Fresh Reads for Fall

By Kerry Newberry

The air is crisp; crimson leaves are falling and dusk paints the horizon cobalt hues earlier each evening. Autumn is upon us, and there is no better time than now to stock up on books for brisk winter nights. OWP reached out from coast to coast and asked three notable bookshops for their top wine and food reads, ranging from guidebook to memoir to anything in-between.

As November turns misty and the pitter-patter of raindrops persist, we hope you find the perfect escape deep in the pages of one of these good books — or for techies, the virtual pages of an iPad.

Sylla McClellan, owner of the charming Third Street Books in downtown McMinnville, selects “Opus Vino” (DK Publishing, Inc., October 2010, $75) as the autumn addition to a wine lover’s library. “This is a large format hardcover encyclopedic tome about wine,” she said. With ample photos and maps, the reference book is organized by country, and then broken down into regions, districts and wineries, covering more than 4,500 individual wineries and spanning 800 pages.

Closer to home, McClellan’s chooses “Oregon Wine Country: A Great Destination” (Countryman Press, June 2010, $19.95). “There really hasn’t been something terribly up-to-date for this region, so this is nice to have [from a booksellers perspective] to sell to people touring the region.”

She also suggests the broader “Essential Wines and Wineries of the Pacific Northwest” (Timber Press, August 2010, $24.95) for a regional read. “A great gift book with Andrea Johnson’s wonderful photos, this book highlights select wineries and does a great job doing it. Less a guidebook and more a glossary of winemaking, wine writer Cole Danehower explains different varietals, as well as terminology [like Biodynamic] and the local geography.”

Tracey Trudeau, the new book buyer at the iconic one-block Powell’s City of Books in downtown Portland. shares creative picks that range from armchair travel to must-have local guides.

“My taste in wine books tends to be more hands-on rather than philosophical,” she said. Trudeau likes to bookend “Wine Trails of Oregon: A Guide for Uncorking Your Memorable Wine Tour” (Wine Trails NW, June 2009, $24.95) with “Breakfast in Bridgetown” (Bacon and Eggs Press, September 2008, $29) and “Happy Hour Guidebook: Portland” (Half Full Enterprises, 2010, $10.50) for a full-day excursion in the Willamette Valley and beyond.

She finds the self-guided local tour books to be proven hits with Portland visitors and denizens — plus she stashes the most current versions within reach for herself. “I keep Breakfast in Bridgetown in my car for last-minute breakfast and lunch destination decisions,” Trudeau said. “Portland Happy Hour is better for the beer fancier and cocktail afficianado, but not everybody enjoys wine the way I do, so it’s nice to be able to offer a different type of outing at the close of the day.”

Wine drinkers on the hunt for recession gems, consider “The Wine Trials 2011: The World’s Bestselling Guide to Inexpensive Wines” (Fearless Critic Media, September 2010, $14.95). Authors Robin Goldstein and Alexis Herschkowitsch have completely rewritten the guide with the “175 top wines under $15 that outscored $50-plus wines in rigorous brown-bag blind tastings.”

“I adore an inexpensive wine, but it is easy to get what you pay for,” Trudeau said. “The Wine Trials does a little footwork for you so that you can get a good deal on good wine. You do need to live in a larger city in order to find some of the wines, but Portland is certainly big enough.”

At the peak of winter, dive into Trudeau’s memoir pick and sip through the cultural crossroads of the Mediterranean: Sicily, with “Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey” (University of Nebraska Press, September 2010, $24.95). “Robert Camuto has amazing recall and presents his tales with such clarity that you feel you are noshing and imbibing with him,” Trudeau said. “You’d better be ready to open a good bottle of wine and prepare some appetizers before you start reading because the author’s tantalizing writing will goad you into snacking.”

Across the coast in Portland, Maine — also a culinary haven — co-owner Don Lindgren of Rabelais: Fine Books on Food, Wine & the Arts offered top sellers and personal favorites from the specialty book shop he runs with his partner and wife, Samantha Hoyt Lindgren. A boutique for the bookish, Rabelais carries out-of-print books as well as new editions, alongside prints, photographs and other ephemera, “all concerned with the pleasure of the senses.”

Which explains Lindgren’s favorite book of the year “Reading Between the Wines” (University of California Press, September 2010, $24.95). This long-awaited memoir from Terry Theise, an importer of Champagnes and Austrian and German wines, asks the reader: “What role does wine play in a soulful, sensual life? What constitutes beauty in wine, and how do we appreciate it?” Lindgren describes the book as less a memoir, like the books of Kermit Lynch or Neil Rosenthal, and more an investigation into the “whys” of wine.

Discover Norton, an obscure native American varietal that Virginians will know. “A good book on wine history can teach so much about wine today,” Lindgren said of food and wine writer Todd Kliman’s “The Wild Wine: A Forgotten Grape and the Untold Story of American Wine” (Clarkson Potter, May 2010, $25). “This book studies the saga of a single, now almost-unknown grape variety, and reveals much about how wine is made, and the character of those who enter the wine business.”

Escape to the Old World with James Lawther in “The Finest Wines of Bordeaux (Fine Wine Editions/University of California Press, October 2010, $34.95). A tome Lindgren recommends and the third guide to a single variety compiled by “the serious wine geeks at The World of Fine Wine magazine.”

Remember Mondovino? The provocative documentary about the Parkerization, globalization and industrialization of wine? The follow-up book by Jonathan Nossiter, “Liquid Memory: Why Wine Matters”(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, September 2010, $15) is a must-read for ardent advocates for terroir. “Bill Buford, author of ‘Heat,’ called this ‘the greatest book ever written about wine,’” Lindgren said.

The last pick is a great collection for holiday entertaining or as a gift to your favorite cocktail-lover. “Speakeasy: The Employees Only Guide to Classic Cocktails Reimagined” (10 Speed Press, October 2010, $24.95). “Easily my favorite cocktail book of the season, written by the folks from New York’s Employees Only bar,” Lindgren said. “Inside you’ll find the classics, each given careful attention and with a tweak or two that brings them to perfection.” 

Kerry Newberry is a Pinot-sipping, vineyard-hopping wine and food writer. She resides in Portland.

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