Set In: Wine Country

Seeing as late summer/early fall is the ideal time to harvest grapes (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), we thought we’d take a look at books set in wine country. These regions, whether in Northern California, or virtually anywhere in France, lend themselves to unique stories involving growing, harvesting, and of course, competition. Keep in mind, however, reading a few of the following titles might just get you a bit tipsy with wine knowledge. Santé!

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FICTION

Bordeaux – Paul Torday

  • Taking an unexpected detour on the way home from work, Wilberforce, a wealthy, self-contained young man, is drawn into an unexpected new world thanks to an encounter with Francis Black, an eccentric and enigmatic wine merchant, who introduces Wilberforce to fine wines, new friends, and his new wife, but he soon discovers that his new life comes at a price.

A Delicate Finish – Jeanette Baker

  • Left by her husband, Jake, without a word of explanation, Francesca DeAngelo struggles to cope with a hundred-year-old vineyard, a young son, and feisty mother-in-law, but now she is confronted by smooth-talking Mitchell Gillette, who is putting small independent vintners out of business and the return of her repentant husband.

A Good Year – Peter Mayle

  • Having lost his biggest client to an unscrupulous boss, Max Skinner journeys to Provence to inspect a vineyard he has inherited and finds additional challenges in a California woman’s claim on the estate.

House of Daughters – Sarah-Kate Lynch

  • Expecting to inherit the family’s vineyard in the French province of Champagne after her father’s death, Clementine discovers to her dismay that she must share the inheritance with her two half-sisters.

Nose – James Conaway

  • Delightedly discovering a first Cabernet to receive his highest score, egotistical wine critic Clyde Craven-Jones investigates the vintage’s mysterious origins with his wife and two underdogs only to land in the middle of a scandalous family squabble with ties to a decades-old wrongdoing.

Sideways – Rex Pickett

  • What better way for two friends to contemplate their last days of freedom (Jack) or reevaluate their lives (Miles) than to take off on a weeklong road trip from L.A. to the Santa Ynez wine country?

The Villa – Nora Roberts

  • Sparks fly, as two wine-making families merge–the Giambellis and the MacMillans–and try to make the deal work. Tyler MacMillan and Sophia Giambelli are forced to work very closely together and are torn between a powerful attraction and a professional rivalry.

The Vineyard – Barbara Delinsky

  • A woman and her daughter accept an invitation to spend the summer on a vineyard to help the owner, a widow, write her memoir. They soon learn that all is not as it seems at the vineyard.

The Vintner’s Daughter – Kristen Harnisch

  • When Sara Thibault escapes a murder charge in 1895 France, she ends up in America, where she can put her knowledge of the wine-making process to work to save herself and her sister.

The Winemaker’s Daughter – Timothy Egan

  • Brunella, an accomplished Seattle architect, stumbles upon a web of family secrets, while struggling to help her aging father protect his beloved vineyard during a drought that is ravaging the Pacific Northwest.

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MYSTERY SERIES:

Joni Folger’s Tangled Vines series

  1. Grapes of Death
  2. Of Merlot and Murder

Ellen Crosby’s Wine Country series

  1. The Merlot Murders
  2. The Chardonnay Charade
  3. The Bordeaux Betrayal
  4. The Riesling Retribution
  5. The Viognier Vendetta
  6. The Sauvignon Secret

Carole Price’s Shakespeare in the Vineyard series

  1. Twisted Vines

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NONFICTION

Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine – Benjamin Wallace

  • Describes the 1985 purchase of a bottle of 1787 Chateau Lafite Bordeaux for $156,000, the mysterious background of the wine, and the enigmatic wine collector who discoverd the bottle, once supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson, in a bricked-up Paris cellar.

Blood and Wine: The Unauthorized Story of the Gallo Wine Empire – Ellen Hawkes

  • A portrait of the Gallos uncovers the existence of the family’s black sheep, Joseph Jr.–Ernest and Julio’s younger brother–and probes into why he was denied his third of the winery.

Inventing Wine: A New History of One of the World’s Most Ancient Pleasures – Paul Lukacs

  • Describes the eight thousand year history of wine, chronicling the changes that have taken place in preparation and taste as the ancient world gave way to the scientific, industrial, social, and ideological revolutions of modern times.

Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting that Revolutionized Wine – George M. Taber

  • Looks at an event held in 1976 in which French judges, during a blind taste-test, chose unknown California wines to be superior to Frances’ best wines.

Passion on the Vine: A Memoir of Food, Wine and Family in the Heart of Italy  – Sergio Esposito

  • Recounts the author’s childhood in Naples and New York, focusing on his deep association between wine and family, and discusses the winemaking process in different parts of the world.

Reflections of a Wine Merchant – Neal Rosenthal

  • A successful importer of classically made European wines discusses his decision to learn about wine and old-world wine production thirty years ago, his observations about the role of terrain in imparting distinctive qualities, and his relationships with traditional winemakers.

The Road to Burgundy: The Unlikely Story of an American Making Wine and a New Life in France – Ray Walker

  • Recounts the author’s decision to abandon his financial career to pursue a dream of running a Burgundy vineyard, describing his immersion into regional wine history and the ancient techniques that rendered him a first non-French winemaker to produce a vintage from Le Chambertin.

A Vineyard in Tuscany: A Wine Lover’s Dream – Ferenc Máté

  • Shares the story of how two New Yorkers converted an ancient farm into a renowned winery, a labor of love during which they struggled to plant fifteen acres of vines while drawing on the wisdom of famous vintner neighbors.

Virgile’s Vineyard: A Year in the Languedoc Wine Country – Patrick Moon

  • An Englishman crosses the Channel to spend a year in the vineyards of France. Overcoming the traditional Briton’s bewilderment at sunshine, he learns a bit about the quaint locals and an awful lot about oenology.

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