Book and Wine Review: Unplanned Parenthood: Confessions of a Vagabond Cellarhand, by Darren Delmore of Delmore Wines

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews, Wine Reviews | Posted on 02-10-2021

Unplanned Parenthood is the third installment in Darren Delmore’s Confessions of a Vagabond Cellarhand series and it’s very much in the same vein as the first two (Slave to the Vine, Lucky Country). It’s one man’s intensely vulnerable take on his journey in wine and search for contentment, stuffed to the brim with over-indulgence and poor decision making. It’s sad and frustrating, punctuated with enough laugh-out-loud moments and simple joys to pull you along—kind of the way life itself feels sometimes.

As I mentioned before, I was fortunate to run into Darren while cruising through Paso Robles a couple years ago. He was an incredibly gracious host to my wife and I at the Tin City co-op where he operates, even scaling the tall stacks of barrels with a wine thief to give us some samples. For this book release, he actually sent me some bottles (thanks, Darren!) to enjoy. I found his Pinots to be genuinely gulpable, and I greedily downed them, the Syrahs too. See my tasting notes below (“Read the rest of this entry”), and check out Darren’s website for more info.

In Lucky Country, Darren worked the harvest at Two Hands in Australia, and in Unplanned Parenthood we find him back in California, this time working at Goldeneye in Anderson Valley. It’s 2010 and he’s 34 years old. 

And it all starts with a bang.

One morning just before starting work at Goldeneye, Darren wakes up with a knee in his back, gun leveled at his head, and immediately second guesses the wisdom of planting that plot of Petite Sirah on a pot farm with his friend Willie. Luckily, they’re able to skirt jail time, as the authorities let them go, but it’s a scared-straight experience for Darren—at least for the moment.

The book covers a lot of ground, taking readers from California to Two Hands in Australia and back. (Those who’ve read Lucky County will be up to speed on the character lineup in Australia.) Darren drinks wine and beer (like, a lot); serenades friends, ladies, and crowds with his guitar; surfs some killer locales; walks with trepidation yet frothing desire into one fling after another, hoping for a love that lasts; and does his cellarhand thing. I also concluded by like page thirty that Darren should probably lay off the edibles.

This episode in the trilogy is more about Darren’s search for love than anything else. And that’s why I call the book intensely vulnerable. This is a real person, baring his soul on the written page, putting himself upon the altar of public critique and judgment. I judged Darren as I read. You’ll judge him too. That’s human. But I also think it’s the point. It’s all therapy: for Darren, who no doubt did some genuine self-reflection through the writing process, and for readers, who are called to reflect upon their own life choices, for better or worse.

Darren is building a great little brand here, based on his own style: oceanic, vagabond, raggedy, but with enough follow-through to actually pull off three legit books, a website, and 5+ bottlings of Pinot and Syrah. I dig it.

My Recommendation
I love reading Darren’s prose. It’s straightforward and honest—Hemingway’d approve. But I’m not a huge fan of the graphic nature of some of the scenes. I also struggle with the title, which is a bit misleading, since the “parenthood” component comes too late in the book and doesn’t play the role I’d expect. Those two disclaimers aside, Unplanned Parenthood is entertaining cover-to-cover, laugh-out-loud at times, and just a solid weekend read. We’ll see if Darren has a fourth installment in him!

Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: The Mythology of Wine, by Arthur George

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews | Posted on 01-25-2021

You don’t realize the extent to which wine has influenced humanity until you read a book like this. As things we consume go, perhaps only water has more significance to us, but it’s pretty close. Arthur George’s The Mythology of Wine outlines how wine has inspired our collective imagination through the ages, how it has shaped our mythology and, ultimately, our lives.

George begins with the biblical story of Noah and traces wine mythology through ancient Mesopotamia, Canaan, Israel, and Egypt; Greek and Roman civilizations; and into modern Europe. Wine and religious belief are the greatest of bedfellows, and appropriately much of George’s book is dedicated to wine in the Bible. While I take issue with some of George’s conclusions about biblical history and text, I’ll also say I’m grateful to now have a better grasp of where wine history sits within the context of the Bible.

The greatest value of this book is its comprehensive treatment of the mythology of Dionysus. I count myself among those who had reduced this complex god to a synonym for wine and revelry. As George shows, he was so much more than that; his mythology is “vast, complex, confusing, and often contradictory.”

Dionysus was at times associated with, among other things, vegetation, crops, the forest, the mountains, the sea, beer, mead, and honey. The association with beer is noteworthy because, as George tells us, in stark contrast to wine, beer was regarded as the drink of the uncivilized. A mythology full of contradictions, indeed.

In the book’s most interesting section, George draws parallels between Dionysus and Jesus Christ. He explains that both were associated with the transformation of water into wine, or vice versa. This has led some to theorize that Jesus’s water-into-wine miracle at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11) may have developed “as a competitive response to the cult of Dionysus,” whose presence loomed large at the time John was written. Further, George suggests that New Testament (specifically, the Gospel of John) vine/wine imagery may have been a rhetorically expedient tool used by early Christians to convey the Gospel in Dionysian terms, which were familiar to the people of that time.

With any work of nonfiction, I like to know the credentials of the author. I’d expect a book like this to be written by a university professor, but George is actually a career lawyer who pursues his passion for history and mythology on the side. That’s no demerit, as I truly believe that, rather than title, what matters is the depth and breadth of knowledge one possesses on a topic. George has also lectured extensively and presented at a range of conferences. You can check out his blog: Mythology Matters.

My Recommendation
George achieves a lot in this little book. I never realized how rich and nuanced wine mythology is. This is a great book for a quick intro on the topic, and for those (like me) interested in the intersections of world history, the Bible, and wine.

Book Reviews: Brut Force and Firing Blancs, by Peter Stafford-Bow

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews | Posted on 12-09-2020

I’ve gotten a bit behind on my reading, but have just had the chance to read the two sequels to Corkscrew (which I reviewed back in 2018) by Peter Stafford-Bow: Brut Force and Firing Blancs. What I’ve found is that the Felix Hart novels, as they’re called, are extremely well written (the dialogue in particular) and keep the reader engaged on fast-paced misadventures full of intrigue, absurdity, and, of course, wine.

Brut Force picks up with Felix, as always, caught between. As a second-year Minstrel of Wine, he must choose which “house” to join, a dilemma right out of Harry Potter. The obvious choice for a toper like Felix is House Hedonist, where the beautiful minstrels drink, play, and revel in unspeakable pleasures. He certainly wouldn’t choose a more staid house like House Terroirist, House Mercantilist, or House Archivist. But things (and Felix’s agency in the matter) get complicated when he finds himself in the middle of a plot to rig a prestigious Pinot Noir tasting.

There are twists and turns, scenes of imaginative flair I’ve come to expect from Stafford-Bow, and of course the ever-necessary femme fatale.

In Firing Blancs, the third and latest book in the series, Felix heads to South Africa, where he’s been askedor rather compelled, after the death of his boss, who choked to death on a bottle of wine Felix servedto save his company from a PR nightmare. There’s strong evidence that one of the company’s main suppliers, who brings in a very nice profit margin, is using slave labor. All Felix has to do is get them to change their act, and quick!

Felix—seemingly always at no fault of his own—stumbles and bumbles his way through hairy entanglements involving a shady brothel owner, the leader of a radical anti-white faction, and a charity called Tears of Pity. To boot, in order to wrangle himself out of the mess, Felix has to orchestrate and elaborate scheme to defraud the governing body that grants “Fairly Trod” status (basically, a “Certified Organic” stamp). It’s an African flair to the brilliant little world Stafford-Bow has constructed.

Ultimately, here’s the best way I can describe Felix Hart: He’s a man whose joie de vie gets him backed into a corner, where at the last moment, just before receiving his comeuppance, he pulls a “Hey, look over there!” and slips out the side door.

My Recommendation
I’d go so far as to call the Felix Hart novels a laugh riot (a phrase I’ve actually never used). If you’re into page turners full of British wit and general outrageousness, start with Corkscrew and work your way through. The first two books are definitely my favorite, as Firing Blancs lacks a robust lineup of unique characters that I’d come to expect from the novels.

Book Review: Exploring Wine Regions: Bordeaux

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews | Posted on 11-22-2020

I wish I were exploring wine regions right now. But, with an out of control pandemic, especially here in the States, I’m not going anywhere. Luckily, I’ve enjoyed some new wine books to satiate my desire to travel again.

One of my last big wine trips was to Bordeaux. It was actually my first time visiting, and I was finally able to explore the beautiful city and a bunch of different appellations. It was a much overdue time spent immersing myself in the wine, food and culture, and I met a lot of interesting people and visited some beautiful chateaux. Everyone knows Bordeaux, but a new book “Exploring Wine Regions: Bordeaux” offers anyone a chance to plan their own Bordeaux getaway in post-pandemic times.

Michael Higgins’ new book, which came out last month, seems like it has plenty of helpful information for Bordeaux novices and experts alike. An author, publisher and photojournalist, he also took the photographs for this book. And — wow — his talent shows. The book is packed with photographs, quite tastefully shot and arranged, with excellent clarity and depth. From classic vineyard views, to winemaking in action, food porn and architecture, Higgins’ hundreds of photos are a real star of the show.

This is not a Bordeaux wine history book. There are no detailed maps of appellations or soils, and there are plenty of books for that. Rather, this is a hefty number full of detailed information on specific chateaux and places to visit in Bordeaux, broken down region by region. Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: The Wines of South Africa

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews | Posted on 11-01-2020

In these times of pandemic and uncertainty, I’ve found some respite in reading travel books. Being stuck at home for months on end, I have spent a lot of time letting my mind wander as I plan and lust for travel in for post-pandemic times.

As a lover of South Africa and its wines, I was excited to read through Jim Clarke’s new book “The Wines of South Africa.” It has now been six years since my first and only trip to South Africa, where I spent three weeks checking out my three favorite things: waves, wine and wildlife. While reading Jim’s helpful book, I found myself revisiting so many amazing memories, and wishing to make more during future South Africa trips.

Jim Clarke is a writer, educator and all-around South African wine guru. He first traveled to South Africa in 2006, one what would be one of many trips as he delved into the people and places in this dynamic wine scene. Since 2013, he has worked as U.S. marketing manager for Wines of South Africa, the trade group that organizes and supports exports of South African wine. I’ve met Jim at trade events over the years — he always in his dapper fedora hat, me always in my less dapper newsie cap — and he is such a knowledgeable, personable, genuine guy, a great person to write this important book. Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: Chateau Musar: The Story of a Wine Icon, edited by Susan Keevil

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews | Posted on 08-19-2020

I find it curious that the regions that gave birth to wine are today so lacking in world renown for their wine. Lebanon and its Chateau Musar seem to be the exception. The Académie du Vin has just put out a beautiful volume, Chateau Musar: The Story of a Wine Icon, about the history of winery and its owners, the Hochar family (pronounced ho-shar, as I learned). Front and center, of course, is Serge Hochar, the dynamic family figurehead who has inspired so many with his charm and chameleon, terroir-driven wines.

Chateau Musar was founded in 1930 by Gaston Hochar Sr., who fell in love with wine while studying medicine in Paris, eventually diverting from that career to one as a winemaker in Lebanon. Children soon followed, among them brothers Serge and Ronald, who would inherit the family business. Serge would study winemaking at the University of Bordeaux and take over winemaking duties from his father in 1959. Ronald—the practical counterweight to Serge’s ceaseless charisma—took ownership of all things financial.

But how does any winery survive in a land that refuses to be at peace? “People fought their wars on our land” is Serge’s assessment of it all: the wars and constant tensions to which the Hochars have sadly become accustomed. All they’ve ever wanted is to make wine worthy of the country they love, despite (and maybe even a bit for) its irascibility. And they have done just that, failing to produce wine just once (1976) in the Chateau’s ninety-year history.

As the book details, the Hochars and their team often risked their lives to make wine: pickers picking grapes beneath artillery and gunfire from dug-in militias; Serge, on several occasions, somehow avoiding execution checkpoints (where “the wrong last name or accent” could mean death) on the road from the Musar vineyards in the Beka’a Valley to the winery in Ghazir; and the time Serge arrived at the winery just moments before two rockets hit the road on which he had just been driving.

Through the decades, through so much very real danger, it’s Chateau Musar’s longevity that’s most astonishing.

When times were tough in Lebanon, as they often were, Serge and Ronald were wise enough to look for markets elsewhere. (And wise enough to move their families out of the country!) London is where the momentum really picked up, with the Hochars insisting on hosting promotional tastings themselves, knowing that they alone (especially Serge) could captivate wine buyers with the story of their wine. That today Chateau Musar is sold in 70 countries worldwide is a testament to their hard work, and frankly to the winery’s incredible story.

Family, Lebanon, and wine—that’s what the Hochars are about. With Serge gone (tragically, he drowned in the Mexico sea on New Years Eve 2014), the mantle has been taken up by Serge’s sons, Gaston and Marc, and Ronald’s son, Ralph. Family businesses don’t always survive generational hand offs, but Chateau Musar is looking to do so once again, and looks to be in good hands with these passionate, driven three. 

I actually learned as much about Lebanon in this book as I did the Hochar family. That’s only appropriate. Chateau Musar simply cannot be separated from its cultural and geopolitical context. My curiosity, too, has been piqued, as I’ll now be on the hunt for a bottle of Musar white—a wine Serge insisted be served after his reds—a blend of Obaideh and Merwah, two varietals I’ve never tried.

Next time I drink a Musar, I’ll think of the land it came from and the people who dared make it.

My Recommendation
This is a perfect wine lover’s coffee table book. The volume is nicely bound and full of beautiful photographs. I read it cover to cover and loved it; but practically speaking, I think it will to folks mostly as a pretty book to sit on the table for guests to thumb through.

Book Review: Wine Girl by Victoria James

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews | Posted on 03-18-2020

With Wine Girl, Victoria James has taken a blacklight to the bedsheet of somm life. A gritty, gripping autobiography of an incredibly resilient and gifted woman forging her own path very much despite circumstance, it’s arrived at exactly the right cultural moment. James pulls no punches, laying bare the traumas of her life, including episodes of sexual assault, and succeeds in delivering a book terrifying (in its truth) and inspiring all at once.

James, whose claim to fame is being America’s youngest sommelier, takes us through her story from childhood to her late twenties (she’s 29 now, if my math is correct). Her home life was turbulent: her father manipulating and controlling everyone and her mother too depressed to be a mother. At a point, James was forced to step up and play parent to her two siblings, whom it’s evident she treasures. But eventually, she needed an escape and, at 13, she took a job as a waiter.

The most chilling, hard-to-read moment comes when James shares how she was raped, at 15, by a customer who frequented the diner where she worked. There’s no shying away from anything in Wine Girl

While she didn’t find a safe haven in the restaurant industry, James did find purpose, a sense of belonging, and some coworker-mentors to learn from along the way.

She eventually developed an interest in wine, particularly its ability to carry a sense of place, and began taking Wine School classes. Ironically, the skills she developed during the traumas of her childhood turned out to be the exact skills she needed to become an excellent sommelier: a strong work ethic, a preternatural capacity for retaining information, a desire to make people happy, and an ability to thrive and self-motivate with little encouragement from others. At 21, James earned her Certified Sommelier pin from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Just like so many books that deglamorize the winemaker’s life, Wine Girl exposes the realities of being a sommelier. What I didn’t expect, and what will take most readers aback, is the level of abuse James has endured in her young career. And she talks about it so nonchalantly, as if numb after years of just gutting things out. Some of the stories struck me as particularly egregious, even criminal. Like the time she was tricked into drinking roofied wine by a table of rowdy cowboys, or when a notable master somm (she doesn’t say who) slaps her backside at an event. Wine Girl sometimes feels like an endless sequence of men acting like children and abusing their positions of power. The lion’s share of the blame, in my view, falls on the managers and coworkers who turned a blind eye to James’s plight.

Wine Girl is a reminder that there’s brokenness everywhere—making James’s perseverance stand out as that much more incredible. She never let bitterness consume her. She was cracked by the cruelty and selfishness of so many, but never shattered. And in the end, she finds forgiveness and hope for redemption.

My recommendation
I doubt many men would make a book called Wine Girl their first choice. That’s a shame, because men, especially men in the food and wine industries, need to hear James’s story. On top of the eye-opening, “wow, I never knew” aspect, it’s just a good, attention-keeping read—for women too, of course.

Book Review: Volcanoes and Wine: From Pompeii to Napa, by Charles Frankel

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews | Posted on 02-25-2020

“Why is there such a magic alliance between volcanoes and wine?” Geologist Charles Frankel goes looking for answers in Volcanoes and Wine, blending history, geology, and viniculture in an illuminating tour of some of the most curious winegrowing locales on earth.

Across eight chapters, Frankel covers several volcanoes of consequence to wine. Each chapter follows a similar construction, beginning with a general history and then moving on to volcanic history and the specifics of how the grapes are grown and the wine is made. Frankel also provides breakdowns of key varieties, cultivars, and producers, as well as detailed travel advice for ambitious readers who wish to visit. 

With the exceptions of Napa, Oregon, and Hawaii, the book is entirely European, with Italy—home to Mounts Etna and Vesuvius and the volcanic Aeolian Islands—getting the most love. Whether this is a product of Frankel merely writing about what he knows and where he’s traveled, or of Europe really possessing the only volcanoes of note to winegrowing, I would have liked to see a more global view.

I was most captivated by Spain’s Canary Islands, located off the coast of northwestern Africa. There, on the island of Tenerife, you’ll find 12,280 foot Mount Teide (last eruption: 1909) and the highest vineyards in Europe at 5,800 feet. On the island of Lanzarote, vines are grown in bowl-shaped dugouts with stones lining the rim. This technique, developed in the eighteenth century by enterprising villagers looking for fertile soil beneath post-eruption ash, affords the vines protection from the wind and traps what little rain falls on the island each year.

I continue to be fascinated by the feats of those who stubbornly insist on making wine wherever they want.

Still, stubbornness can be either admirable or foolish, and I’ve often wondered why people choose to live in places prone to natural disasters. (But I guess I’m talking more about hurricanes and tornadoes, which are annual threats, unlike volcanoes.)

There’s clearly something worthwhile (and worth the risk) about living in the shadows of volcanoes, because throughout history people have returned time and time again to the slopes of these irascible mountains, hellbent on bottling the incredible flavor latent in their soils. Take the Olivieros of the Fuocomuorto estate near Mount Vesuvius, for example. Their vines were planted in 1780 atop a lava flow from 1631, abandoned in 1906 after post-eruption mud flows, and then resurrected in 2006.

Look also at the way men and women have fought back against Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano. In 1669, a priest named Diego Pappalardo led fifty men armed with pick axes and iron bars in an attempt to divert an advancing lava flow. They would have succeeded had it not been for an angry mob from a neighboring village, which would have come into the path of the diverted lava flow, who ran them off with clubs and pitchforks. 1983 saw a failed attempt by local officials and volcanologists to use dynamite to reroute a lava flow. And in 1993 authorities successfully tamed a slow-moving lava flow with a combination of rocks (formed into a dam 66 feet high), dynamite, and 8,000 pound concrete blocks dropped by helicopter. 

Volcanoes and Wine will certainly stir your imagination. It’ll also fan your wanderlust. Both because it showcases exotic places flowing with wine and because the only way to have a taste is to travel. You won’t find these wines in Costco. 

My recommendation
Frankel’s book is well-researched, with the right blend of history, science, and wine. He did lose me a couple times, wandering off to other topics like coffee growing in Hawaii, but all in all, it’s a fun flyover of volcanic wine, with some really cool history and stories thrown in. Wine-drinking history buffs, this is your book.

Book Review: Wine Reads: A Literary Anthology of Wine Writing, edited by Jay McInerney

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews | Posted on 04-23-2019

Book CoverI read so many books about wine, but few I’d call “literary.” With Wine Reads, Jay McInerney has skillfully brought together selections from some of the finest pieces of wine writing, both fiction and nonfiction, many of which I’ve never even heard of.

After reading cover to cover, I certainly agree that each of the selected works possesses something—“superior or lasting artistic merit,” according to Google—that elevates it into the realm of the literary.

As you’d expect, McInerney includes classics like Kermit Lynch’s Adventures on the Wine Route and George Taber’s Judgment of Paris. It’s great to revisit these foundational pieces of wine literature, but what I most enjoyed were the lesser-knowns, like Roald Dahl’s fun short story “Taste” and especially a 2015 essay that appeared in The Yale Review called “My Father and The Wine,” by scholar and writer Irina Dumitrescu.

Dumitrescu relates her memories of growing up in a Romanian immigrant family, making wine and so much else from scratch. Interspersed are honest moments capturing her family dynamic, and glimpses of what I want my relationship with my own children to be one day. I like this bit the best: “They will want to suck at the siphon hose and taste whatever you taste. They will laugh and smack their lips and assure you that the wine is very good. When you leave the cellar they will insist on carrying the bottle to the dinner table.”

I adored journalist A.J. Liebling’s “Just Enough Money,” where he argues that poverty lends itself to a special appreciation of food, and thus great food writing. The wealthy, on the other hand, tend to indulge and oversaturate because money allows. It’s “the crippling handicap of affluence.” There’s also a five-page piece from author, poet, and bon vivant Jim Harrison called “Wine.” It’s utterly bizarre, but I devoured it.

On the fiction side of things, there’s of course a chapter from Rex Pickett’s Sideways, as well as something from Michael Dibdin’s A Long Finish, a novel in the Aurelio Zen crime series.

Wine Reads contains twenty-seven selections in all, running the gamut of topics: the Mondavi spat, Nazi-occupied Champagne, and vine sabotage at La Romanée-Conti, to name a few more. It’s a book you can read piecemeal or cover-to-cover; although I prefer the latter, because it allows you to see what great diversity of thought and talent there is in the world of wine writing.

My Recommendation
I’ve ditched my Wine Spectator subscription. This is the kind of wine writing I want to read, the kind with literary flair. Wine Reads is for those of us who tend to find themselves with a glass in one hand and Henry James in the other.

Book Review: Lucky Country: Confessions of a Vagabond Cellarhand, by Darren Delmore

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews | Posted on 04-01-2019

Lucky Country CoverLucky Country is the second installment in Darren Delmore’s nonfiction series Confessions of a Vagabond Cellarhand. (I reviewed the first, Slave to the Vine, back in 2017.) Like its predecessor, Lucky Country is an unvarnished look at cellarhand life during harvest, replete with ubiquitous and unabashed hedonism. Yet somehow, once again, Delmore plays it off without being overly gratuitous, and does great work in illustrating a parallel between the messiness of winemaking and that of human relationship itself.

Lucky Country picks up in February 2010 with Darren on his way to Australia on a harvest contract with Two Hands, escaping both a sexual fling that’s starting to smell of commitment and the sour way his work at Hirsch Vineyards had ended. His journey nearly ends before it starts, at the hands of a prying Australian customs agent. But somehow Darren is able to talk his way out of trouble, despite not having a proper work visa and looking like an unshaven vagrant who’s just Cookie-Monstered several handfuls of pot cookies on the flight over—which, in reality, he had.

The action proceeds linearly from there. Darren arrives at Two Hands, ready to work. He learns the nuances of the cellar there and meets a string of interesting characters. My favorite is Darren’s roommate Timmy, who I came to loathe for his mooching and stingy ways. Desperate to save money, Timmy resorts to eating cereal for every meal (literally), yet has no problem taking more than his portion of the bottles opened by others to share.

After four-or-so months, and the mishaps and drama that inevitably follow from overconsumption, drug use, and close proximity to so many interesting and complex individuals—and for that matter, from juggling flings with several alluring women—work comes to an end and Darren heads back to California for a short break before the harvest season there.

Like the first book in the series, Lucky Country did an admirable job of transporting me into this snippet of time in the life of someone very different from myself. And yet, we find common ground in our passion for wine.

On a personal note, my wife and I happened to be passing through Paso Robles on vacation last week, and thanks to a bit of serendipity we were able to meet up with Darren. He graciously offered to let us taste through four barrels of his wine, his second commercial vintage, each about 100 cases. He rents space at ONX Wines in Tin City and makes Pinot Noir and cold-climate Syrah under an eponymous label, Delmore. I found both approachable, balanced, and conspicuously unique. I’ve never had a Syrah that smelled so much like a handful of fresh soil, nor a Pinot that fills a glass with so many blueberry-purple hues. He has a mailing list and there’s more info on his website.

My Recommendation
Lucky Country is entertaining, funny, and real. What more can you ask of a book? It’s a quick read at only 166 pages and I’d say pick it up for any weekend perambulations in wine country. I look forward to the next installment in Darren’s wine-soaked adventures!