Monday, November 06, 2006

Red, White and Drunk All Over

Natalie MacLean has quickly become one of Canada's best-known food and wine writers. Her e-newsletter Nat Decants has thousands of subscribers, and it was named one of North America’s best food and wine newsletters at the 2005 James Beard Awards.

Hailing from decidedly non-wine country, Cape Breton, MacLean has a great, non-stodgy approach to wine and writing about wine, as her new book’s title – Red, White, and Drunk All Over clearly shows.

The book is less a “here’s what wine you drink with turkey” guide than a journey through the world of wine, in the spirit of books like Peter Mayle’s A Good Year or Rex Pickett’s Sideways. It begins with her wine epiphany moment with burgundy and ends with dinner with novelist and wine writer Jay McInerney.

MacInerney has his own wine book just out, a non-fiction collection of wine writing called A Hedonist in the Cellar. It was the Edmonton Journal's "Sunday Pick" yesterday, with Richard Helm writing:

"Jay McInerney brings a novelist's voice to wine writing, one that's matured in interesting fashion since his 1984 bestseller, Bright Lights, Big City. When he's not writing novels, McInerney serves as wine columnist for House & Garden magazine.

When it comes to wine, McInerney knows his stuff but he also knows how to write in entertaining fashion. He once offered this advice for telling a Burgundy from a Bordeaux: "If it's red, French, costs too much, and tastes like the water that's left in the vase after the flowers have died, it's probably Burgundy."

A Hedonist in the Cellar serves as a great guide, no matter how sophisticated your palate, to what's reliable and new in a world of endless variety. If you've ever been to Oregon and sampled a native Pinot Gris and wondered at its heritage, McInerney has the goods."

If you are an Oregon wine fan, you should pick up The Grail: a year ambling and shambling through an Oregon vineyard in pursuit of the best pinot noir wine in the whole wild world by Brian Doyle. Publisher’s Weekly had nice things to say about it:

"Take the red hills of Oregon's Willamette Valley, a father-son winemaking outfit and one madcap wordsmith on a quest for the world's finest pinot noir. Let them ferment, and you've got a charming look inside the operations at Don and Jesse Lange's winery. … Perfect for wine aficionados and word lovers, this is a full-bodied, ebullient account."
* Update Nov. 7: John Allemang reviews MacInerney's book today in his Book-A-Day column in the Globe and Mail ($). Allemang is much less a fan of the book than Richard Helm in the Edmonton Journal, implying that the writing is pretentious and the wines discussed out of the reach of most readers.
"Jay McInerney is what even wine geeks must acknowledge as a real writer. When the overpriced bottles are emptied, he doesn't just scratch down a 90+ rating and attach a few lush descriptors like "rose-petal" or "eucalyptus." No, for the high-life Manhattan novelist and globetrotting House & Garden wine columnist, the literary aspirations are far, far classier."


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