wine Country: Award-Winning Vineyards of the North Fork and the Hamptons, by Jane Taylor Starwood ,with photographs by Bruce Curtis and with a fabulous introduction by Louisa Hargrave (co-founder of Long Island's first vineyard and winery).
This book takes readers to each of the area’s more than forty producers, telling the colorful stories of the wines and the people who make them.
There are well over 3,000 acres on Long Island’s beautiful East End that have been planted with vinifera wine grape varieties over the last three decades. Add to that the recent praise for wine producers like Bedell Cellars, The Lenz Winery, Raphael, and Wolffer Estate Vineyards (among numerous others) from sources like the New York Times, Wine Spectator, and Wine Advocate, and it’s not difficult to see why the New York Times, in a feature on Long Island wines, captioned a photo with the words, “Who needs Bordeaux? A tasting of wines from the East End.”
Starwood is the editor of Long Island Wine Press magazine, so you know she had entre' with the winemakers, owners, and other winery personnel. The writing is very good, and the stories are great. And veteran photographer Bruce Curtis shoots one beautiful vista after another. A stunning work!
 
SEASONS OF A FINGER LAKES WINERY by John Hartsock
In 1998, Gary and Rosemary Barletta purchased seven acres of land on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake. Descending to the west from the state route that runs along on the ridge overlooking the lake, the land was fertile, rich with shalestone and limestone bedrock, and exposed to moderating air currents from the lake. It was the perfect place to establish a vineyard, and the Barlettas immediately began to plant their vines and build the winery about which they had dreamed for years.
The Barlettas' story, as John C. Hartsock tells it, is a window onto the world of contemporary craft winemaking, from the harsh realities of business plans, vineyard pests, and brutal weather to the excitement of producing the first vintage, greeting enthusiastic visitors on a vineyard tour, and winning a gold medal from the American Wine Society for a Cabernet Franc. Above all, Seasons of a Finger Lakes Winery describes the connection forged among the vintner, the vine, and terroir. This ancient bond, when tended across the cycle of seasons, results in excellent wines and the satisfaction, on the part of the winemaker and the wine enthusiast, of tasting a perfect harvest in a single glass.

 
Today, Long Point Winery sits on seventy-two acres (eight of which are under cultivation with vinifera grapes) and produces sixteen varieties of wine, a number of which are estate wines made from grapes grown on their property. With interest in winemaking continuing to grow, the Barlettas' experience of making award-winning wines offers both practical advice for anyone running (or thinking of running) their own winery, whether in the Finger Lakes or elsewhere, as well as insights into the challenges and joys of pursuing a dream.
 
 
A HISTORY OF VIRGINIA WINES: From Grapes to Glass by Walker Elliott Rowe
Go beyond the bottle and step inside the minds- and vines- of Virginia's burgeoning wine industry in this groundbreaking volume. Join grape grower and industry insider Walker Elliott Rowe as he guides you through some of the top vineyards and wineries in the Old Dominion. Rowe explores the minds of pioneering winemakers and vineyard owners, stitches together an account of the wine industry's foundation in Virginia, from Jamestown to Jefferson to Barboursville, and uncovers the fascinating missing chapter in Virginia wine history. As the Philip Carter Winery's motto explains, 'Before there was Jefferson, there was Carter.'
Rowe goes behind the scenes to interview migrant workers who toil daily in the vineyards, makes the rounds in Richmond with an industry lobbyist and talks shop with winemakers on the science and techniques that have helped put the Virginia wine industry on the map. Also included are twenty-four stunning color photographs from professional photographer Jonathan Timmes and a foreword by noted wine journalist Richard Leahy.
Walker Elliott Rowe is a freelance writer and hobby wine grape grower living in Rappahannock County, Virginia. His wine writings have appeared in Wine Business Monthly, Richmond Times Dispatch, Wine and Cuisine, The Virginia Wine Guide, The Virginia Wine Gazette, and The Rappahannock News. Rowe has spent the last three years visiting the vineyards in and around Virginia; attending seminars, meetings and training; planted his own Bordeaux, Rhône Valley, and American hybrid wine grapes; and worked for 6 months at Horton Vineyards with Mexican migrant workers to understand the craft of the winemaker and grape grower. Born in South Carolina and widely read, Walker Elliott Rowe has an understanding of the culture of the South and weaves anecdotes of the Civil War and Southern idiosyncrasies into his narrative style of writing. He now lives in Santiago, Chile.
 
WANDERING THROUGH VIRGINIA’S VINEYARDS by Elliott Walker Rowe
This is a wonderful literary stroll through Virginia wine country. An enchanting little tome, and well worth your taking the time to dip into it and sip like a fine Virginia chardonnay.
There is a gold rush underway in Virginia. But the treasure under pursuit is not a precious metal. Rather it is a fruit, a golden-colored grape known by the odd-sounding name Viognier" (pronounced vee-yon-nay). From Leesburg in the north down to Roanoke in the south, dot-com millionaires, celebrities, retired civil servants, and apple farmers are turning fallow pastures and orchards into row after row of European fine wine grapes.
Dave Matthews, Governor Mark Warner, Patricia Kluge, and the son of the late owner of the Washington Redskins all have broken ground on vineyards and wineries in the Charlottesville region and beyond. Leading the way almost 30 years ago, Italy’s largest winegrape growers and vintners, the Zonin family, bought the hallowed ground of the Barboursville ruins and planted the first large-scale vineyard of strictly European grapes in Virginia. Their success has inspired legions of followers.

PENNSYLVANIA WINE: A History by Hudson Cattell and Linda Jones McKee
From the banks of the Delaware River to the shores of Lake Erie, the fields and hillsides of Pennsylvania are home to a rich tradition of winemaking. Though both William Penn and Benjamin Franklin advocated for the production of wine, it was not until 1787 that Pierre Legaux founded the first commercial vineyard in the state and the nation. Veteran wine journalists Hudson Cattell and Linda Jones McKee offer more than just a taste of the complex story of the Pennsylvania wine industry--from the discovery of the Alexander grape and the boom of Erie County wineries in the nineteenth century to the challenges of Prohibition and the first farm wineries that opened in the 1970s. Join Cattell and McKee as they explore the Keystone State's distinct wine regions and tap the cask on their robust history. You will not find more intelligent, knowledgeable writers on eastern wines than these two. A rare gem!
Cattell is among the most important writers of East Coast wine. With journalist Lee Miller, Cattell founded Wine East magazine (now part of Wines & Vines), and later, Linda Jones McGee who became Cattell’s Wine East partner. Wine writer David Falcheck wrote: A lifetime member of the American Wine Society, he received that group’s coveted Award of Merit in 1991,  an honor shared by luminaries such as Robert Mondavi, Mike Grgich, and Kent Rosenblum.  In 1986, he received the Vinifera Perpetual Monteith Trophy, as impressive as it sounds.

A HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT WINE: Vineyard in Your Backyard by Eric D. Lehman  and Amy Nawrocki
As a former son of Connecticut, I am pre-disposed to like this book. Wine has been meticulously crafted in Connecticut ever since colonists discovered wild grapes growing on their land. At first glance, the New England climate appears inhospitable for this fastidious fruit, but a number of varieties thrive here, including pinot gris, chardonnay, cabernet franc, cayuga white and st. croix. These carefully cultivated grapes have produced wines of unique characteristics and surprising quality. Join local wine enthusiasts Eric D. Lehman and Amy Nawrocki as they explore the intricacies of the region s local blends, the vintners who craft them and the people who taste them.
This is a great little book (only a very readable 128 pages). Lehmann and Nawrocki affably tell the history of wine in the state, and interview numerous people in the bargain. A truly wonderful little tome, filled with all the interesting anecdotes one might expect.
 
 
MARYLAND WINE: A Full-Bodied History by Regina McCarthy
The roots of Maryland winemaking are surprisingly deep. The state's first known vines were planted in 1648, and a later Marylander, John Adlum, established his place as the father of American viticulture. In the twentieth century, post-Prohibition pioneers like Philip Wagner and Ham Mowbray nurtured a new crop of daring and innovative winemakers who have made the state an up-and-coming wine region. Author Regina Mc Carthy travels through the red tobacco barns of southern Maryland and the breezy vineyards of the Eastern Shore all the way to the Piedmont Plateau and the cool mountain cellars of the west in search of the state s finest wines and their stories. Join Mc Carthy as she traces over 350 years of the remarkable and robust history of Maryland wines.
Regina Mc Carthy has been working with the local wine industry since 2009, specifically as the marketing coordinator for the Maryland Wineries Association. A native Marylander, she loves the local food and wine culture of the Free State and has a passion for both cooking and entertaining. Regina graduated from Towson University with her degree in mass communication with a focus on public relations. She has written articles for various publications, including Reader's Digest: North American Wine Routes: A Travel Guide of Wines and Vines from Napa to Nova Scotia. Working with the owners and staff of all the Maryland wineries on a day-to-day basis has not only prepared her for the documentation of this local history but also adds to her quality of life. Regina enjoys the many characters and the varied personalities who make up the local wine scene and appreciates their dedication to the land and hope for the future of the Maryland wine industry.

 
NEW JERSEY WINE: A Remarkable History by Sal Westrich
The finely aged story of New Jersey wine is older than the United States itself. As early as 1767, the colony's wines were garnering awards from London's Royal Society of the Arts. The vineyards continued to grow through some of the country's most turbulent times. In 1864, at the height of the Civil War, Renault Winery was founded, and it continues to operate today. While Prohibition nearly destroyed the industry, in 1933, the founding of Tomasello's Winery in Hammonton helped revive it. In 1980, only seven wineries were in operation, but by 2011, the state boasted over thirty-four--many of which are winning awards in some of the world's most respected wine competitions. So grab a glass and join winemaking expert Sal Westrich as he tracks the history of New Jersey wine, accompanied by photos by John Muth.
 
PHILIP WAGNER

   
Wagner is a special person. He was a reporter and then editor of the Baltimore Sun and established Boordy Vineyards outside of Baltimore, Maryland. He wrote seveal great books. The first is about making wine, and the other is about establishing vineyards. These were powerful books in their day, and there are few eastcoast winemakers who are about 35-40 years of age who don't know who Wagner was and how important his influence was on generations of winemakers. Very influential.
Wagner remains important for several simple factors: 1. Wagner established and championed the use of French American hybrids in a period when no one else grew vinifera, and thus truly establishing a nascent wine industry on the east coast. 2. Wagner was instrumental in helping to educated generations of winemakers, especially on the east coast, but around the country as well. 3. As increases in winemaking knowledge continue, and winemakers look for alternative grapes to help add distinctiveness to their lines and regions, hybrids are making a comeback. Witness Leon Millot being named best red table wine of 2012 in New York state!
 
HONORABLE MENTIONS
THE WILD VINE: A Forgotten Grape and the Untold Story of American Wine by Todd Kliman
It’s not about east coast wine, per se, but it does prominently profile a number of east coast winemakers. A rich romp through untold American history featuring fabulous characters, The Wild Vine is the tale of a little-known American grape that rocked the fine-wine world of the nineteenth century and is poised to do so again today.
Author Todd Kliman sets out on an epic quest to unravel the mystery behind Norton, a grape used to make a Missouri wine that claimed a prestigious gold medal at an international exhibition in Vienna in 1873. At a time when the vineyards of France were being ravaged by phylloxera, this grape seemed to promise a bright future for a truly American brand of wine-making, earthy and wild. And then Norton all but vanished. What happened?
The narrative begins more than a hundred years before California wines were thought to have put America on the map as a wine-making nation and weaves together the lives of a fascinating cast of renegades. We encounter the suicidal Dr. Daniel Norton, tinkering in his experimental garden in 1820s Richmond, Virginia. Half on purpose and half by chance, he creates a hybrid grape that can withstand the harsh New World climate and produce good, drinkable wine, thus succeeding where so many others had failed so fantastically before, from the Jamestown colonists to Thomas Jefferson himself. Thanks to an influential Long Island, New York, seed catalog, the grape moves west, where it is picked up in Missouri by German immigrants who craft the historic 1873 bottling. Prohibition sees these vineyards burned to the ground by government order, but bootleggers keep the grape alive in hidden backwoods plots. Generations later, retired Air Force pilot Dennis Horton, who grew up playing in the abandoned wine caves of the very winery that produced the 1873 Norton, brings cuttings of the grape back home to Virginia. Here, dot-com-millionaire-turned-vintner Jenni McCloud, on an improbable journey of her own, becomes Norton’s ultimate champion, deciding, against all odds, to stake her entire reputation on the outsider grape.
Brilliant and provocative, The Wild Vine shares with readers a great American secret, resuscitating the Norton grape and its elusive, inky drink and forever changing the way we look at wine, America, and long-cherished notions of identity and reinvention.
Todd Kliman is the food and wine editor and restaurant critic of The Washingtonian. He won a James Beard Award in 2005 for his writing.

THE WINEMAKER’S APPRENTICE by Eric Miller, Introduction by Kevin Zraly
The son also rises! Eric Miller, founder with his wife Lee, of Chaddsford Winery, is one of the best winemakers on the east coast, and was a force in placing Pennsylvania on the east coast wine map. He certainly pushed hardest making quality wines in the Keystone state for many years. His book is not about Pennsylvania wine, per se, but deserve mention, if Philip Wagner does. And he is the son of Mark Miller, of Benmarl, whose book is listed above.
In Eric Miller's new book, readers get behind-the-scenes access to the wine world’s masters of the craft, as well as a guide to the techniques that made them so successful.
Now, this isn't a step-by-step, ...For Dummies style guide to making wine. It doesn't have formulas and ratios, etc. So you still need something like Philip Wagner's book Grapes into Wine or From Vines to Wines to make wine properly. But you shouldn't waste one iota of time without first reading Eric Miller's new book. It is an instant classic on the subject of winemaking, and is easily the most current, up-to-date catalogue of all the discussions going on between the world's winemakers today.
Miller, who has spent a life time in wine, first at his father's side making wine in the old Caywood vineyards at Benmarl Winery, and then later on at his own Chaddsford Winery along with his wife Lee, gives advice about the art and process of winemaking, from where to plant grapes to what grapes to plant to what you can expect to achieve in the final product. Most fascinating are his many interviews with winemakers from the United States, France, Italy, South Africa, Chile, and Germany. It's not just Miller's take on things, but he garners incredible opinions and advice from winemakers the world over. These master craftsmen relate their stories and share their understanding about selecting sites and planting vineyards, about harvesting and processing grapes, about cellar work and aging wines, about how to make critical decisions and how to avoid problems.
The book is a star studded affair, chock-a-block with fascinating interviews with people like vineyard manager and consultant Lucie Morton, Peter Gago of Penfolds, Eileen Crane of Domaine Carneros, Adam Lee of Siduri Winery, Johannes Selbach of Weingut Sellbach-Oster, Gary Pisoni of Pisoni Vineyards, Aurelio Montes from Montes Vineyards, Pauline Vauthler, of Chateau Ausone, Richard Harbich-Olsen from Bedell Cellars, and many, many more.
Eric Miller is one of the most important winemakers on the East Coast. Chaddsford has grown to become Pennsylvania’s largest winery, and Eric Miller is among a handful of East Coast United States winemakers who have achieved national acclaim and recognition. His wines have been called “enchanting” and “perfect” by Gourmet, and have been featured in Food & Wine, The New York Times, Decanter, and many other prestigious wine and food publications.
If you like wine, and want to know more about it, buy this book. If you think you might want to be a home winemaker, buy this book. If you are thinking of getting in the wine business in anyway, from owning a small boutique winery, or becoming a sommelier, or becoming a wine sales person. You need to own this book. Wonderful!