What do oenophiles enjoy nearly as much as sipping their favorite wines? Perhaps it's reading about them.
In recent months, we have enjoyed a number of new books that have come across our desks and are going to highlight seven of them today.
For history buffs, four of these books delve into wine's depths in different ways. Two reach clear back into biblical eras to teach us how wine has become intertwined with our history and culture, while two stay closer to home, focusing on the American wine industry.
We also savor two cookbooks, one from a famed Seattle chef who goes back to his California beginnings. And we wrap up with favorite stories from one of America's most beloved wine writers.
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Any of these will make a wonderful gift for the wine lover on your Christmas list (or you can use this column to provide a strong hint for someone looking for a gift for you).
Divine Vintage: Following the Wine Trail from Genesis to the Modern Age, $27, 274 pages. Joel Butler, a Master of Wine who lives in Washington, and Randall Heskett, a biblical scholar, have written a wonderfully researched book about how wine developed in the Middle East, using the Bible and archaeology as lenses into the past.
Inventing Wine: A New History of One of the World's Most Ancient Pleasures, $29, 368 pages. Award-winning author Paul Lukacs takes us back in time 8,000 years to when humans invented wine and brings us through history to look at how wine has evolved to its current state, paying particular attention to how it has affected culture through the millennia.
The Makers of American Wine: A Record of Two Hundred Years, $35, 318 pages. Thomas Pinney is the foremost expert on the history of American wine. In this volume, he takes the angle that Americans have been making wine well for 200 years -- after 200 years of failure. He writes 13 profiles of Americans who helped this country make that leap to its current state of superb quality.
A Vineyard in Napa: $30, 284 pages. This true-life story of one of the great success stories of the American wine industry focuses on John Shafer, who made a midlife change in the early 1970s to start a winery without having any practical experience. His son, Doug, and co-author Andy Demsky tell how Shafer Vineyards evolved into one of the world's great wineries.
Dishing Up Washington: $20, 288 pages. Cookbook author Jess Thomson contributes to the Dish Up series from Storey Publishing with this delicious and beautifully illustrated book. It is loaded with 150 recipes and dozens of profiles on chefs and restaurants and information on eating well in Washington. If you are looking for a set, this book will pair well with Dishing Up Oregon by Ashley Gartland, which came out last year.
Wine Country Chef's Table: Extraordinary Recipes from Napa and Sonoma: $25, 208 pages. Roy Breiman is best known in the Seattle area for his work as a chef and executive at the Salish Lodge, Edgewater Hotel and, now, Cedarbrook Lodge. But his roots are in California, and that is his focus with co-author Laura Smith Borrman in this exquisite cookbook. This culinary adventure travels through the famous towns of Northern California's wine country, including Healdsburg, Yountville, St. Helena, Calistoga, Sonoma and, of course, Napa. They profile 50 restaurants and provide recipes from each.
A Carafe of Red: $22, 285 pages. Longtime wine writer and author Gerald Asher has put together a collection of some of his finest columns and features based on first-person experiences in the world of wine. His adventures take him across Europe and through the United States. This is wonderful reading for any wine lover.
*Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, a website that provides news and information about the wines of Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho.