At the age of 47, when he was a successful publishing executive and living with his wife and four children in an affluent Chicago suburb, John Shafer made the surprise announcement that he had purchased a vineyard in the Napa Valley. In 1973, he moved his family to California and, with no knowledge of winemaking, began the journey that would lead him, 30 years later, to own and operate what distinguished wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr. called "one of the world’s greatest wineries". This book, narrated by Shafer’s son Doug, is a personal account of how his father turned his midlife dream into a remarkable success story.
Set against the backdrop of Napa Valley’s transformation from a rural backwater in the 1970s through its emergence today as one of the top wine regions in the world, the book begins with the winery’s shaky start and takes the reader through the father and son’s ongoing battles against killer bugs, cellar disasters, local politics, changing consumer tastes, and the volatility of nature itself. Doug Shafer tells the story of his own education, as well as Shafer Vineyards’ innovative efforts to be environmentally sustainable, its role in spearheading the designation of a Stags Leap American Viticultural Area, and how the wine industry has changed in the contemporary era of custom-crushing and hobbyist winery investors.
©2012 The Regents of the University of California (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
This is a really interesting story of a family growing along with California through the 70s to today. It's written for both wine nerds and casual drinkers alike. Only a few chapters get rather detailed on California's AVA history but the rest is simple enough for all to understand and enjoy.
I liked this book, starting this on heels of 'Gallo be thy name,' and having listened to most of the other audiobooks on CA wine currently available (Gallo, Mondavi, Kendall Jackson, etc). It seemed authentic and unpretentious and lent interesting historical perspective on both the region as it emerged into a winemaking powerhouse, the personalities, the changing styles relative to an increasingly sophisticated US consumer. Plus, the book delves into many of the issues related to making quality wine, how they made mistakes yet learned from them as they moved forward. It's definitely not a barn burner book or a cliffhanger listen, but it was definitely worthwhile.
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