Author: James Conaway
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, Thomas Dune Books
Type of book: 2000s, wine, Napa Valley, California, mystery, "romance" old school vs new school
Year it was published: 2013
Bonfire of the Vanities meets Sideways—a saga of secrets, family, and a mystery bottle of wine that could change everything foreverIn a gorgeous wine valley in northern California, the economic downturn has put a number of dreams on hold. But above it all is esteemed critic Clyde Craven-Jones, a man whose ego nearly surpasses his substantial girth. As the novel opens he blind taste-tastes a sampling of Cabernets and to his confounded delight discovers one worthy of his highest score (a 20, on the Craven-Jones-on-wine scale), an accolade he's never before awarded.
But the bottle has no origin—and that's a problem for a renowned critic. An investigation into the mystery Cabernet commences, lead by the critic's wife, Claire, and a couple of underdogs—one a determined throw-back to ancient viticulture, the other a wine-stained, Pygmalion-esque scribbler—who by wit and luck rise on incoming tides of money, notoriety and, yes, love.
The stage is set for this true theatre of the varietals—where the reader joins the local vinous glitterati and subterranean enthusiasts hanging out in a seedy bar called the Glass Act. Soon Clyde Craven-Jones finds himself in a compromised position in a fermentation tank, a prominent family finds its internal squabble a public scandal, and a lowly vintner seeks redemption for a decades-old wrongdoing. This is a witty, delectable, and fast-paced novel that, like a good Cabernet, only grows more enjoyable once opened.
The characters didn't really feel like human beings, although he tried to make them human beings. Nothing really pulled me towards them and nothing kept me wondering about their interests. The wine and business and so forth was pretty confusing for me.
I have no idea. Probably modernism versus old school things?
Third person narrative from CJ's, Les's, and Sarah's points of views. I have to admit that the romance was poor and I was surprised that certain characters felt certain things for others. The "romance" didn't really feel like romance, and there is not enough historical background for me to connect with this story.
Not available. Did write other books such as Napa: The Story of an American Eden; The Far Side of Eden: New Money, Old Land, and the Battle for Napa Valley; Vanishing America: In Pursuit of Our Elusive Landscapes and so forth.
I wanted to like it, and to learn more about wine, but the book didn't do anything for me. The writing was confusing for me, as well as the characters. The book seems to be disjointed, the characters are confusing and boring, as well as the story itself. There was not a single one I liked or could relate to. While looking at the life in Napa Valley and among the premier vitners is interesting, it wasn't a five star interesting. I think I'm at an age where I can't really appreciate this type of writing yet.
Quick notes: I won this book on goodreads.com thus this review will appear in its entirety on goodreads as well as the blog
1 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)