For those of you who may not know, besides being a wine nerd, I’m also a book nerd. I work as an editor for an independent publisher, and I will read…pretty much any form of fiction. But what I’ve really been enjoying lately are authors who are combining my two passions: wine fiction. Yes, if you haven’t read The Winemakers by Jan Moran or Janet Hubbard’s Vengeance in the Vineyards series, I highly recommend them. But today I present to you a somewhat sordid tale of one woman’s food, wine, and life education: Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler.
Who doesn’t love a good barrel sample or futures tasting? How about when a winemaker kindly sends you a “pre-release” of his latest bottle? Well today we get a little pre-taste of Janet Hubbard’s 3rd installment in the Vengeance in the Vineyard series, which isn’t scheduled to publish until September or October of this year. Ms. Hubbard was gracious enough to send me a hard copy of her proof and — Spoiler Alert! — I think Burgundy: Twisted Roots is the best of the bunch.
I first “met” Janet Hubbard when I was interning at Bay Area literary agency Kimberley Cameron & Associates. I think it was about that time that she’d just published her first novel, Champagne: The Farewell, and was working towards completing this book, Bordeaux: The Bitter Finish. Though it was my job to promote her work all around social media, I never actually had the pleasure of reading any of her writing. Now, 5 years later, I’ve reconnected with Ms. Hubbard through my website and have had the pleasure of reading her second novel and (stay-tuned) a sneak-peek at her third.
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.”
As you can probably tell from my library of books, not all wine books have to be non-fiction or reference material. I believe it was Horace who said, “The aim of the poet is to inform or delight, or to combine together, in what he says, both pleasure and applicability to life.” So it is, that good fictional literature will still teach us something about ourselves or life in general. And good wine literature will teach us something about, well, wine (and probably, still, ourselves and life in general…).
The Winemakers, by Jan Moran does all of the above. Sure, at its core, it’s a romance novel, but it bridges the gap between that traditional “chick-lit” genre and historical fiction while teaching us a bit about wine in the process.