Wines of California: A Book Review


WinesOfCaliforniaIt’s been quite a while since there’s been a guide to California wines and wineries, and it’s hard to say if there has ever been a truly comprehensive one. With Wines of California: The Comprehensive Guide, written by Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jensen (authors of Wines of the Southern Hemisphere), the authors take on a massive undertaking in bringing the ever-changing and massive California wine industry into one book.

Published appropriately during California wine month, the book provides a fresh look at hundreds of wineries and their signature wines, notable people from trailblazers to iconoclasts to top chefs, as well as California recipes and food and wine pairings from the wineries and people in California wine.

After a quick intro to the various grapes grown in California, the first part of the book delves into the wine-growing regions in the state, discussing the region itself, its AVAs, and some of the wineries. The authors include notable wineries from all points in the spectrum, from the larger and more renowned wineries to the smaller operations that are going in new directions or offer quality beyond their marketing reach. Noteworthy wines from each  winery are discussed, including brief tasting notes. A part of me would like to see all current releases from each of the included wineries listed. The authors keep to a narrative format throughout, without resorting to listing, so they are true to their style, but a more thorough look at both the good and bad would help a wine traveler maneuver tasting rooms and buy California wines.

In part two, the authors interview movers and shakers in the world of California wine, from the now legendary Bo Barret of Chateau Montelena to Barbara Banke, one of the most successful female winery owners in the world, to Emilio Estevez who, well… we all know Emilio Estevez. Check out the book to see why he’s in there.

The third part of the book offers California wine country recipes. My first thought was that it felt tacked on, and maybe so, but looking back, it’s as essential a part of the book as food is to wine. The two go hand in hand, and including these recipes and wine pairings from chefs and winemakers who live and breathe this land makes a book on California wine more comprehensive.

Overall, Wines of California is a good and proper introductory guide but not quite a complete guide to all of the wineries. The challenge here is, first and foremost, the ever-changing landscape of wineries, AVAs and vintages, making a printed publication a snapshot of a point in time. To present California wine in a continuously up-to-date format, an electronic format is needed, be that an app, website, or a periodically updated ebook. Having said that, this book clearly presents information based on the travels and experiences of DsSimone and Jenssen, affording the it a personal touch and as comprehensive a look as can be afforded. A mere cataloging of names and places wouldn’t come near to the book the authors have put together.

About the authors:

MIKE DeSIMONE and JEFF JENSSEN are wine, spirits, food, and travel writers, educators, and hosts. They are award-winning journalists as well as bestselling and award-winning authors. They have been featured guests on The TODAY Show, The Martha Stewart Show, Better TV, and the CBS, FOX and NBC networks. Mike and Jeff are the Entertaining and Lifestyle Editors at Wine Enthusiast magazine, regular travel and wine contributors to the Huffington Post, and twice-monthly wine columnists for The Latin Kitchen, the online arm of Latina magazine.