By Michael Perlis, contributing editor of Eve's Wine (evewine101.com):
NOSE, a novel
Copyright 2013, 320 pages
NAPA: THE STORY OF AN AMERICAN EDEN
Copyright 1990, 529 pages
THE FAR SIDE OF EDEN
Copyright 2002, 381 pages
All by James Conaway:
THE STORY OF AN AMERICAN EDEN, published in 1990, and THE FAR SIDE OF
EDEN, published in 2002, together present a fascinating history of the
development of Napa Valley.
I don’t necessarily review current books. I typically
acquire books that happen to catch my eye, regardless of publication
date, and then get around to reading them sometime later – often a lot
later. But, not to worry as both non-fiction books are still available.
That being said, the first book mentioned above, NOSE, is about to be
published (more about it later), the second covers the history of the
Napa Valley from the mid-1960s through the 1980s (along with looks back
to earlier times), and the third book picks up where the second left
off, taking the reader through the next decade.
Very well written, and very interesting to read about the people
originally behind some of the iconic wineries still around today, as
well as those wineries no longer with us. The books also give great
insight into the various forces and factions that shaped the development
of the area – the growers, vintners, investors, conservationists,
developers, and of course the politicians.
I definitely recommend reading these books, particularly if you are
planning a trip to the area. Sometimes seeing those famous names,
especially the mega-wineries, one forgets that they were started by
people just like us. As is often the case, some became victims of their
own success and became huge and attractive to large corporate suitors.
Did wine quality suffer as a result? Well, that is only for the
reader/taster to judge. Fortunately, Napa (and wine regions in general)
always see an influx of new talent with the right pioneering spirit to
continue to excite us with great wines to please our palates.
Conaway is the author of several other books, has written for numerous
magazines, as well as being a renowned artist. I had the opportunity to
speak to Conaway to ask him if he had any plans to add a third
volume to his non-fiction Napa series. Well, the answer to that question
was “maybe”, but I was very excited to hear about his novel coming out
March 2013, called NOSE, which takes place in “Northern California wine
country”. While the site is non-specific, Conaway said it includes
elements from “Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties”. Taking place after
the “Bush crash, post 2008”, the book, while written as entertaining
fiction, looks at current issues in wine country as well as focusing on
wine critics, bloggers, and that perfect bottle of wine.
Conaway also maintains a blog: http://cjonwine.blogspot.com/ which
I suggest you check out. You can read the advance Kirkus review of
NOSE there, along with a lot of other interesting stuff.
And contrary to what I said at beginning of the article, NOSE is one
book I am really looking forward to reading as soon as it comes out. Conaway will be touring when the book comes out, so stay tuned for
updates on when he will be in Southern California.