Book Reviews from W&S June 2021 - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Book Reviews from W&S June 2021

SBC Enters the Funk Zone

Photo by Nick Mrozowski

You could think of Vines & Vision as a (very heavy) coffee-table book about Santa Barbara wine country, with photographs by Macduff Everton, and text by Matt Kettmann. But at 637 pages, it clearly aspires to do more—perhaps because the pair behind the book are longtime Santa Barbarans, steeped in its history and the allure of its landscape. Kettmann, a journalist, came to wine late in his writing career—you could say his interest grew in tandem with the growth of the industry.

This book attempts a lot, and often succeeds. It succeeds at being beautiful—Everton’s photographs are a lucid rendering of the county’s complex geography, capturing the people in the industry with images that feel natural and candid. There is a solid introduction to the region’s ten appellations and a brief study of its wine history, from Mission settlements to the Sideways bump and the rise of the Funk Zone tasting district. From there, the book moves into winery profiles, a long section that’s up to the minute, with portraits of the region’s youngest stars, like Gavin Chanin, Mike Roth and Blair Pence.

Kettmann’s longer depictions of the region’s many pioneers—Jim Clendenen, Bob Lindquist, Rich Longoria, Kathy Joseph, Richard Sanford—portray their subjects with a palpable warmth. In all, the book provides a vivid picture of the vines, the wines, the personalities that found a home in these transverse valleys.

—Patrick J. Comiskey

Vines & Vision: The Winemakers of Santa Barbara County. Words by Matthew Dennis Kettmann, Photographs by MacDuff Everton. Santa Barbara: Tixcacalcupul Press, 637 pages.

Core Curriculum

Cider is not a uniquely American beverage—as the Bretons and Basques are quick to point out—but it is uniquely entwined with the nation’s history. Sommelier Dan Pucci and journalist Craig Cavallo capture that history through a wide-angle lens on eight cider-producing regions, tracking their geologic origins, their key cideries and the personal stories of leaders in the cider boom of the last 20 years: in 1990, there were 10 cideries in the US. In 2000, there were 34, in 2020, nearly a thousand.

The book’s unique strength, however, is its critical and honest examination of American agricultural history. Pucci and Cavallo convey the fundamental brutality of Manifest Destiny as government-sanctioned settlers staked their land claims. They consider the contributions of enslaved cidermakers like Jupiter Evans, who was also Thomas Jefferson’s personal butler, and who helped define American cider. They tell of the violent expulsion of native peoples and the loss of their farming know-how. And they study the codification of anti-Asian discrimination in California that dispossessed American citizens of Japanese descent of their agricultural inheritance.

To discourage land speculation, the US government incentivized settlers to plant orchards. The apple and, by extent, cider, provide Pucci and Cavallo with a poignant story to tell about the rise and fall of an American monoculture. Their exhaustive examination of the ascendant cider economy in the US may make amateurs of the curious, experts of those familiar and historians of us all.

—Corey Warren

American Cider: A Modern Guide to a Historic Beverage. By Dan Pucci and Craig Cavallo. Ballantine Books, 360 pages.

Corey Warren is the Tastings Editor in addition to covering the wines of the Loire, Southern France, Argentina and South Africa.

Patrick J. Comiskey covers US wines for Wine & Spirits magazine, focusing on the Pacific Northwest, California’s Central Coast and New York’s Finger Lakes.

This story appears in the print issue of June 2021.
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