Archive for the 'books' Category

Book giveaway: food-wine pairings that knock your world

pagedornenburg.jpgThe good people over at Forbes have assembled a pageview-baiting slide show with some top chefs and foods and wines that made them sing. Not literally, but you get the idea.

So let’s help them out with some content for their next slide show: what’s a particularly memorable food-wine pairing that you thought might work out but went awry, perhaps horrendously? While wine can no doubt conquer any culinary terrain as we have seen in our “impossible food-wine pairings,” there are still some clunkers that knock your world rather than rock it. Take, for example, zinfandel and grilled eggplant, which I paired one day only to the effect of unleashing tannin-on-tannin warfare in my mouth.

Hit the comments with your clunkers and you will be entered into a random drawing to win a prize: a new copy of the comprehensive food pairing book What to Drink with What You Eat, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg.

Post your comment by Monday to qualify, check back here on Tuesday to see if you were the winner.

Vino Italiano: Wine book club #1

Bill LeBlond, head of food and wine books at Chronicle Books, spoke at the wine writers’ shindig I attended last week in Napa. In a panel about book publishing, he explained that publishers only have two catalogs a year, spring and fall, and that a book only gets one shot at a full page in the front of the catalog, in the season it is released. Thereafter, it is relegated to the back of the catalog, or the “backlist” with a small cover image sometimes called a “tombstone” (ouch!). Some trendy books have a pop and then head to an early grave. But the best titles sell well from the backlist and represent the publisher’s (and author’s) gold mine. The long tail, if we can apply an internet term to the publishing medium that preceded it.

vinoitaliano.jpgPublisher Clarkson Potter must be thrilled about the success of Vino Italiano by Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch. I’ve got a hardback edition from 2002 and it is still going strong in paperback and has a new buying guide to boot (the boot of Italy?). It’s easy to understand why: divided into regions, each section starts with a brief, scene-setting overview that includes history and topography, has a map, and then moves on to a discussion of the grapes and wine styles, a list of some leading producers, some travel references, and then food pairings by chef Lidia Bastianich.

This comprehensive and readable reference has sold so well and it’s easy to understand why: if you want to learn more about Italian wine, this book is a great place to start. I met David Lynch recently and he told me that he has a book coming out this fall written with David Kamp (United States of Arugula): the Wine Snob’s Dictionary–sounds fun and full of zazz.

Head on over to McDuff’s Food and Wine Trail since he selected this book for us to review. From there we can see the roundup of what other bloggers had to say about this book in the inaugural edition of the Wine Book Club. Or post your thoughts about this book here or your favorite guide for learning about Italian wine!


Writing a book and taking a break

I’m going to be heading to an undisclosed location and locking myself in a man-sized safe for a bit. But don’t worry. Dick Cheney won’t be there.

It’s actually exciting news–I’m under contract to write a wine book for Simon & Schuster. I’m thrilled that they made me an offer and am especially thrilled that they have put it on the astonishingly fast track: The book is scheduled for release this fall. It’s going very well and it is shaping up to be a horrendously fun and informative practical guide. If you’re reading this, chances are that you’ll like the book because I got the contract for the book based on this blog.

The only problem is that I haven’t finished writing it yet. So that’s why it’s worth talking about now. In order to make the final push, I’m going to have to pull back on the blogging for a bit. I’ll still be posting here but the posts will be fun, interactive ones where you do a lot of the heavy lifting. Stick around! And send in your photos for our guessing and captioning!

Things should return to normal tempo in about a month.

Wine Book Club and Vino Italiano giveaway

vinolynch.jpgMove over Oprah, there’s a new book club in town! OK, this one probably won’t be quite as influential but it will be fun nonetheless.

Dr. Debs had the idea of starting a “virtual” book club where anyone interested could read a wine book and then talk about it. Since Deb wants to learn more about Italian wines this year, the first book up is Vino Italiano by Joe Bastianich and David Lynch. Your reports are due February 26 according to David McDuff who is coordinating this round. Either post them to your own blog if you have one, or in the comments section of another blog, such as this one or the new

I will be giving away one copy of the book to help get things started. In the comments of this post, tell us one wine that you’ve enjoyed from Italy recently. Post by midnight on Wednesday and check back here or your email on Thursday to see if you were selected at random from those who commented. The new paperback will ship directly from Amazon.

Giveaway: Signed copies of How’s Your Drink, by Eric Felten

felten.pngEric Felten saved the James Beard awards. When he arrived at the ceremony last May, he saw that one of the the three cocktails he had selected to be made was using fake lemon juice. Eegad! Faster than you could say “shaken AND stirred,” he dashed out to the nearest Jamba Juice and had them squeeze a half a gallon of real lemon juice. He saved the Sidecar at the ceremony.

His passion for purity may have won him acclaim from the attendees but it was his superb cocktails column in the Pursuits section of the Saturday Wall Street Journal that won him an award later in the evening.

This holiday season, his excellent, slim volume, entitled How’s Your Drink is available, published by Surrey Books. It’s doing phenomenally well, already the third best seller in Amazon’s drink category (and currently on backorder!). It’s small wonder since the rich stories engagingly put the 50 cocktail recipes in their social and historical context.

I shared some Torpedo Juice with Eric last week at the Pegu Club in Manhattan at his book launch party. I asked him if we could give away three signed copies to readers of this site and he gladly started signing.

To win one copy of the book, all you have to do to qualify for a random drawing is post a comment here saying what is your favorite cocktail. Post your comment by midnight on Friday to qualify. Check your email or this post over the weekend to see if you won.

How’s Your Drink, by Eric Felten, Surrey Books (Agate), $20

Giveaway: To Cork or Not to Cork, by George Taber

bookcork.jpgIn my classes, I pour dozens of bottles from around the world and, inevitably, one is “corked,” or contaminated by the chemical compound TCA (technically, 2,4,6-tricloroanisole). Of course it never arrives at the right moment (which would be during our discussion of sending wine back at at restaurant) and I don’t always have a backup bottle. But it’s a fun learning experience since we can all take in that mmmmoldy odor of wet newspapers stuck in a basement for two weeks.

But what’s a fun problem in a class setting can ruin dinner. The problem of “cork taint” was only scientifically identified in 1981. Since then it’s been a huge point of contention whether the industry should stop sealing bottles with bits of tree bark and shift to another closure, such as screwcaps, that eliminates the problem of TCA.

George Taber traces the arc of the cork story in his very readable book on the subject, “To Cork or Not to Cork.” Three copies of the book have landed here at the Dr. Vino World Headquarters and I’ll be giving them away in a random drawing. To throw your name in the hat, post a comment with your thoughts on corks, which can be as succinct as: love ’em, hate ’em, or indifferent.

Post your comment by Wednesday at midnight ET to qualify for the random drawing on Thursday. Check your email and this post that day to see if you are a winner.

To Cork or Not To Cork: Tradition, Romance, Science, and the Battle for the Wine Bottle, by George Taber ($26, Scribner)
Related: “Poll: Judge these books by their covers
Bringing closure: a screwcap-cork showdown

Poll: judge these books by their covers!

Book authors may not always envision their book covers the same way the publisher’s graphics team sees them. Sometimes a manuscript that the author has spent hundreds of hours on can be diluted by slap-dash cover art. And sometimes the graphic designer really “gets” the book and the image is good for a thousand words–or more!–of the book.

Here are some notable wine books and/or covers from 2007. Hopefully, we’ll judge them by more than just their covers soon. Check them out–then vote for the best cover art, after the jump! (And if you think they’re all “ick,” feel free to say that too.) Read more…

First Big Crush: Q&A with Eric Arnold

Three years ago in the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik wrote a scathing rebuke of wine writing, saying that what wine books “rarely seem to be about is drinking wine. Remarkably, nowhere in wine writing, including [Robert] Parker’s and [William] Echikson’s, would a Martian learn that the first reason people drink wine is to get drunk.” Gopnik would love Eric Arnold’s First Big Crush, which seems to try to right Gopnik’s perceived imbalance in wine writing single-handedly.

Eric, now a thirty-something News Editor at Wine Spectator magazine, tells a ribald tale of a year’s worth of winemaking (and “GD”–getting drunk) in New Zealand that would make Chaucer proud too. But in between the salty and perhaps unsavory bits is a fast-paced tale about how wine is made–mostly cleaning tanks and hoses followed by sales and marketing–and the kiwis who make it. I wrote Eric five questions I had about the book.

Practically no page goes by without some mention of genitalia, masturbation, general swearing or reference to being drunk. Why? Read more…


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