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David Darlington on California Vintners

What’s black and white and red all over?

An Ideal Wine by David Darlington. (What, you were thinking maybe something to do with zebras and sunburn?)

In his latest book, the James Beard Award-winning author examines the trajectory of the California wine industry over the last forty years through the lens of its most influential, and quirkiest, personalities.

Exhibit A: Leo McCloskey, owner of Enologix, who believes in the power of science and metrics to predict high-scoring (and therefore high-selling) wines from grapes still hanging on the vine.

Exhibit B: Randall Graham, a.k.a. the Rhone Ranger, ponytailed polymath and founder of Bonny Doon Vineyard, who mixes biodynamic practices, mysticism, dry-farming, outlier varietals and a dash of courageousness with innovative—and successful—marketing.

Wine-geeks at heart, we admittedly devoured some of the more technical sections on viticulture. And Darlington’s portrayal of these idiosyncratic wine guys drew us in of course, like a great Zinfandel. He showed us that their worldviews are as distinct as, well, black and white, but then deftly revealed a commonality: wine philosophy as a metaphor for life.

Now, that’s a theme we can rally behind.

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