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Gifts for wine lovers: Wine books of 2009

December 22, 2009 | 12:00 am

To accomWine bookspany a story on wine gifts for the holidays that appeared in the Dec. 16 edition of the L.A. Times' Food Section, I’d like to recommend a few that don’t involve uncorking a thing: Just open and turn the page. This was a very good year for the printed word in wine, and having sifted through several heavy tomes, here are a few to consider in your holiday gift giving:

"Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology" by Randall Grahm (University of California Press: 318 pp., $34.95). Bonny Doon’s owner, winemaker and president for life started taking pen to page in the mid-'80s to promote his line of wines, then an obscure collection of Rhône varieties and little known selections from Italy and Spain. But Grahm’s literary gifts got the better of him: He remains one of the most prolific, voluminous and outrageous writing winemakers we have. His great gift is for parody, whether it’s of the works of James Joyce, J.D. Salinger, Basho or Coleridge, or the unnervingly faithful send-up of Dante called, appropriately, “The Vinferno.” Perhaps the most illuminating segments are the author’s annotations of his work, which reveal a thoughtful, self-critical, frank devotee of all things vinous.

"Windows on the World Complete Wine Course, 25th Anniversary Edition" by Kevin Zraly (Sterling Press: 224 pp., $27.95). The sommelier and educator has published updated versions of this groundbreaking tutorial for more than two decades, since converting notes for his staff at Windows on the World, in the World Trade Center. For the 25th edition, Zraly hit the road again and revisited more than 100 wine regions in a year, tasting more than 4,000 wines in the process. The result is his freshest take yet on the world of wine for novice and expert alike, in what remains one of the more comprehensive and inclusive instructional books we have.

"The Finest Wines of Champagne" by Michael Edwards, photography by Jon Wyand (University of California Press: 320 pp., $34.95). A wonderfully concise and straightforward guide to one of the most under-appreciated wines in the world, a wine more often guzzled or drained in a toast rather than appreciated for its exquisite craft and versatility. Edwards gives us not only a history of the region and its eponymous beverage, but also nuanced portraits of some of the region’s finest producers and an assessment of their "house" wine styles, critical to the appreciation of this exquisite beverage.

"Passion for Pinot: A Journey Through America’s Pinot Noir Country" by Jordan Mackay, photography by Andrea Johnson and Robert Holmes (Ten Speed Press: 155 pp., $30). The title tells all: In the last decade, Pinot Noir has been wine’s great American success story, with more acreage, more bottlings and more demand than ever before. This tome, disguised as a coffee table book and beautifully photographed by Johnson and Holmes, is packed with essential information for Pinot lovers, with a solid overview on appellations, winemaking, clones, sustainable winegrowing and ideal food pairings for the heartbreak grape.

"Living With Wine" by Samantha Nestor with Alice Feiring, photography by Andrew French (Clarkson Potter: 256 pp., $75). Written for the collector with his or her share of trophy bottlings, this book is devoted to the temples in which those trophies often reside, displaying some of the country’s most exquisitely designed and crafted wine cellars. Nestor, a special projects editor for Metropolitan Home, contributes design notes to this sumptuously photographed volume, with supplemental writing on the collections by wine writer Feiring.

 -- Patrick Comiskey

Photo: Patrick Comiskey