Book Reviews

Book review: Tasting the Good Life.

Without a doubt, California’s Napa valley is the most famous of all wine producing regions in the U.S.A.

This relatively small valley is home to 400 plus wineries that produce and market millions of cases high-end white and red wines.

Scientists have studied the valley from every aspect (geology, geography, meteorology), but not from an anthropological perspective with emphasis on tourism’s impact on life in the valley.

George and Sharon Gmelch are anthropology professors in California and set out to explore the Valley from its history (starting with Wappo or Onastis people), evolution, becoming a premium wine producer, mainly due to huge efforts of late and lamented Robert Mondavi, and wine tourism.

The book is mainly about the different people working in the industry from a vineyard foreman, a vineyard manager, a winemaker, a wine educator, a tasting room consultant, a tasting room server, a ”salonier”, a wine tour guide, a famous chef and restaurateur, a cooking school instructor, a wine train guide, a masseur, a hot air ballooning specialist, a bike tour company and art gallery owner.

When people think of wine tourism, they think of travelling from one winery to the next to taste and possibly buy wine for consumption later.

But in a wealthy country like the U.S.A, travellers demand services that in other countries or regions people hardly ever think about, let alone demand – fine dining, massage and aromatherapy establishments and art galleries.

It takes an infrastructure to deliver all these services, starting with highways; wineries designed with tourists in mind, tasting rooms, restaurants, hotels, just to name a few basics.

The authors have done an admirable job interviewing all kinds of people involved in Napa Valley’s wine industry and tourism.

This is not a, book on wine or winemaking. It looks, and I might say very successfully, at all aspects of both industries that attract five million tourists generating billions of economic activity.

An excellent book for all tourists, winery managers, and city or region planners.

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