Compass Wine Country (Fodor's Compass American Guides) (1998)

Compass Wine Country (Fodor's Compass American Guides) (1998)

by Fodor's Travel Publications, John Doerper
     
 

Created by local writers and photographers, Compass American Guides are the ultimate insider's guides, providing in-depth coverage of the history, culture and character of America's most spectacular destinations. Covering everything there is to see and do as well as choice lodging and dining, these gorgeous full-color guides are perfect for new and longtime

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Overview

Created by local writers and photographers, Compass American Guides are the ultimate insider's guides, providing in-depth coverage of the history, culture and character of America's most spectacular destinations. Covering everything there is to see and do as well as choice lodging and dining, these gorgeous full-color guides are perfect for new and longtime residents as well as vacationers who want a deep understanding of the region they're visiting.

  • Outstanding color photography, plus a wealth of archival images
  • Topical essays and literary extracts
  • Detailed color maps
  • Great ideas for things to see and do
  • Capsule reviews of hotels and restaurants

  • Product Details

    ISBN-13:
    9780679000327
    Publisher:
    Fodor's Travel Publications, Inc.
    Publication date:
    05/26/1998
    Series:
    Fodor's COMPASS American Guides Series
    Edition description:
    2nd Edition
    Pages:
    312
    Product dimensions:
    5.59(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.83(d)

    Read an Excerpt

    INTRODUCTION



    I have returned to my favorite Wine Country cottage to relax, to taste the young, still fermenting
    wines of the current vintage, and to eat good food. Only an olive grove separates me from one of the
    Wine Country's busiest thoroughfares, yet everything here is peaceful. I can listen to birds chirping
    in the blackberry thicket behind the winery and hear the splash of a heron as it lunges after fish in
    a pool left in the summer-dry creek. A hummingbird flits past, stalling intermittently to extract
    nectar; quail call from the vineyard. The heady aromas of fermenting must waft through the air,
    mingling with the dusty smell of the vineyard and the perfume of autumn roses. Later that night, after
    dinner, I sit by the open window, sipping a glass of well-aged zinfandel. A screech owl calls,
    interrupted now and then by the unearthly howl of wandering coyotes. This is the Wine Country at its
    best.



    I first visited Napa's and Sonoma's wine valleys in 1968, driving across the hills from Davis,
    where I had just started graduate school. The Wine Country has changed since then, but in many ways
    it has remained the same. There are more wineries now -- and more visitors, but the spirit
    of the land remains intact. This, I remind myself, is still one of the best places to visit -- as the
    great number of "wine tourists" would seem to prove. While some locals decry the influx of so many
    visitors, wine tourists are a special breed. For the most part, they are eager to learn more about
    wine, willing to taste and evaluate, eagerly picking up advice from the staff at winery tasting rooms.
    They are ahappy bunch, these visitors, united by a common appreciation of fine wine. There is an
    instant rapport, a communion of spirits, among lovers of fine wine that is unequaled in any other
    profession or hobby. It is open to all who embrace its spirit, and its members readily and freely
    share information. No serious scholar of wine will keep secrets from fellow students. The discovery of
    a great wine is knowledge to be shared. Tasting rooms are places where anecdotes are told and tips are
    given.



    When I first saw Northern California's Wine Country, I was underwhelmed. Where I had expected a
    sea of vines, there was hardly a vine in sight, except on the valley floor near Rutherford and north
    of St. Helena, where wineries had hung on even during Prohibition and the Great Depression. But the
    wines I tasted at the few wineries open to the public at the time were very good. Food, however, was
    a real disappointment. You could get a hamburger, of course, or greasy fried chicken, or
    unidentifiable meat smothered in brown sauce, but no meal to incite culinary passion. In those days,
    few people had learned to appreciate cabernet sauvignon, and even fewer had heard of chardonnay, which
    existed in limited plantings in only a few vineyards -- at rarefied places like Stony Hill, high above
    the Napa Valley floor. Sylvaner (labeled "riesling" by local custom), green hungarian, and carignane
    were varieties everyone drank. The latter might be labeled claret, "burgundy," or whatever name struck
    the vintner's fancy. The great red wines of California -- cabernet sauvignon from Beaulieu and
    Inglenook, zinfandel from Ridge -- were rare and hard to find.



    But change was in the air. Stately old wineries like Beaulieu and Christian Brothers, as well as
    Robert Mondavi's new place in Oakville, attracted increasing numbers of visitors. Wine had become
    socially acceptable -- not only to the upper ten thousand, who always drank good wine, but also to
    millions of American middle-class gourmets. New converts flocked to the wineries to learn more about
    wine and to taste the elixirs at their source. New wineries sprouted from the vineyards with every
    vintage. Old stone buildings, abandoned during Prohibition, were resurrected. Neglected farmhouses
    were saved from oblivion, restored, and turned into tasting rooms. Within a decade, the Napa Valley's
    focus had shifted from mundane agricultural pursuits to a search for excellence in winemaking. Sonoma
    County was not far behind. Soon there were outcries that too many wineries were ruining the pastoral
    valleys. That, of course, was not at all true. To my eyes, the wine-producing valleys -- Napa, Sonoma,
    Russian River, Alexander, Knights', and Dry Creek, as well as the gentle hills of the Carneros -- are
    prettier than they were before, with vineyards supplanting pastures and prune orchards, and with
    beautifully designed and constructed wineries replacing rusty equipment sheds. These human touches in
    a naturally beautiful region certainly add elements of interest which make the area more appealing to
    visitors.



    As local wineries gained international respect for their wines, the Napa and Sonoma vineyards took
    their rightful place among the great wine-producing districts of the world. Today, there is more good
    wine than ever but, best of all, the quality of food and lodging has caught up with the wine, making
    the valleys and mountains of Napa and Sonoma some of the best places to visit -- anywhere. Wine is
    more than a beverage. To fully understand it, you should know its background. We are inviting you on a
    tour of the landscape where some of the world's best wines are produced. We shall give you a short
    history of the region and introduce you to the men and women who grow the grapes and make the wine, as
    well as to the chefs who create the dishes that enhance wine's place at the table. Pour yourself a
    glass of wine, sit back, and relax, and we'll be on our way.



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