Thoughts and Ramblings on ‘Summer in a Glass’
The sun returned to Virginia this weekend after what seemed like months of hibernation. Accompanying the sun was a welcome friend, mild spring weather. To welcome the return of the sun and Spring weather, which reached 70 degrees, I took a needed break from baby preparations – painting, moving furniture, working with tools, assembling book shelves – to spend time with my much neglected reading pile.
This mid-afternoon mental break included the latest edition of The Atlantic, an article from last Sunday’s New York Times featuring Tim Ferris, and a book that has been the subject of much recent buzz throughout the wine Twitterverse – Evan Dawson’s Summer in a Glass. To pair with the spring weather, and in honor of the subject of the book, I opened the last bottle of Finger Lakes wine from our 2007 trip to the region. The humor of this particular bottle was not lost on me as I read the second chapter, which introduced Herman Weimer and his loathing of hybrids.
“The birds won’t even eat the damn things!” ~ Hermann Wiemer refering to hybrid grapes, and illustrating his distaste for them.
Given the type of buzz and early words of praise leading up to the pre-release of Summer in a Glass – some of which bordered on virtual sloppy kisses – I approached this book with a jaundiced eye. Admittedly, these are typically the books that I end up enjoying the most.
It’s been a while since I’ve written a post resembling a book review (here, here, and here), so in the spirit of having not yet cleaned out the ‘book review’ cobwebs, I’m not writing this piece as a traditional ‘review.’ Instead this will serve more as an opinion piece for my own personal reference when planning my next trip to the Finger Lakes.
Written by Evan Dawson – news guy by day, and Finger Lakes wine editor for the New York Cork Report – Summer in a Glass provides an intimate portrait of the ‘people‘ of New York’s Finger Lakes wine region. Summer in a Glass is a well-crafted, very well written, but not over written storybook – a collection of stories, and more importantly back stories, of the people who have helped make the Finger Lakes wine region what it is today, and of those who are helping write the next chapter of the region. Although the book is made up of 13 chapters, each containing a unique narrative, Summer in a Glass is really just one story – that of passionate men and women united by a common goal (perhaps cause) of producing world-class wines in a region that seldom receives deserved recognition on the global wine stage (much like my home state of Virginia, by the way). As I read through each chapter, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between the people and personalities of the Finger Lakes that Dawson describes and those I’ve come to know here in Virginia.
Dawson’s writing ability coupled with time spent with the winemakers – volunteering during harvest, at dinners and tastings, and vineyard visits – translates in to a work that communicates the special human element behind the bottle of wine. I appreciate how the format of the book emphasizes this human side of wine by beginning each chapter with personal stories of each winemaker’s early experiences – some dating back decades – that shaped their respective paths to the Finger Lakes.
‘The Finger Lakes is undoubtedly a unique winemaking puzzle, and no one should expect to be able to duplicate the flavors and styles of other regions around the world.‘ ~ Dawson
Summer in a Glass is a thorough work to be sure, but I did find myself wanting more of the story in some places, and less in others. More of, “he could have shared the humbling story of having to sell his card to keep his own winery out of financial ruin,” and, less of, “Nancy wears short salt-and-pepper hair… .” I can’t recall the last time I read a book with so many descriptions of hair, and also the avid use of the word ‘extinguish.’ Not a criticism, just a point of curiosity.
I’ve been accused of having a George Costanza-like sense of perception (this is not a compliment), and perhaps noticing all the hair references and the numerous uses of extinguish is an example of my amazing ability to pick up on the irrelevant. 🙂
‘Do you want every last dollar, or do you want the best bottle of wine you can make?’ ~ Chris Verrill, grape grower, Finger Lakes (p. 86)
Like every wine region, there is no shortage of characters in the Finger Lakes wine community. Summer in a Glass provides a roadmap of must visit wineries and people to meet on a future visit to the Finger Lakes region.
The Finger Lakes is most fortunate to have a storyteller like Dawson devote his skills to sharing the stories of the people of behind the region. Summer in a Glass should occupy space on any wine enthusiasts bookshelf.
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