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My wine books and papers are going to U.C. Davis

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The U.C. Davis School of Viticulture and Enology has asked me to donate some of my wine books and personal papers to them for permanent archiving or display, a request I’m pleased to comply with.

I have about 300 books of various kinds, assembled from the late 1970s until about 2010, when I pretty much stopped acquiring new ones. The U.C. Davis people asked me to identify which of my wine books have been the most influential on me. Here’s the list I sent them:

World Atlas of Wine, Hugh Johnson

Gorman on California Premium Wines, Robert Gorman

California’s Great Cabernets, James Laube

The Wines of America, Leon Adams

Which Wine? Peter Sichel and Judy Ley Allen

Alexis Lichine’s New Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits

Hugh Johnson’s Story of Wine

Gerald Asher on Wine

The Taste of Wine, Emile Peynaud

The Official Guide to Wine Snobbery, Leonard S. Bernstein

The Romance of Wine, H. Warner Allen

Notes on a Cellar-Book, George Saintsbury

California Wine, James Laube

The Great Vintage Wine Book, Michael Broadbent

The Wines of California, Roy Andries de Groot

The University of California-Sotheby Book of California Wine

The Wine Atlas of California and the Pacific Northwest, Bob Thompson [inscribed]

Vintage: The Story of Wine, Hugh Johnson

Secrets of the Sommeliers, Rajat Parr and Jordan Mackay

The Complete Wine Book, Frank Schoonmaker and Tom Marvel

The Signet Encyclopedia of Wine, E. Frank Henriques

The Pocket Encyclopedia of California Wines, Bob Thompson

Drink, Andre Simon

Great Winemakers of California, Robert Benson

Wines, Julian Street

ABC of America’s Wines, Mary Frost Mabon

The Father of California Wine: Agoston Haraszthy, Edited by Theodore Schoenman

The Fine Wines of California, Hurst Hannum and Robert Blumberg

The Wines of Bordeaux, Edmund Penning-Rowsell

The Harry Waugh Wine Diaries: Diary of a Winetaster, Winetaster’s Choice, Harry Waugh’s Wine Diary 1982-1986, Pick of the Bunch

I’ve treasured all my wine books, but these have been the ones that most inspired and impacted me, and to which I have returned, again and again, to savor.

Among my papers are tasting notes assembled from roughly the same period, 1979-2010. They number about 10,000, and do not include some 50,000 wine reviews I did for Wine Enthusiast.

I kept every scrap of paper containing every note from the start.

I had no idea why, or what I would do with it all, only the thought that they were somehow worth keeping. (Maybe I had visions of Michael Broadbent’s “Great Vintage Wine Book” dancing in my head!) There were some grand tastings, that’s for sure. Among the more memorable were:

  • a vertical of Joseph Swan Pinot Noirs, 1972 through 1981, at Chez Panisse, for which Alice Waters prepared salmon with Champagne butter and grilled lamb with fava beans and potatoes
  • a Taylor Fladgate vertical going back to 1948 (very great wine)
  • the 1991 vintage in Germany, covering about 400 wines; that tasting severely burned away the enamel on my teeth!
  • An April, 1993 vertical of all seven “great growths” of Bordeaux, including the 1947 Cheval Blanc. This was with Bill Newsom, the late father of our Governor
  • Speaking of Gov. Newsom, I also have the reviews from a half-year of tasting with him to select the wines his new Plump Jack wine shop would offer. Young Gavin drew up the charts in his own hand; the notes themselves are in my handwriting.
  • A Leoville-Las-Cases vertical, 1928-1988, conducted by the renowned collector, Dr. Overton, at the old ANA hotel in San Francisco
  • The 1991 vintage from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
  • A fascinating tasting of the five First Growths of Bordeaux from both the 1990 and 1982 vintages
  • A Gaja tasting, always a treat. This was primarily the 1988, 1989 and 1990 vintages.
  • A “California mountain wines” tasting, by Andy Blue’s old Bon Appetit tasting panel, which held such monumental tastings back in the day. I will always remember this particular one because it taught me an important lesson. I had tasted the 1979 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon (this was in winter, 1990), and wrote, “Inky black, orange at rim. Dead? Raisined note. Massive tannins either hiding it all, or the wine is gone.” Unable to make up my mind concerning such a famous wine, I turned to two of my colleagues. Jim Laube said, “91 points, hold 5 or 6 years,” while Andy Blue entirely agreed with me that the wine was over the hill. The lesson I learned: even professionals can disagree. Trust your own instincts.
  1. As a graduate of the Department of V&E, thank you for doing this! I’m struck by how many of your books are also on my shelves.

  2. Thanks Bill. How many of my books are on your shelves? I only wrote two!

  3. Jonathan Rodwell says:

    A good home for your books – and will be appreciated by many future wine students . There seems to have been an explosion in wine books in the last 30 years – particularly if you go beyond English !

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