A history of two pioneering California vintners.
Wine & Spirits contributor and James Beard Award winner Darlington focuses on two different approaches to winemaking in the 1970s: that of Leo McCloskey, leading Napa Valley consultant and president of Enologix, and that of Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards. McCloskey’s fine-tuned process relies on a scientific, by-the-numbers approach that results in critically acclaimed “biodynamic wine.” Grahm, instead, has focused on terroir, an earthier approach that relies on the manipulation of environmental factors, described by the winemaker as “a link to something we apprehend as being vast and unbounded [and] of a highly complex and organized world that abuts our own…An intimation of the vibrational persistence of phenomena, even if they are not manifestly, palpably present.” Both men are a source of eternal amusement to Darlington, with their yin and yang views on not only winemaking but education, philosophy and life itself. The author delivers plenty of witticisms, which may leave a smile on the face of readers well-versed in viticulture but, more often than not, fall flat. With so many intricate factors involved in winemaking—flavors, colors, regions, screw top vs. cork, tannins, sugar, etc.—competing for space in Darlington’s book, casual readers may get lost in the translation. Add to that expert musings on vine spacing, pre-crush grape sorting, lengthy hang-time and free-run juice, and reading becomes a chore.
A solid blend of wit and detail, but only recommended for experienced palates.