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A Vineyard in My Glass    by Gerald Asher order for
Vineyard in My Glass
by Gerald Asher
Order:  USA  Can
University of California, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

If you enjoy wine and are interested in knowing more about some of the places in California and abroad where some of the best wines are produced, you'll find this book a fascinating read.

The wine editor of Gourmet for three decades, Asher has traveled widely in search of the best vintages and he has written extensively about his discoveries for Gourmet and other publications.

This collection of essays is broken up into sections based on the countries where the vineyards are located. In the first and second parts of the book the author visits France, Italy, Spain and Germany. Then, in the closing portion, the focus is on California.

'How many times have we tasted a wine when first poured and thought, 'That's nice,' before resuming our conversation or continuing to eat?' asks Asher. 'Then, two or three sips later, we find ourselves thinking, 'This is really good,' and that's when we begin to wonder about it and ask ourselves why it is as it is.'

The question 'What makes this wine so good?' is at the heart of these essays. As you will see, there's not a simple answer. When he writes about a wine, Asher includes 'a snatch of history or geology or folklore' to define it and give it depth.

He also demonstrates the connection between the wine's character, its identity, and its origin or terroir.

'For me, an important part of the pleasure of wine is its reflection of the total environment that produced it,' explains Asher. 'If I find in a wine no hint of where it was grown, no mark of the summer when the fruit ripened, and no indication of the usages common among those who made it, I am frustrated and disappointed. Because that is what a good, honest wine should offer.'

Since these were articles that were written a while ago, at the end of each one there is a brief update to let the reader know what has changed over the years. In many cases a winery discussed in the piece may have changed hands or it no longer produces some of the wines mentioned.

Although the discussions of European wines and winemakers was interesting, I found that I was more drawn to Asher's look at Californian vineyards.

In nine short articles he shares his thoughts on Dry Creek Valley, Clarksburg, Carneros, Santa Barbara County, Edna Valley, Lodi, Mount Veeder, Rutherford in the Napa Valley and Anderson Valley.

What's also nice about the discussion of California winemakers is that many of their vintages can be easily found on the shelves of local wine merchants; thus, you can sample the wines you read about.

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