DREAMERS OF THE VALLEY OF PLENTY by Cheryll Aimeé Barron

DREAMERS OF THE VALLEY OF PLENTY

A Portrait of the Napa Valley
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Harmless profiles of Napa Valley residents, mostly folks involved in the wine business, from freelancer Barron. Barron wants to take the measure of California's fabled wine region, ``discover its essential qualities,'' get inside that hybrid society, with its stew of nationalities, temperaments, and expectations. As she sees it, there is no better way to get to know a place than through portraits of its populace (drinking in the landscape is ``time wasted''). The profile of Swiss vineyard owner Donald Hess is typical: goodly page space given to family history (Donald was particularly fond of the family cook), discussions of food and architecture, a tour of the home and garden, what it means--oenologically and metaphysically--to make a bottle of wine. AndrÇ Tchelistcheff--Russian transplant, winemaker, teacher, legend--gets the same gentle, meandering treatment, as does Joe Heitz (of German descent): a grump, francophobe, and maker of the famed Martha's Vineyard Cabernet. Barron admires the ``simple, shared cherishing of the land and its produce,'' a way of life the Louis Martini family might have patented, their operation typical of the down-home, old-style Italian-American winemaking tradition. A clutch of priggish Frenchmen (among them Christian Moueix, late of ChÉteau Petrus and its $450 bottles of wine) get less coddled handling from Barron--she doesn't appreciate the excoriations they heap on California and its wines. Unfortunately, the writing is often wooden (``Once in the Napa Valley you also find yourself in places in the world you have visited or left behind'') and the portraits come across as bland personal snippets--nobody leaps out of the page at you, nobody causes a stink or sensation. Barron is unable to conjure a big picture of the valley, and her Napa remains a mystery to the reader. Maybe she should have looked at the landscape after all. (b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-684-81295-9
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1995