December 02, 2008

Drink books for the holiday season

Gift ideas for the oenophile or booze-lover in your life.
"Pacific Pinot Noir: A Comprehensive Winery Guide for Consumers and Connoisseurs," by John Winthrop Haeger (UC Press, Berkeley, $21.95) is a good read and a fabulous resource for anyone interested in American pinot noir—a minefield unless you traverse it with expert guidance. Pinot noir is one of the most finicky grapes, and yet, after Sideways, the number of commercial pinot noir producers in the US ballooned to nearly 1,000, up from about 450 in 2003. In this book, Haeger concentrates on what he calls the Pacific Pinot Zone—the pinot-friendly lands stretching down the Pacific Coast from Oregon to Santa Barbara that account for 95 percent of North America’s pinot. The 216 wineries he profiles are some of the most consistently high quality—and produce pinot noir that you may actually be able to find.

"The Wine Snob's Dictionary," by David Kamp and David Lynch (Broadway Books, $12.95)
The latest in David Kamp's series of snob's dictionaries, this could be considered the essential guide to how not to act at a dinner party or wine tasting. Kamp, with the help of David Lynch, a former sommelier at Babbo in New York City, expertly captures the ridiculous pretensions of wine geeks preening among their colleagues in this collection of jargon, slang and frequently dropped names. With this book, you too can play along with them — or just laugh over your own glass of wine.

"Artisanal Cocktails," by Scott Beattie (Ten Speed Press, $24.95)
Booze porn, my colleague Tucker Shaw called this, and with the super-saturated, close-up shots of gorgeously garnished drinks, he's absolutely right. But really, it's the text that counts. (Really!) Beattie mixes drinks at Cyrus, one of northern California's toniest restaurants. To keep up with the kitchen, Beattie crafts cocktails with the same focus on local produce. His drinks are stunningly vivid in look and taste, with ice cubes wrapped in basil or sunny wheels of Meyer lemon shining through the glasses.

"He Said Beer, She Said Wine: Impassioned Food Pairings to Debate and Enjoy — From Burgers to Brie and Beyond," by Marnie Old & Sam Calagione (DK Publishing, $25.00)
You can't imagine ever swirling a glass of red with a burger? Or sipping a Negra Modelo with eggplant parm? Sam Calagione of Dogfish Brewing and sommelier Marnie Old want you to think again. The two face off over a number of foods matched to beer and wine, and it's up to readers to determine who's right. They also make them easy to try because they've stuck to affordable and easy-to-find food, beer and wine. If you get dinner companions as feisty as these authors, you're in for a good time.

This first appeared in the Denver Post.

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