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SUNDAY SERENDIPITY
10/03/2010
Sunday Serendipity: Book Reviews
Reading Between The Lines, Terry Theise
Daring Pairings, Evan Goldstein

Written By Bob Foster, Book Reviewer, California Grapevine

Note by Charles Olken: Back in 1974, about the time that Connoisseurs’ Guide was created, and actually getting into print a couple of months ahead of CGCW, the then-called San Diego Grapevine began publishing in a somewhat similar format as Connoisseurs’ Guide. Its publisher, Nick Ponamareff and I became long distance friends and have remained that way for the last three decades and more. Bob Foster, an attorney by day and wine lover at all other times, has been reviewing books for the Grapevine for many years and is, to my way of thinking, the pre-eminent reviewer of wine books extant. His work appears regular in the Grapevine, itself a six-times per year newsletter. You can learn more about the Grapevine at http://www.calgrapevine.com/.

Reading Between The Lines, Terry Theise, The University of California Press, Berkeley, 2010, 189 pages, hardback, $24.95. Terry Theise is one of the best-known wine importers in this county. His portfolio with its emphasis on German wines is well known to most wine lovers. In this work he outlines his highly opinionated views about how wine can move us and why wine is important. His emphasis is on small producers whose wines speak of the place where they are grown. He clearly does not find much value in wines that are indistinguishable as to their source. It is impossible, in some instances, to distinguish a wine from Italy from one from the US. He is no fan of the 100 point system used by so many wine publications. He finds that the system implies a scientific precision in a clearly subjective area. He also notes that even with wines made by the gigantic producers, each bottle is continually changing. A numerical score is only a snapshot of how that wine tasted on a particular day to a particular palate. Assigning points to subjective matters can lead to absurd results. He gives Molly Blooms soliloquy a 94 and the death of Ben Gant a 99. As Theise writes, tongue in cheek, “But eventually I came to realize that all pleasure was in effect a commodity, and I owed it to myself to quantify the little suckers.”Theise expounds on his beliefs as to why wine matters and why he often finds the greatest value in the wines of small artisan producers often from Germany. An intense, interesting personal statement of beliefs and purpose. If only it had an index. Highly Recommended.

Charles Olken comments on Terry Theise: I devoured this book in one day. I may not always agree with Theise but I love reading his writings in this book and on the website for his import business. He is perhaps the person singularly most responsible for the revival of interest in Riesling in this country. And, if you ever have a chance to listen to him in person, do it. He is quite the speaker, is our Terry.

Daring Pairings, A Master Sommelier Matches Distinctive Wines with Recipes from His Favorite Chefs, Evan Goldstein, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2010, hardback, 353 pages, $34.95 Unlike many food-wine books that simply list wine friendly dishes, Master Sommelier has carefully analyzed the keys to understanding food and wine pairings. First he points out that acid is the counterpoint to an array of dishes. In dealing with dishes that are rich, salty, oily or mildly spicy, a wine with a tart edge will be effective and refreshing.Sweetness can counterbalance moderate levels of spicy heat. It can also be an effective counterbalance to salt and can take the edge off of foods that are too tart. He adds that essert style wines must be sweeter than the dessert itself.Goldstein finds that tannin works well with bitter foods. Tannin can be cut with fat and protein. He notes that oak flavors are accentuated by food and one has to carefully choose the method of preparation of the food by grilling, blackening, smoking etc. The author then applies these (and numerous related principles) to 36 different wine and food combinations. The recipes are listed by the wines they complement. The wines chosen run from the familiar, such as Cabernet Franc, to the obscure such as Xinomavro and Mencia.Well illustrated in a center section of color photos. This package is complemented by a good index. Highly recommended.

Charles Olken comments: I am a great fan of Evan Goldstein, and for those of you who remember, Square One in San Francisco, the great cooking done by his mother, Joyce Goldstein, from whom Evan seems to have learned a thing or three. His first book, Perfect Pairings, is well-used in the Olken kitchen. This book, with its references to grapes that hard to find and with recipes supplied by chefs who seem not always to have gotten the message that the recipes were supposed to be about the wine, not about themselves, is a less interesting read, and a far less valuable book. Buy Perfect Pairings instead of this one. It is the best book on the subject. Daring Pairings is a stretch that did not work for our household.

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