(What! More book reviews after yesterday’s blog? Why not?)
CAN YOU REALLY grow grapes in your backyard and round up enough equipment to make wine in the garage or basement? The guy with all the answers, including the chemistry, is Jeff Cox, who recently issued the fifth edition of “From Vines to Wines: The Complete Guide to Growing Grapes & Making Your Own Wine” (Storey, $18.95).
Cox’s book, a 254-page paperback, is a bible in the home winemaking industry. It teaches you the vocabulary and the best grape varieties for your area of the U.S. — and he puts more stock in hybrids and native grapes for amateur growers in cold areas such as Michigan than the better-known European varietals. He covers soils, trellises, pruning and all the steps in crushing and fermenting grapes. His growing methods encourage sustainable practices.
New in this edition, Cox includes profiles on successful home winemakers plus sections on ice wines, port-style wines, late-harvest/dessert wines, cold-hardy grapes for northern states and sparkling wines.
And actually, finding all the materials to make your own wine is easy in the Metro Detroit area. Check out the unique store California Wine Grapes near downtown Detroit at 7250 W. Fort. They sell barrels and other supplies, along with fresh and frozen juice made from wine grapes that just needs to be fermented.
I CAN’T BELIEVE I am reviewing this next book because wacky romantic comedies are so not my style, but it’s short, I got hooked and decided it was more like reading the script of what would make a very funny movie, plus I loved the mental picture of two juvenile men dealing with a flock of very stern nuns running a winery in France.
A fun summertime read is “Saving Grapes” by J.T. Lundy (Emerald Book Co., $15.95), which takes you to the wacky world of Jason and best friend Stumpy as they find themselves in need of raising $60,000 in 30 days’ time or else Jason has to pay a fine and go to jail.
This coming-of-age story about a lead character, who walks the line between being a jerk and a hero, finds Jason and pal Stumpy in Duras, in southwest France wine country, where Jason is claiming his inheritance of a million-dollar winery to bail him out of his money problems at home. Only thing is, the property is run by some very formidable nuns who subtly whip Jason into shape as he saves the property from being taken over by the French government for a power plant. The ending comes as a nice surprise. Author J.T. Lundy was semifinalist for the 2014 Thurber Prize for American Humor.
So in honor of Jason and Stumpy, here’s my Weekend Wine for you:
Alamos Torrontés Salta, Argentina 2014, $13: Torrontés is the signature white wine grape of Argentina. This one, produced by the Catena family, which charted the modern Argentine wine industry, is made off high-altitude vineyards in the Salta area of the Andes. It’s clean, tart and crisp, and so aromatic, with charming fruit and floral notes. I compare it to a blending of Riesling and Pinot Grigio, and throw in some Gewurztraminer too. Think vibrant peach, ripe pineapple and fresh herbs with a zing of acidity.
You can reach Sandra Silfven at email@example.com.