Book Reviews

Book Review: Beyond Jefferson’s Vines by Richard G. Leahy

0 Comments 18 September 2013

By Justin Williams — Beyond Jefferson’s Vines: The Evolution of Quality Wine in Virginia by Richard G. Leahy is an easy pickup for anyone who is highly interested in Virginia wine.

The book begins with a very good history and overview of Virginia and it’s relationship with wine along with Thomas Jefferson’s experiment of growing his own hopeful wine grapes in Virginia. I really enjoyed this part of the book. It makes someone look back and remember the history lessons taught about Thomas Jefferson–both positive and negative–and I think to myself that I wish my history teacher had known some of this information. But, then again, telling wine history to high schoolers might come off wrong or bore them to death.

The book focuses on certain Virginia wineries. I personally enjoyed Leahy’s first chapter on RdV Vineyards because it really transports you to a winery in which you cannot just drive up and visit. RdV Vineyards is a winery that is trying to create finer Virginia wines.

There are two and a half drawbacks. The first is the mention of vintages of wines, so unless you followed these wineries closely, you will not be able to know when you could taste these vintages or, most likely, you are already too late. Focusing more on the vines and getting to hear what each wineries’ long-term plans are would have been a better substitute.

The other drawback of the book was when the author discussed the different regions. The parts I enjoyed were about the owners or the descriptions of the wineries. What I really didn’t like was the turn-by-turn directions that the author provided like MapQuest for wine lovers. Now, I am sure many individuals might take this book and map out their trips to the regions and the wineries but quotes like “make sure you have your turning signal on” is a waste of time for a reader who is wanting the Virginia wine knowledge.

If I were the author I would have published this book and focused on the different tastes of the region and then came out with a pocket guide companion that would give you turn-by-turn directions. But with modern GPS, smart phones, and actual Virginia wine apps, this too might have been pointless.

The half of a drawback that I mentioned is the chapter, “Virginia Women of the Vine.” As much as I enjoyed the content of the chapter and understand that women are a minority in the winemaking world, it would have been nice to highlight some other important individuals (regardless of gender). For instance, Gabrielle Rausse is one of the founding father’s of modern Virginia wine, but he is only briefly mentioned in this book.

I really did enjoy the book even though I found myself skipping the turn-by-turn directions and some of the winery descriptions. This is a good read for those who are Virginia wine lovers or for the person who is thinking about starting a winery in Virginia.

Rating: B-

Justin Williams is a Freedom Features syndicated writer.

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