Alan Deutschman, author of A Tale of Two Valleys: Wine, Wealth, and the Battle for the Good Life in Napa and Sonoma spoke with PW by phone from his home in San Francisco.

PW: For starters, did you spend your entire book advance on wine?

Alan Deutschman: While maintaining my critical independence as a writer, there was one dessert wine to which I found myself seriously hooked, and it sells for $70 to $80 for a half bottle. The people in the wine business still spend their discretionary income buying more wine for themselves. The people I met love wine and want to have it as a daily aspect of their life—but you don't have to spend $1,000 a bottle.

PW: Then you must have spent your money on dinners at the French Laundry restaurant?

AD: One of the things I loved about people in the wine business was that they were surprisingly free of snobbery. People love and know wine and have amazingly sophisticated palates, but you can enjoy a beer with them—and many of them like tequila—and in Sonoma they tend to eat at Rob's Rib Shack, next door to the driving range.

PW: Why, then, is the wine country fantasy so appealing to moneyed Silicon Valley types?

AD: It is true that many people in San Francisco and Silicon Valley and other cities had this idea that after they got their movie deal, or their company went public, they would go off to a beautiful, bucolic place like the California wine country and live in their chateaux. But today, the rich don't want to be seen as idle; they want to be seen as smart and deserving. So having a beautiful country house that's also a working winery adds a technocratic element to it. You don't just have a beautiful place, you're doing something that requires great intelligence, dedication, skill. Wine making combines science, chemistry and very sophisticated technology, as well as a certain kind of poetry, artistry and creative judgment, all the while participating in an ancient agricultural tradition.

PW: Was it difficult for you to get work done in such an idyllic place?

AD: When I started, I had this tremendous enthusiasm for going to the local restaurants, and getting massages at the spa, and swimming in my friend's lap pool and languishing in their hot tub. Yes, you could go bicycling among the vines or sit out in sunshine enjoying fine food, but if you go to the cafe, there are all kinds of talk about cultural and class warfare. In Napa and Sonoma, people live very close to each other; rivalries become very intense.

PW: Coming from the tech world, which is more or less a democratic free-for-all, were you not intimidated by the exclusivity of the wine world?

AD: I had spent many years writing about the billionaire heads of corporations and was used to people having a sense of their own self-importance. In wine making, there is a certain glamour to the field, but people get involved with food and wine because they enjoy it rather than use it as a shortcut to prestige. Much of experiencing wine is possessing true smell, and a certain part of the population doesn't have good smell—it's not a failing on their part, it's just biological. Then there are just some people like Robert Parker Jr. who are born with extremely amazing noses.