Two weeks ago, I talked with Robert Camuto about his excellent book on Sicilian wines. This week, I offer more book picks, since it's time to find nonliquid gifts for those drinks-lovers in your life.
The Pearl of the Côte: The Great Wines of Vosne-Romanée by Allen D. Meadows: I would have loved a book like this when I was struggling to teach myself about Burgundy wines. It's likely the most in-depth examination of the wines of the legendary Vosne-Romanée region that exists—but don't let that narrow focus dissuade you. Meadows is so knowledgeable and so articulate that in his treatment of one area he in fact teaches the reader how to talk and think about Burgundian wines in general. This is because of the minutiae he unearths regarding history, geography, climate, and personal accounts of even the smallest plots of land. In Burgundy, mere inches of distance can amount to differences in wine character.
Matt Kramer on Wine: A Matchless Collection of Columns, Essays and Observations by America's Most Original and Lucid Wine Writer by Matt Kramer: Wine Spectator columnist Kramer is probably my favorite writer on wine. I don't always agree with his sometimes exasperatingly strong opinions, but I like to read them, not least because no one writes with as much grace, wit, and erudition on the subject. This book brings together a career's worth of writing as well as insights from the likes of Louis Pasteur, Edward O. Wilson, and Nelson Riddle (who produced Sinatra), in short chapters about everything from ordering wine at restaurants to dinner parties, the cost of wine, and dozens of other topics. A great gift.
The New Connoisseurs' Guidebook to California Wine & Wineries by Charles E. Olken and Joseph Furstenthal: This is an essential reference book for those interested in America's most important producer of wine. Olken and his cohort at the Connoisseurs' Guide have been following California more closely than anyone for 35 years. I've tasted with them and know how impeccably thorough and honest they are in their methods and assessment. This book brings that kind of meticulousness to bear on the ever-changing world of California wine, with detailed accounts of pretty much every region and useful profiles of almost 500 wineries.
Reading Between the Wines by Terry Theise: Theise is an importer of boutique wine producers from Germany, Austria, and Champagne. He's a lucid, passionate, and philosophical missionary evangelizing about artisanal wine (he practically created the categories of Grüner Veltliner and grower Champagnes). He brings all that into this almost stocking-stuffer-sized book, which is really a manual of wisdom about why wine is meaningful. One chapter is entitled "Remystifying Wine" if that gives a clue to his spiritual approach. There's an almost koanlike quality: "You grasp [wine] more firmly if you grab it less tightly," he writes.
Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits by Jason Wilson: Wilson, the spirits columnist for the Washington Post, is a friend, and I make a brief cameo in the pages of his book. (Is that not reason enough to buy it?) Wilson is also the editor of the Best American Travel Writing series, and thus Boozehound is not just a book about cocktails, but a complete travelogue that combines a curious drinker's interest in the provenance of what he imbibes with an adventurous voyager's gusto for the open road. Wilson guides us through stories of spirits such as St-Germain, Karlsson's Gold Vodka, Tuaca, and more. The trail is punctuated with lots of drinking, as well as cocktail recipes that capture the, yes, spirit of his journey.
Speakeasy: Classic Cocktails Reimagined, From New York's Employees Only Bar by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric: If you are to purchase only one cocktail book this year, it should be this one. Employees Only has become a New York institution because of the quality of its drinks. This book, which testifies to the greatness of the classic American cocktail, offers great history on the drinks as well as excellent reinventions of many of the best ones. The recipes are clear, well-tested, and, above all, easy to make at home.