cover image A TALE OF TWO VALLEYS: Wine, Wealth, and the Battle for the Good Life in Napa and Sonoma

A TALE OF TWO VALLEYS: Wine, Wealth, and the Battle for the Good Life in Napa and Sonoma

Alan Deutschman, . . Broadway, $25 (221pp) ISBN 978-0-7679-0703-3

In this brief, intoxicating book, Vanity Fair contributor Deutschman (The Second Coming of Steve Jobs) chronicles the year or so he spent as a freeloading guest at some of the finest homes in the Sonoma and Napa valleys in the heart of California's near-mythic wine country. He eavesdrops on conversations at the cafe and bookstore, talks to locals at the Tuesday farmer's market and indulges in bottle after bottle of fine wine (one even costing half a million dollars) at the best tables. While he is not shy about writing about his personal pleasure with life in the valley, he is no mere hedonist. He's also a fine reporter, who documents the force new tech money pouring in from Silicon Valley is exerting on the shabby gentility of the wine region. After revisiting some of the same territory covered earlier by James Conaway in Napa and The Far Side of Eden, Deutschman picks up the story in present-day Sonoma with the community's efforts to defeat the very same kind of luxury resorts that first made Napa the darling of glossy travel magazines. He serves up the drama glass by glass, starting with a rather mellow debate over loose chickens in the town square, building to the battle between the town folk and a luxury hotel developer, and culminating in an election fight between the new professional class and the bohemians for control of the Sonoma City Council. What remains longest in the memory are his portraits of the wine makers themselves—some known stars, such as Jean Phillips, proprietor of cult winery Screaming Eagle, and others less so. Rarely has such an exclusive world and its inhabitants been made so accessible. (Apr.)