Book Review: “A Moveable Thirst”

February 11, 2008 at 12:19 am

Let me just get this out right now…when I first saw this book I was really excited and yet filled with trepidation. I’m always excited to read about my home town of Napa, but this book was a bit different. It is essentially, a review of Napa…its people, the tourists, the Valley and of course, its wineries. I have plenty of my own opinions about the Valley, but I guess I put up a bit of an initial defensive shield about the home team, especially when I saw that they would be relating stories about some of my favorite wineries around the Valley. I should have been more open-minded!

A Moveable Thirst: Tales and Tastes from a Season in Napa Wine Country (978-0-471-79386-1) is a true account documenting the adventures of two men who decided that they should taste at every public winery or tasting room in Napa Valley…in one year. Best friends, Rick Kushman, a nationally syndicated television columnist for the Sacramento Bee and Hank Beal, Executive Wine Buyer for the Nugget grocery chain, set off in March of 2005 determined to taste at all the tasting rooms and wineries in Napa that were open to the public or were available by appointment “only.” Rick is a complete wine novice and Hank is a fully-seasoned professional, as evidenced by his multiple medals at the California Wine Tasting Championships.

The premise of the adventure is both impressive (141 wineries in under a year??) and great educational fun for us, the readers. The book is actually split into two parts, with about 200 of the 326 pages devoted to stories and anecdotes while on the trail of good wine, encompassing a good number of the tasting rooms that they visited. The remainder is an extremely comprehensive set of reviews of all 141 tasting rooms, along with some other great tips for newbie wine tasters and organized lists for the newbie and experienced wine tourist.

The tips that they offer are very spot on and are incredibly helpful to the less-experienced wine enthusiast, both in the sort of Napa almanac at the end and within the various stories and adventures. The account is written from the novice Rick’s perspective, who has a very down-to-earth and nicely sarcastic writing style that is easy to follow and quite funny and self-deprecating.

My only complaint is that many of the stories in the first 80-100 pages just seem to end too quickly, leaving me wanting more and feeling like there wasn’t as much detail as I’d like, or that those first sets of pages were edited too harshly. Once the guys start relating their time with the Diageo vineyard manager and at Smith-Madrone, the stories flesh out a whole lot more and I could really get my teeth into their adventures. The information about wine and wine-making is also quite extensive. Their impressions of many of my most treasured wineries, such as Nichelini and Hess are very similar to mine and we agree on many of the same wine faves and the reasons that we enjoy those wineries the most within the Valley.

Overall I’d recommend this book for both wine novices and experienced enthusiasts. Its a decent wine adventures read and has the most extensive wine-tasting information about the Napa Valley that I have ever seen in one volume. The educational stories about wine-tasting and wine-making are particularly invaluable to the new wine lover, whether you ever plan on visiting Napa specifically, or some other wine region around the US. I just wish that I could devote a year to the same endeavor!

Ward Kadel - @drXeNo is the founder of Vinopanion wine blog, the West Coast Ambassador & Staff Blogger for WineLog.net and Le Wine Buff for Bordeaux.com (CIVB). He will try any and all wines and tends to write about the parts of his life that include wine...like virtually all of it! He and his wife grew up in Napa and Sonoma and they still live in the Napa Valley. View Ward's WineLog and check out the wines he's recommended with his WKBadges. Follow him on Twitter and Like Vinopanion on Facebook. Contact him: "Ward at WineLog.net". Ward happily accepts samples but does not guarantee a review, positive or negative.

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