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A Very Good Year: The Journey of a California Wine from Vine to Tableby Mike Weiss
Synopses & Reviews
A Captivating, Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Making of a Premium California Wine.
Situated amidst the lush soils of Sonoma County in the heart of California's wine country, the Ferrari-Carano Vineyards produce some of the best-loved wines in America. Founded by casino mogul Don Carano and his wife Rhonda just over twenty years ago, the winemaker has won praise from consumers and connoisseurs alike for its affordably priced premium bottles, particularly its Fumé Blanc. In A Very Good Year, award-winning journalist Mike Weiss goes behind the scenes at this renowned winemaker to tell the story of how a bottle of this wine is created, from the first grapes picked by the hands of Mexican migrant workers to the vintage's initial public tasting at the Four Seasons in New York.
Weiss's intimate look at the 2002 Fumé Blanc reveals the delicate interaction between water, sunlight, soil, and climate that produces grapes with the precise flavors sought by its growers — as well as explaining how a winemaker's decisions during the fermenting processes can bring out subtle changes in the distinctive flavors, such as the grassy melon bouquet that is the hallmark of this vintage. Weiss also looks at how "The Story" of a winery drives its marketing identity, is reflected in such decisions as the shape of its bottle and the style of its label, and can often decide the crucial difference of whether it is included on the lists of the country?s best white-tablecloth restaurants. Along the way, A Very Good Year brings to life the colorful characters behind Ferrari-Carano: an obsessive fourth-generation vineyard manager who can predict an early spring based on the behavior of local bass; a star winemaker who must decide the precise blending methods based on elaborate chemistry and a supposition of what reviewers want to taste; the effusive sales and marketing guru behind the powerful brand; and at the center of it all is Don Carano, a successful entrepreneur who has entered the wine business not as a millionaire dilettante but as an ambitious winemaker with an eye toward creating a vintage that will garner international acclaim.
Insightful and intoxicating, A Very Good Year is a delight to be savored by the oenophile and novice alike.
"'Did you ever think about all that goes into a bottle of wine?' Weiss set out to answer his wife's question and wound up writing a 39-day series for the San Francisco Chronicle in 2004, now expanded into book form. It starts with his November 2001 meeting with Don and Rhonda Carano — the visionary proprietors who built Ferrari-Carano Winery in Sonoma County, Calif., with their Nevada gaming fortune — and ends with the wine's market debut in May 2003. Weiss elicits revelatory disclosures, both personal and professional, from sources including the intuitive, unreserved grape farmer Steve Domenchelli; the intense, secretive winemaker George Bursick; the ambitious vineyard workers from the Mexican village of El Charco; and an unnamed contact he calls 'Deep Cork.' An admiring yet unflinching storyteller, Weiss weaves a drama of failures and fears, tragedies and triumphs, births and deaths, ego and jealousy. His narrative shares trade secrets, tricks and gossip, and describes in detail the meticulous crafting of corks, the sun-baked cultivation of grapes, the backbreaking work of harvest, the finesse of fermenting and blending wine, and the aggressive strategy needed to take it to market. This 'biography' of the 2002 Ferrari-Carano Fum Blanc is a sweet pleasure. Agent, David Vigliano. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Some writers can see the world in a grain of sand; Mike Weiss found it in a glass of wine. It's all there, in a way almost all wine drinkers never think of and almost all wine writers would never look for: hope and vanity, death and disappointment, labor struggles, pesticides, the enduring tie between a California vineyard and a Mexican village — all of it normally invisible, and here so beautifully described." Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopoldís Ghost and Bury the Chains
"Weiss brings some badly needed nuts-and-bolts reporting to a subject too often dominated by personalities and precious descriptors. This book has legs." James Conaway, author of Napa and The Far Side of Eden
Based on the acclaimed 39-part San Francisco Chronicle series, an award-winning journalist follows the making of a bottle of Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc from harvesting by immigrant workers in Northern California to its first tasting at the Four Seasons in New York City, capturing all that goes into the process of turning a grape into a fine vintage and selling it today's connoisseurs.
About the Author
Mike Weiss is a writer at the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Esquire, the Guardian, and many other publications. He is the author of the acclaimed Ben Henry mystery series and the Edgar Award-winning Double Play.
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