Prior to borrowing this book from the Westerville Public Library, most of the wine-related books I had heretofore seen were of the cookbook variety. This was the first book that I was coming across with the vintners’ biography coupled with business strategy.
“The wine business is a people business, one in which we sell a luxury product based on a reputation built slowly and through personal experience” Chapter 19. Delivering a New Way
“In the end, wine is part product and part happening. That makes it different from any business we know.” Chapter 10. More than a Wine Factory
These quotes describe the crux of this book. The authors (Craig and Kathryn Hall) take us through the craft of creating the above-mentioned personal experience using a combination of art, agriculture, architecture, process chemistry and marketing. As such, the by-line “The Art, Soul and Business of a 21st Century Winery” was apt.
The book begins with Craig and Kathryn’s personal background and their meeting, before delving into their efforts in creating the soul of their wine business: building a tasting room and wine caves (with rocks from Austria) and collecting and installing memorable art pieces. Here we also learn about how well-connected the authors are as Kathryn used to be U.S. Ambassador to Austria.
In the latter parts of the book, the authors introduce the reader to the art, science and business of vinting such as wine characteristics – appearance, aroma/bouquet, taste, texture, finish and overall impression; a tank walk – examining and testing the fermentation tanks for vinting progress; sales tactics – pricing by-the-glass versus wholesale and online marketing as well as bottling techniques – using high shoulders (Bordeaux) versus sloped shoulders (Burgundy). The authors also provide the story behind their obtaining a perfect 100 (hence the title) on one of their vintage bottles of wine.
Overall, this a good book for an introduction to the wine-making experience for those thinking about wine-making at scale. The authors take the readers on an intimate experience of the Napa Valley and the process from soil to bottle with everything in between. Their passion for the business and the people they interact with: customers and employees comes through clearly in the book.
The writing was disruptive in certain sections because the chapters were sprinkled with long first-person perspectives from the authors. Although these personal stories were insightful, they tended to interrupt the flow of the chapter. These stories could have been better positioned by being woven into the fabric of the chapter’s storyline.