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As Alice Feiring sagely argues, that would be a silly thing to do with books, people, wine, or life in general. I thus find it difficult to "rate" this book, whether on a scale of one to five stars, 100 points or 20 points or otherwise. There is so much good about it. But for me it is something of a flawed diamond.
I wanted so much to be enthralled with this book, as others here have said. Alice Feiring has her head in the right place where wine is concerned. She's got a great blog. She knows what she's talking about. When I heard her book was coming out, it was a must have volume for me and I "pre-ordered" it. To be frank, the title was off-putting. It seemed like a marketer's strange marriage of "chick lit" (oh God, forgive me, Alice) and wine geek ((and I mean that in a good way), but I figured I could get past that, no problemo.
So then I sat down to read the book cover to cover, in a few ferry crossings between The Rock and Seattle -- and I did so with great expectations (little g, little e, not with the Dickens novel in my other hand). Here's the Plus and the Minus:
Plus: The book stakes out a strong and well reasoned argument for terroir, traditional (and by that I mean organic, possibly even biodynamic, non-interventionist, not careless and just plain bad) viticulture and winemaking. Alice plainly knows her stuff. And yes, she has the "cojones" to call a spade a shovel. Heck, anyone who will cross swords on the dais with the likes of Clark Smith certainly knows how to hold her own in an argument.
While it isn't exactly new news, as tens of thousands of us by now probably feel the same way and may have said it often enough, it's gratifying to see someone pronounce Robert Parker, the Wine Spectator, Michel Rolland and others of that ilk something of a public menace -- and get published.
Minus: There's too much chatty, "personal backstory" stuff clouding the picture, for my personal taste anyway. Some may find Mr. Bow Tie, Owl Man, Honey Sugar and all the rest entertaining. To me, it's just in the way at best; unnerving, awkward and genuinely distracting at worst. When I got to the part about winemaker so and so's "deep, sexy voice" and his "tussle of brown curls and fleshy, sensuous earlobes," and read about the various exploits of "Skinny," I began to wonder whether I could finish the book.
The book definitely is worth finishing. But I do wish it stuck to what I hoped to find, and did in large part -- well-crafted and opinionated writing about wine. Maybe this really needed to be two books - one about wine, the other about, well, the other stuff. "Sex and the Single Wine Writer," perhaps?
Let's be clear. Alice is the real deal and she's a valuable advocate for real wine. As I said at the outset, this is a book I'd like to be able to give an unqualified five stars. I just can't, given the distractions that to me detract from the seriousness of the message.
Were I Robert Parker, I would give it an 88. OK, maybe a 90. Who the hell knows. That's what's wrong with the whole Parker School of wine criticism in the first place. But I imagine he might call it a fruity, quirky, wild cherry and chocolate laden hedonistic fruit bomb, with overtones of creosote and a whiff of pheromones; drink 2008 to 2010.
As it is, I give it four stars.