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Copyright © 2018
Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for December 2000


Dr. Judith Taylor,
author of Good Book #2.

111. Xmas—Give A Wine Book


Bad Books, Good Books

"It can be argued that the beginning of serious winemaking in North America was the summer day in 1769 when a Franciscan friar, Padre Junipero Serra, rode in on his white horse...[arriving] at the newly-dedicated mission where the next morning he planted the Mission grape cuttings he had brought with him in his saddlebag."

...from a 463-page wine book by a major publisher.

The above is absolutely accurate, except

  • There was no white horse.
  • There were no Mission-grape cuttings.
  • The stake-and-bushes mission was not founded by Father Serra until 15 days after his arrival.

    That's my idea of a bad book. Here are some good ones to consider for your Christmas list.


    Good Books

    Good Book #1
    "Junipero Serra, 1713-84, established the first mission [in what now is California] at San Diego in 1769. By tradition, sentiment, and misinformation, the first California wines have been traced [erroneously] to vines he brought to San Diego...But he did have a hand in getting the province's first wine produced in 1782."

    ... from the 441-page wine book A Companion to California Wine, by the ultra-reliable wine historian Charles Sullivan (who was kind enough to give me his duplicate set of the American Journal of Enology & Viticulture).


    Good Book #2
    "The Spanish brought cuttings to California, their final colony in the New World."

    "In spite of the very primitive way in which cuttings were transported [to California] and the difficulty in keeping them properly watered once planted, they thrived."

    "The variety brought by the Spanish to California is still known as the Mission."

    ...from the 316-page book by my neighbor, Dr. Judith Taylor.

    Whoa! What's so unusual about another book saying the Spanish brought the first Mission cuttings to California? Answer: She's talking about olives, not grapes. Yup, the Franciscans brought the first olives to California, and both the grape and the olive varieties were known as the mission! For the first account of the vineyard-friendly olive's rise in California, buy: The Olive In California, History of an Immigrant Tree by Dr. Judith Taylor, M.D., Ten Speed Press, Berkeley & Toronto, $32.50.


    Good Book #3
    "The Korbels—Francis, Anton, and Joseph—from Bohemia, founded a winery which later bought an old vineyard-winery established in 1890 by another Bohemian, Joseph Prosek, a San Francisco physician. In Sonoma, Joseph had 90 acres cleared and planted grape vines and olive trees.

    ...from the 456-page History of the Sonoma Viticultural District, Ernest Peninou, assisted by Unzelman and Anderson, Nomis Press, Santa Rosa, California. So, if you have a friend interested in the origins and early life of Sonoma wines, then this is a wonderful gift, full of details not available in any other modern wine book.


    Good Book #4
    And last, to put a smile in the Christmas stocking, listen to these words from an "unabashed California wine chauvinist."

    "There are no shortcuts when it comes to learning about wine. You sit down with a bottle and a glass [and learn] one sip at a time. It is hard work, but then again, you could be studying organic chemistry."

    "I was born in California but grew up in Connecticut and have never forgiven my parents for moving."

    ...from the 214-page Sip By Sip, An Insider's Guide to Learning All About Wine by Michael Bonadies, Doubleday, $13.


    Postscript -Good Book #5

    A late arrival, the handsome Private Reserve, Beaulieu Vineyard and the Rise of Napa Valley, by award-winning journalist Rod Smith. "This book tells perhaps the most important story in the history of California wine," according to British critic Hugh Johnson. There's a $45 regular edition and a $65 deluxe edition. To obtain a copy for a suprise Christmas gift, contact Master of Wine Joel Butler at JOEL.BUTLER@UDVNA.COM, or FAX (707) 963-5920.


    This page created December 2000