Wednesday, August 6, 2008

List of the Day: Books about Napa Valley

Ah, Napa Valley. In my mind, I love to hate it. The traffic, the commercialism, the tour buses, the conspicuous consumption -- there are so many things about the "Napa Lifestyle" that rub my essentially Puritan and agoraphobic nature the wrong way. But when I am actually in the Napa Valley, I love it. I really do. Napa itself is a charm-free zone, but Calistoga, up at the far end, is still funky and fun. And St. Helena may be the most adorable town in California. The whole valley is a gourmand's paradise, with all the wineries, restaurants, and Gucci groceries. Reading The House of Mondavi by Julia Flynn Siler has stirred up all these mixed feelings about Napa Valley. And it reminded me of several books about Napa Valley that I have greatly enjoyed. For instance, Sean Wilsey's delightfully quirky memoir Oh, the Glory of it All! perfectly captures San Francisco and Napa in the 1970s and early '80s, when he grew up with a goofy mix of socialite parents and stepparents. Both Wilsey and Siler share the anecdote about Wilsey's father flying his helicopter around Napa Valley, insisting on buzzing the Spring Valley Winery owned by his rival, famous as the opening shot in Falcon Crest. There is a "Napa Valley Mystery" series by Nadia Gordon that I particularly enjoy. The protagonist, Sunny McCoskey, is a chef and amateur sleuth with friends in the wine industry. I've read the first two, Sharpshooter and Death by the Glass, and am looking forward to Murder Alfresco, currently on my TBR shelf, and the soon to be released Lethal Vintage. Are there any other books about or set in Napa Valley that are worth reading? Late summer seems the perfect time to lounge on the porch with a glass of wine and a good Napa book.

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