Archive for the Book and Music Reviews Category

Two New World Music Releases from Putumayo

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We were more than a little surprised when we received an email a while back from the World Music recording label Putumayo, asking us if we’d like a review copy of their latest release, Tribute to a Reggae Legend which they described as, “A global celebration of the music of Bob Marley, featuring five new, exclusive recordings by exceptional international artists.”  Why Putumayo decided to put us on their list of reviewers, we have no idea.  It’s not like we do a lot in the way of music reviews, but maybe they saw our account of our adventures at Rothbury in the summer of ’09, in which we had good things to say about King Sunny Ade and his African Beats .  Who knows?!

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Book Review: “The Wild Vine” and the story of Norton

Diversity, as an element in wine appreciation, is one of those “good for you” concepts that almost everyone embraces, but few of us practice.  Despite the existence of literally hundreds of different wine varieties in the main wine-grape genus of vitis vinifera, most wine drinkers limit themselves to drinking the same dozen or so varieties—cabernet, pinot noir, syrah, chardonnay, riesling, etc.  Even the most adventurous of wine drinkers probably consumes no more than 2 or 3 dozen different varieties on a regular basis.  And as for wine grapes that are outside the universe of vitis vinifera, well, those grapes might as well not exist at all.  But are we missing something important by limiting ourselves so severely?  In failing to appreciate (or even sample) the breadth of expressions available from wines off the beaten track, do we deprive ourselves not only of something pleasing, but also of something important in our cultural heritage?

These thoughts kept going through my mind as I read The Wild Vine: A Forgotten Grape and the Untold Story of American Wine, author Todd Kliman’s paean to the Norton grape.  But the book is not a dry, technical description of the grape’s discovery and evolution, nor is it a tasting guide.  Instead, it is a history of a specific fragment of wine making in America, viewing it through the earliest efforts of the Jamestown colonists, the dedicated efforts of America’s greatest early wine advocate Thomas Jefferson, and on to the rise of the wine industry in Missouri, the center of American wine industry before California began to rise in importance in the final decades of the 19th century.  In telling the history of the Norton grape, Kliman reveals a fascinating slice of American history that places wine as a significant cultural element in both early American history, and in the expansion of America into the Midwest and beyond by wine-loving German immigrants in the mid-1800’s.  The result is an appreciation of wine’s significance in America that predates the much better known history of California’s wine industry.  Although the efforts of the early missionaries and other wine growers in California are usually thought to be the beginning of serious wine cultivation in America.  Kliman’s book documents a significant part of the history of wine making in America before California took over the stage.

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Book Report: Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology

Randall Grahm

Randall Grahm

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Reading  Randall Grahm’s recently released book, Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology, is more than a little like having a conversation with him.  From the very beginning, one is bombarded with his erudite, irrepressible and, more than occasionally, savage wit, which should come as no surprise to anyone having had a gander at even one of his Bonny Doon wine labels over the years.
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