WINES & SPIRITS: Bottoms up for great summer reading

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Bay Area News Group

This long hot summer is drawing to a close. But there’s still time to linger over a juicy read. Instead of escaping into the latest romance or spy novel, try one of these boozy tales, from a vinous coming-of-age tale to a wine-soaked road trip — plus a scratch-and-sniff guide to whiskey. There’s something for everyone here.
The Exes in My Glass:
How I Refined My Taste in Men & Alcohol (A Dating Memoir)
By day, Lisa M. Mattson is a marketing honcho for a major Sonoma County winery. By night she’s an author, who just penned her second book, a follow-up to her 2013 memoir, “The Exes in My iPod: A Playlist of the Men Who Rocked Me to Wine Country.” Here, Mattson bravely relates her journey from small-town Kansas girl to Miami cosmopolitan, where she undergoes an evolution in her preferences, both for men and libations, from sweet frozen drinks to shooters, rosé and fine Champagne. For anyone who ever sipped (or chugged) 1980s Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers (which were made from grain alcohol, not wine), Mattson’s stories are relatable and heartfelt. They give us all hope. Read this with a glass of chilled rosé. (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, $13.99)
The Winemakers: A Novel of Wine and Secrets
Jan Moran’s fictional tale of a wine family weaves seamlessly between Napa Valley and Montalcino, Italy, during two time periods, 1929 and 1956. We meet the principals of Mille Étoile, a fictional Howell Mountain winery, where there’s more than just wine locked away in the cellar. Secrets hidden for a generation threaten to tear the family apart over two continents. Will there be a resolution? While some of Moran’s storytelling is a stretch — a female sommelier at a major mid-1950s San Francisco restaurant, for example — we were spellbound by the thread of deception weaving the book’s characters into a tangled web, and turned each page anticipating the outcome. It’s a romance novel disguised as a wine mystery. Read it with a glass of Napa Valley cabernet. At the beach. (St. Martin’s Griffin, $15.99)
American Wino: A Tale of Red, White and One Man’s Blue’s
Wine and spirits journalist Dan Dunn’s road trip to discover America’s wine scene has shades of the “Sideways” Santa Barbara wine country bender. While Dunn doesn’t dump a wine spit bucket over his head, he does approach wine in an unconventional way. Peppered with salty language and drugged-out and drunken reveries, Dunn’s mission is quite simple: Visit just about every winemaking state, save for Hawaii and Alaska. He goes where most wine journalists dare not venture — Nebraska, Georgia and New Jersey — and finds not just decent, but good wine. By the end of the book, Dunn has you cheering for the underdog (him), facing the world’s wine experts at one of the country’s most prestigious (and snobbish) events, Pebble Beach Wine & Food. Can he pass muster, or will he be snubbed? Trust us, it’s worth finding out. Drink it with a racy, crisp unoaked chardonnay. (Dey St./ William Morrow Publishers, $16.99)
The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Whiskey Know-it-All
Richard Betts’ first book, “The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert,” broke all the rules about what a wine book should be. Scratch-and-sniff patches and cartoonlike illustrations introduced an approachable wine aroma guide. Now Betts takes on whiskey. If you’ve ever wondered what makes bourbon, rye and Scotch different, Betts, a Master Sommelier, makes it easy to understand. There’s a useful whiskey aroma and flavor wheel, too. Read it, of course, with a glass of Kentucky bourbon. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $22)
The Winemakers Primer
Don’t let the scholarly title deter you. The editors of San Francisco-based Taste TV (they run an annual chocolate salon and artisan perfume salon) take you inside the minds of 15 winemakers, including locals Shauna Rosenblum (Alameda’s Rock Wall Wine Co.) and Pietro Buttitta (Berkeley’s Rosa D’Oro and Prima Materia). You’ll discover what makes them tick, as well as their favorite books, movies and wines (besides what they make, of course). The primer devotes a chapter to each winemaker, so you can dip in and out without missing a beat — no cover-to-cover reading required. Drink it with a local wine, preferably from Rock Wall, Prima Materia or Rosa D’Oro. (TCB Cafe Publishing, $19.95)

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