|How big is this book? The bottle photos are almost actual size|
If I were to keep this book, it would be the largest book I own, as I do not have a Guttenberg Bible. "Wine Grapes," the 1242-page reference book that I highly recommend, would fit neatly inside it if I hollowed it out.
And if I did hollow out "Napa Valley Then & Now," I wouldn't be missing anything. It may have 1255 extra-large pages on hundreds of Napa Valley wineries, but it doesn't appear to tell me anything about them that I can't read from their websites. Many entries read like the wineries submitted them. Trees were slaughtered willy-nilly to print a wart hog-sized PR brochure.
If it were a food product, the FDA would force it off the market, or at least require a name change. A book called "Napa Valley Then & Now" has only 16 pages of history, half of which are photos. That makes it 1.3% "Then" and 98.7% "Now."
But that's not the most unpardonable sin.
For a book with 1255 extra-large pages, designed to separate the well-buttressed coffee tables from the rest, it's surprisingly hard to read. The introductions to the wineries ARE IN ALL CAPS. And not only that, THEY'RE IN ALL CAPS IN A REALLY BAD FONT. THIS BOOK MADE ME WANT TO HIT SOMEONE. ONLY NOT WITH THE BOOK ITSELF, BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE MURDER. DO YOU SEE HOW ANNOYING THIS IS? "NAPA VALLEY THEN & NOW" IS LIKE READING A WINE BOOK ON FACEBOOK WRITTEN BY SOMEBODY'S GRANDMOTHER WHO CAN'T FIND HER READING GLASSES AND DOESN'T KNOW HOW YOU TURN OFF THE BIG LETTERS.
And geez, for a coffee table book, there aren't even many good pictures, unless you're the kind of person who gets an erection from looking at bottles of Cabernet, nearly full-size, against a white background. Hmm, think I just found the book's intended audience.
The author is Press sommelier Kelli White, and I feel a little bad for ripping her book like this because she's a nice person, which I think will stay other critics' hands. She's on the staff at Vinous, and that explains why this book exists: to give Vinous its own in-house Robert Parker guide in print. That said, it just adds to its superfluousness, as I'm not sure what this book gives you that a subscription to Vinous (or the Wine Advocate, for that matter) would not. If you're the kind of person who would like this book, you probably already have those subscriptions. Or you're a winery covered in the book and you're going to buy it just to keep on Antonio Galloni's good side (and White's, she is a sommelier at a high-profile restaurant).
Oh, yeah, there are tasting notes. Woo-hoo! And instead of 100-point-scale scores, even though the book has a foreword by Vinous arch-enemy Parker, there's a gas-gauge type scale, literally: it doesn't show you how good the wine is, instead using an arrow on a gauge to show whether it's prior to its peak drinking period, at peak, or in decline, i.e., running out of gas. Is this an interesting new way to review wine?
Philosophically, it comes from the "every kid gets a medal" school of competition. And in a way that is interesting, as every competently made wine from a region like Napa Valley probably has someone somewhere who will love it.
|A "Napa Valley Then & Now"-size warthog, right|
I get a lot of wine books and most I don't even bother to review, and rarely would I write something like this about one. But check out the headline: this book was so unnecessary. The world would be better off with 10,000 more sets of disposable chopsticks.