Holiday Wine Reading to Escape the Crowds

I am told that I am one of those rare males who actually enjoys shopping.

I like the process of picking out just the right gift for my darling daughter and my wonderful grandkids (a.k.a. “the angels”).

What I don’t enjoy about the process this time of the year are the crowds and the people I call “amateur shoppers.”

You know the people I’m talking about: those who wait in line with the rest of us for 10 minutes, watch patiently as all of their treasures are scanned, and then seem surprised when the time comes for them to pay. They fumble through their purses (or, so as not to seem sexist, leaf through their wallets) in search of cash or plastic — something they could have done while they were waiting in line.

My absolute favorites (meaning I’d like to run a brain scan on them to see if there’s anything in there) are the ones who wait until their items are scanned… casually sort through their purse (or wallet)… and then say to the customer service representative, “Oh, wait! I might have the exact change!”

About the only thing one can do to avoid such people is to avoid the holiday crowds altogether. This year, I’ve done that for the most part. I did a good deal of shopping online, and I did most of my on-site shopping before Black Friday.

So how have I been spending my free time while everyone else is out shopping, standing in line and scrambling for exact change? I’ve been reading a book that provides a comprehensive look at two very different approaches to wine.

“An Ideal Wine: One Generation’s Pursuit of Perfection — and Profit — in California” ($27) is David Darling’s engrossing account of how the California wine industry was dramatically changed by the influence of a few powerful critics and corporatization.

The tale is told mostly through the eyes of two men who are polar opposites when it comes to winemaking: Leo McCloskey and Randall Grahm.

McCloskey is the analytical geek who uses technology to predict wine ratings (and, by extension, sales potential).

Grahm is the romantic vintner who seeks to elevate underappreciated grape varieties and allow the grapes to speak through the wines.

It’s the classic “battle” between technology and naturalism.

Is there a common ground for McCloskey and Grahm? One would think not, but Darling’s dissertation suggests there may be.

And wouldn’t that be a wonderful message to embrace at holiday time? You know, when you’ve gotten over the urge to strangle someone for searching for the exact change…

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You can read Amazon’s review and various consumer reviews of the book here ( And, of course, your thoughts are always welcome in the Comments box below.

Posted in Editor's Journal
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