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The Road to Burgundy: The Unlikely Story of an American Making Wine and a New Life in France | [Ray Walker]

The Road to Burgundy: The Unlikely Story of an American Making Wine and a New Life in France

Ray Walker had a secure career in finance until a wine-tasting vacation ignited a passion that he couldn't stifle. Ray neglected his work, spending hours poring over ancient French winemaking texts, learning the techniques and the language, and daydreaming about vineyards. After Ray experienced his first taste of wine from Burgundy, he could wait no longer. He quit his job and went to France to start a winery - with little money, a limited command of French, and virtually no winemaking experience.
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Publisher's Summary

Ray Walker had a secure career in finance until a wine-tasting vacation ignited a passion that he couldn't stifle. Ray neglected his work, spending hours poring over ancient French winemaking texts, learning the techniques and the language, and daydreaming about vineyards. After Ray experienced his first taste of wine from Burgundy, he could wait no longer. He quit his job and went to France to start a winery - with little money, a limited command of French, and virtually no winemaking experience.

Fueled by determination and joie de vivre, he immersed himself in the extraordinary history of Burgundy's vineyards and began honing his skills. Ray became a pioneer in his use of ancient techniques in modern times and founded Maison Ilan. In 2009, Ray became the first non-French winemaker to purchase grapes and produce a wine from Le Chambertin, long considered to be one of the most revered and singular vineyards in the world.

Along with his struggle to capture his wine's distinct terroir, Ray shares enthralling stories of late-night tastings, flying down the Route National on a vintage Peugeot bicycle with no brakes, and his journey to secure both the trust of his insular Burgundian neighbors and the region's most coveted grapes. Capturing the sunlight, the smell of the damp soil, and the taste of superlative wine, The Road to Burgundy is a glorious celebration of finding one's true path in life, and taking a chance - whatever the odds.

©2013 Ray Walker (P)2013 Tantor

What Members Say

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  •  
    Tyler Pasadena, CA, United States 04-28-14
    Tyler Pasadena, CA, United States 04-28-14 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great Read"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    yes, it's a great story, lots of inspiration. The French narration was terrible, I speak French and struggled to understand the spoken French at times. Don't let this deter you from getting the book, it's only a small part of it and doesn't change the great story.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Moy California 02-07-14
    William Moy California 02-07-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Great book!"
    Would you listen to The Road to Burgundy again? Why?

    Yes, I would listen to it again. The book, to me, was very moving and poignant. It is about a man that literally drops everything to pursue his dreams and succeeds.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The fortuitousness of finding the grapes and the funding to pay for them.


    Have you listened to any of Sean Crisden’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No, my first book from this reader. I think he did an excellent job conveying the story.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    When the farmer decided to to sell Ray the grapes.


    Any additional comments?

    Great book for any wine lover that dreams of ever producing their own wine.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Hamilton 11-17-13 Listener Since 2010
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    "A road worth traveling"
    Any additional comments?

    This book will make you jealous. Ray Walker found a passion. That passion grew into a dream. Hard work, and serendipity fermented into success. A love of wine, became a passion for making it. The Road to Burgundy is a long, and winding one. Full of twists, and turns. Bumps, and pot wholes. But a road you will love walking with Ray. I'll bet you will became so engrossed, that you, like I, will google Ray Walker to see what he is up to today.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jill 04-17-14
    jill 04-17-14
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    "Fun book needs narrator who can pronounce french"
    Would you listen to The Road to Burgundy again? Why?

    My husband definitely would. He loved it. It's pure escapism and at the same time, it is a (mostly) true story. I found it far-fetched and a little bit contrived, but it is (mostly) a true story, and the narration just detracted from the overall experience.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Road to Burgundy?

    To me, it was Ray Walker's return to Northern California after having spent months in Burgundy - and his comments on how life in France and French culture is different - what's important, the focus on freshness of meats and produce, how 'terroir' weaves into the fabric of french life in ways that just don't happen in the US.


    How could the performance have been better?

    The narrator did not add to the story at all - left a lot to be desired, and at times seemed snarky to me. He kept mispronouncing words like 'Beaune' (he pronounced it as 'Boone' as opposed to the correct pronunciation, phonetically 'Bone') a fairly important city in Burgundy. Initially I thought this oversight (there were others) was part of the charm of the story (San Fran native moves family to Burgundy to make wine, knows no french much less how to make wine), but this wasn't the case. How could one love Burgundy and then consistently mispronounce that great city's name or the Côte d'Or? Cringeworthy, but obviously I got over it.


    Any additional comments?

    One of the lessons of this story, I believe, is the underlying 'make it happen against all odds' David v. Goliath message. Walker understood his passion, never knew quite were it would take him, yet persevered through the stress, naysayers and uncertainty to arrive at a place in his life he never could have imagined. And he tells you at the end, it is worth imagining, believing and pursuing doggedly -- making happen what one may only dream about.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kevin United States 03-19-14
    Kevin United States 03-19-14 Member Since 2010

    suttersgold

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    "Unfortunate narration"
    Where does The Road to Burgundy rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Better than average. The story is fairly simply told and not all that subtle, but as a Burgundy aficionado I had a great deal of interest in the subject matter. An added bonus is the book's clear depiction of an inveterate impulsive optimist.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Ray's optimism and impulsivity can get a bit tiring at times. I appreciated the down-to-earth Frenchmen he had to work with, like the two courtiers who help him find his grapes.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Sean Crisden?

    Someone fluent in French. You'd think that would have been the first requirement for this assignment.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    There were many Cinderella moments, but the scenes where he obtains the rights to the grapes are pretty powerful.


    Any additional comments?

    The story is so compelling, at least to a wine geek like me, that despite the atrocious French pronunciation I would still recommend the book.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Desmond 12-15-14
    Desmond 12-15-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Inspiring story: I wish he'd learn some humility!"

    I picked up the book because I liked the premise; mid-career American guy gets bitten by the wine bug, drops everything and moves to Burgundy to make wine. Lots of great press too. Modern day "American Dream".

    Unfortunately, I couldn't stand the self-aggrandizing tone that the book is written in. The first few chapters REALLY got to me. He starts off with a belief that wine is just alcohol, nothing special, then he has a great wine in Italy, then he goes all bonkers over Bordeaux just by name-chasing the classified growths, and almost refuses to taste Burgundian wine because he thought it was inferior to Bordeaux (at the wine tasting that eventually changed his life). At first I thought he would talk about his erroneous prejudices and how he learnt to temper his appreciation of wine, but it seemed like he just converted his classified-growth-chasing obsession for Bordeaux to a terroir-chasing obsession in Burgundy. A true oenophile would love all wine -- some more than others -- but would never have such a narrow-minded, bigoted approach to wine. (And obviously, you should NEVER interview at a Napa/Sonoma winery and tell them how Burgundy is obviously better than them. come on dude.)

    Also, for all his respect for Burgundian tradition and terroir, his traveling to Burgundy with "just one harvest", having never made wine, not speaking a word of understandable French, and with the arrogant belief that someone would sell him their precious grapes and allow him to make wine, is just plain hypocritical. People apprentice for YEARS to learn how to make wine, it's an art and a science. (There was a line that really rubbed me the wrong way, which went something along the lines of "If Burgundian monks without technology could do it, so can I" -- these monks have hundreds of years of collective experience, how arrogant must one be to compare himself, with no experience, to those monks??). There's a reason why he just kept getting turned away by everyone he approached. If I were a grape grower, I wouldn't trust this guy with my grapes either! I think the only great thing is that his passion led him to read and learn, and not screw up those amazing grapes. On the one hand, having a "newbie" mindset made him question, for example, the frequency of punching down, and made him decide to try a more gentler approach -- I admired that -- but more often than not, his "know-it-all" attitude was off-putting.

    Lots of his behavior mades me cringe. Leaving for holidays during harvest/winemaking season with no-one else in charge? Leaving a barrel in the garage because he had to catch a flight? I'm sorry but that is just plain lack of professionalism. Yes, he has a family, but Burgundian wine (heck, I would say all fine wine) is built upon people's hard work, experience, sacrifices, professionalism, and most of all HUMILITY (to respect the forces of nature, etc). Grape growers don't take holidays during growing season, in case of a sudden frost or change of weather.


    All in all, the author was a very lucky guy. His passion probably contributed 20% to his success: the rest, at least what was told in the story, was all luck. Having everything fall into place; grapes, funding, materials, etc. Heck, I think even the grape growers contributed more to his success than he did. I admire his passion, willingness to learn, and his conviction to chase his dream. The fact that he was successful when there were hundreds of possible ways he could've failed makes the story even more special, and I suppose, contributed to the popular press, etc. I just fear that people will learn the wrong thing about wine from the story, especially given some of his bigoted attitude towards wine and his self-aggrandizing egotistical attitude.



    Regarding the narration: I appreciate the hard work of the narrator (I couldn't stand his rendition of the author's wife's voice), and I would say most of the French was alright, but it could've been much better, especially the names of the towns/places, etc.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    T Dane Portland, OR 11-01-13
    T Dane Portland, OR 11-01-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Compelling storytelling"
    What did you love best about The Road to Burgundy?

    Beautifully written, compelling story of courage and following a soul-calling. Thoroughly enjoyed it, and would wholeheartedly recommend this book!


    Have you listened to any of Sean Crisden’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Narration was beautifully done. Crisden's French accent, however - well, if he meant to convey that the author has (or had) an atrocious accent in French, he succeeded thoroughly. We nearly fell over laughing at his pronunciation of "Beaune" throughout the book...


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul HARRISBURG, PA, United States 09-26-13
    Paul HARRISBURG, PA, United States 09-26-13 Member Since 2008
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    "very enjoyable"
    Any additional comments?

    I enjoyed this memoir of a guy who had a dream and followed that dream. He immersed himself in wine making and made his dream happen and he appears to have been fully supported by his wife. Not many of us would dare to give up a job, move to another country and culture and become an expert and success in a field we previously really knew nothing about. And not many partners would hold down the home fort an ocean away. Plus it was educational and well narrated.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jake Los Angeles, CA, United States 09-17-13
    Jake Los Angeles, CA, United States 09-17-13 Member Since 2006
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    "Enjoyable and Educational"
    Any additional comments?

    Great story, well told, and full of wonderful information about Burgundy and basic wine making. This is a very enjoyable listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    kevin j belliotti 08-07-13
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    "Man makes history living out his dream!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Road to Burgundy to be better than the print version?

    Yes!


    What did you like best about this story?

    Man lives out his dream


    What does Sean Crisden bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    thought Sean Crisden did wonderful job! Kept me involved and interested, doing an admirable job with difficult French pronunciations


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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