If you’re into wine, even a little, then you’ve probably heard of Kevin Zraly — made famous as the wine director for Windows on the World restaurant (atop World Trade Center 1 from 1976 – 2001, then relocated to the Marriott Marquie Hotel in Times Square, NY). Here he, with the encouragement of owner Joe Baum, created the biggest wine list in the US and and sold more wine than any other restaurant in the world. Today, he’s most noted for his Windows on the World wine school, which, as of Fall 2016, ended its 40-year run. Unhappy with most other wine textbooks, Zraly created his own handbooks for his courses, had a colleague record his classes along with students’ questions and participation, all of which became the basis for the first Windows on the World wine course book in 1985. Each year, Zraly updates the information, and each year, he continues to make record sales. And I can see why…
This last year I’ve found myself investing in more and more wine literature (of all sorts) because, as Zraly says, the truth about wine is “The more you know about its origins, its character, its value, and its ability to add magic to an already magical dinner, the greater and more lasting your pleasure.”
I bought this book because, as a writer, I want to make sure I never run out of words — and also, I want to make sure I have a keen understanding of all the wine words that are out there. There are loads of wine reference books in the world, but I figured that something called The Wine Bible was bound to be one of the most complete. And it is — in more ways than one. Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible is a book for wine study and for wine fun.
There’s been a lot of back and forth about Rex Pickett’s Vertical in the online world. The dispute between two versions, “which is ‘real?’” seems to have garnered a lot of controversy in both the literary and wine industries. The truth is there are two copies: an unedited “director’s cut,” if you will, written in total by the author Rex Pickett; and the publisher’s edited, re-written and re-published version, which is, reportedly, unapproved by the author. As a writer and an editor, I can fully understand both sides of the story. As a student of literature, I can only ask the question, “Which is the most complete story?” As an avid reader, I can only ask “Which is more enjoyable?” I’ve read both versions — Vertical and the sub-titled Passion and Pinot. At the end of the day, there was only one that struck me, one that I would go back to.
I’m not here to do a compare and contrast essay. Nor am I here to discuss what went on between author and publisher — I have no intention of starting or adding to any of the behind-the-scenes industry politics. What follows below is my honest review of one book, a book I really love, a book that, like a good wine, I want to share with friends. Vertical by Rex Picket, is a book that both teaches and entertains, challenges the reader mentally and emotionally, and provides insight into a world we may not otherwise understand.
Rex Pickett has kindly participated in this review, taking time to answer a few questions about his novel. Cheers, mates, and I hope you enjoy.
I believe I heard about this book through the Twitter-sphere. As a self-proclaimed wine-nerd, the title obviously caught my attention. Any chance to nerd-out on wine, and I’ll be there in a second. Well Bianca Bosker takes that a step further. Actually she takes it a whole marathon worth of steps further, quitting her steady journalism career to train full time for the country’s oldest sommelier competition. Crazy? Seemingly so. But the way Bianca goes about it — her pure dedication to asking the broad question “what’s the big deal with wine” and then focusing in on every minute detail — makes the journey so much more plausible, realistic, and the goal attainable. I encourage you to take this journey with her…
Slave to the Vine: Confessions of a Vagabond Cellarhand
by Darren Delmore
Wine. It makes us feel so cool — sipping at home next to a roaring fire; ordering something unpronounceable at a the latest Michelin-starred restaurant; being seen, glass in hand, at the local hipster tasting room. It’s unfortunate that in this life-is-a-constant-photo-op day and age, wine has become a prop, a fashion-icon even. And for wine drinkers (as opposed to wine appreciators or wine students), the story stops there. To those wine drinkers I say: You know nothing.
What we pour into our glass is not a drink. It is a story — a story of a farmer who planted his parcel to vines; a story of climate and soil; a story of farmhands who pruned, picked, and sorted; a story of cellarhands who pressed, pumped, and racked. Forget the bottle, forget the label, forget your crystal stemware. Wine’s story is rustic, it’s dirty, it’s gritty. Wine’s story is a story of hard labor and hard decisions. Wine’s story: If you haven’t lived it, you don’t really know.
Darren Delmore has lived it and shares his story here.