happy trails

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wine books fall into simple categories.

1) Books for geeks – stuffed with technical information, poorly written, and boring to most readers.

2) Silly attempts to “demythologize” or “take the snobbism out of” wine – the what-wine-to-drink- with-what-food books really dominate this category.

3) Reference works – the really good ones make up most of my own bookshelf.

4) History/Human interest – fun to read if well done, though they don’t really add to your wine tasting ability.

5) Practical guidebooks for those wishing to tour wine country. These are gold, when the writer has truly logged the miles and done his/her homework. Back in the 1980s, the chroniclers of choice for the Northwest were Ronald and Glenda Holden, whose “Touring the NW Wine Country” books – first separate for Oregon and Washington, then combined – offered a gracious mix of history, personality, practical information, and savvy wine analysis. I still use them today when researching long-forgotten wineries and vineyards.

Today the unchallenged cham-peen of wine travel writing here in the Northwest is Steve Roberts, who calls himself the WineTrails Guy. His first book, WineTrails of Washington, is still the best reference for those wanting to hit the road in this state, though badly in need of updating, given the tsunami of new wineries that has hit in the last couple of years. But Roberts has been busy elsewhere, spending a year on the winding back roads of Oregon, and his “WineTrails of Oregon – A guide for uncorking your memorable wine tour” (South Slope Productions, $24.95) is the result. Hefty (538 pages), reasonably comprehensive (200+ wineries), thoughtfully organized into 24 bite-sized individual tours, loaded with photos and maps, it is brimming with the author’s trademark joie de vivre.

This is not a critical book, nor does it pretend to be. The Holdens used to rate the visiting/tasting room experience; Roberts chooses not to. Perhaps it is simply his style, or it may be a more canny business decision, in order to place the book in as many tasting rooms as possible. My own experience has proven that writing critically about wines and wineries drastically reduces the number of tastings rooms that will sell your book. Ouch! But Roberts doesn’t need to critique, because what he does provide is such useful information. Without beating the drum for “demythologizing” wine, he does so quite effectively, for there is no better way for anyone to become swept up in the delight and fascination of this endlessly compelling topic than to get out there and visit wineries.

With WineTrails of Oregon in hand, you will find yourself itching to hit the road immediately.



Micahn said...

I got this book last week as a gift prior to a trip out to Walla Walla from Seattle.  I like the book very much..and it is signed by the author :-)

G. Tomlinson said...

The WineTrails books are a delight (and they make great gifts). Credit for their existence must also extend to Steve's good friend, and soon to be spouse, Kathleen von Reumont, who accompanies him on his frequent excursions and helps him enjoy the many wines he had discovered.

wawineman said...

An excellent companion book to PG's.

Anonymous said...

I guess what I dislike the most is that a winery "must" pay to be included in this book. Paul, your book is really about the best wines and wineries who are passionate and dedicated. Any marginal winery with the cash can "pay" to be in this book.

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