During the holidays, I read A Wine Journey along the Russian River by Steve Heimoff, a book that took me on an enlightening journey along the Russian River.
Steve Heimoff is the West Coast editor of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, and is very familiar with the region. In his book, he introduces you to the geological history of the river, the area's multiple climate and soil variations, the first Indian settlers, the Russian trappers, who established their fur trading colony at Fort Ross, and the early grape-growing pioneers. You read stories of storms and flooding and also of pleasant rowing trips down the river. You participate in comparative tasting between wines from the Alexander Valley and the Napa Valley AVAs and join the everlasting quest for great Pinot Noirs with the local vintners and growers.
It is regretful that Steve Heimoff did not include some detailed maps of the region. There are rich geographical details in the book that are hard to follow without a map.
Another weakness of the book is its disjointed flow that sometimes loses the reader. Like the river that changes course, meanders and loops several times before reaching the ocean, stories are told, new ideas are introduced, without any obvious connection with the previous ones.
In the last chapter of the book, Steve Heimoff raises an interesting issue: the Incredible Hulk-ization of Pinot Noir, and to understand the problem, he interviews different winemakers and growers. Among them, Bob Cabral of Williams-Selyem points out:
”In the evolution of Pinot Noir winemaking, where we found that, physiologically, grapes get riper at higher brix, some people are pushing things too far, for such a delicate grape.“
And when he is asked what would motivate some people to go too far, here is his reply:
”They're chasing the wine writers.“
That does not bother him but he thinks it's insane. I cannot agree more.
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