A skimming visit to the cultural-political dichotomy incarnated by the Napa and Sonoma valleys.
They may be neighbors, but they have gone their separate ways: Napa went upscale, elegant, and refined; Sonoma kept it real and welcomed the bohemians. Journalist Deutschman (The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, 2000) embraces this bifurcation—the irreverent and anachronistic vs. New Money, the innocents vs. the soulless, elitism vs. small town, residents vs. weekenders, Sebastiani vs. Mondavi—and quickly throws his lot with the free spirits and iconoclasts. They are an appealing group: subversive, mischievous, and fully aware that they are on to something very special in their Sonoma Valley homes. The Napa-ites are far less attractive, typified by the notorious Wine Auction and restaurants in which the farmers who supply the tony vegetables couldn't afford to eat. Of course, they make excruciatingly easy targets: “The plutocrats . . . could they ever imagine that they are making pilgrimages to listen to trailer people?” Readers may be irked or uncomfortable with this neat parting of the waters, figuring that maybe there is something under the crust that ought to be poked at. Not Deutschman, who operates in only a small amount of the acreage he could explore, spending most of his time following a local election and the fate of a couple of land-use initiatives. These are not uninteresting, and their impact will be critical to the future of Sonoma. But readers will wish for other impressions than those radiated by Deutschman's small circle of friends. When a small-scale farmer suggests that a ballot initiative isn't “as simple as people are making it out to be. People haven't looked at it from a whole perspective,” Deutschman characteristically fails to pull that comment up and thoroughly examine its roots. The characters and mindsets he portrays here are overly flogged and easily pigeonholed; a sampling from deeper down, where it might be democratically messy and maybe even revelatory, would have been nice.
Readable, but shallow and too neat.