Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: Professional Drinking

For many people, the term “Professional Drinking” conjures up images of humorous t-shirts one would wear to a frat party. Being the wine geek that I am, when I read the title of this book, my mind went to my dream job: Wine and Spirits Critic, tasting fine wine and spirits for a living. In reality, this book is not about either of those things. 

The following book was provided by the author as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are my own. I received no additional compensation.

Somewhat surprisingly, Professional Drinking, by Jim Schleckser, is more of a business book. Jim Schleckser has more than 30 years of professional drinking experience. As the CEO of the Inc. CEO Project, a CEO coaching business, Jim has entertained and coached business people all over the world. That he is also a Certified Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliersand has an Advanced certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust only strengthens his drinking street cred. 

Yet the fact that Professional Drinking stems from Jim’s business experience, and is largely about how to entertain, engage, and responsibly drink in business settings, it is far from a typical, stuffy, boring business book. Jim’s writing style is personable and approachable, sprinkled with humor as well as insight, and occasional embarrassing stories from Jim’s own experiences. (Something about a hot tub and the entire software development team?)

The book opens with a brief biography, in which Jim tells the tale of his introduction to wine, involving a case of 1982 Chateau Haut-Brion that his father received as a gift from a business associate. Not a bad way to start a wine journey.

Throughout the book, Jim takes us through an imagined business party. Covering virtually all occasions from lunch, to a more formal dinner, to entertaining associates at home, Jim provides valuable insight into pre-meal beer or cocktails, moving to wine time, and onto the meal. Chapters include such topics as the history of wine, the 100-point rating scale, and wine clubs. Jim even weighs in on the raging debate over screwcap versus cork. 

Have you ever been intimidated by a massive wine list at a restaurant? Professional Drinking has you covered. Need help deciding what wines to stock in your cellar at home for entertaining? Yup, Jim helps you out there, too. He discusses still wine, sparkling wine, wine storage, and many more topics. 

It also turns out that Jim is as personable and approachable as his writing style. When he emailed me to offer a copy of his book, he also offered to schedule a Zoom call for an interview. I took him up on his offer, and found Jim to be quite friendly, engaging, and welcoming. We talked and laughed about wine, cocktails, childhood and young adult memories of jug wines, travel, and life in general. I asked about the hot tub and software development team story. Jim let me in on the background, but his secret is safe with me! 

On wine clubs, we agreed that there are many of varying quality, and most are good for people new to wine. They give newbies an opportunity to explore different varietals and regions, and that’s always a good thing. 

I asked Jim his strategy for holiday wines. I’ve heard different schools of thought; do you bring the good stuff knowing that your Drunk Uncle will guzzle that $100 Bordeaux like it’s a can of Bud on a hot day? Or do you withhold the quality and pour only cheaper wines? Jim typically follows more of a hybrid model. He’ll bring one or two “killer bottles” to enjoy; this allows the family and other guests to try something they might never purchase themselves. Then, he’ll bring out the daily drinkers that are perennial crowd-pleasers. A sound strategy that I intend to employ from now on. 

In summary, Professional Drinking is a captivating, informative book that has something for everyone, even if you’re not in business. No matter your position on the Org Chart, your drinking experience, or your life-path in general, you’re sure to be entertained and learn a few things when you read Professional Drinking. You can get your copy by following this link to the Professional Drinking website.

  • By Kent Reynolds

Book Review: What Varietal is That?

Who else has the COVID blues? I’m sure some have it worse than I do. My symptoms are a general melancholy, restlessness, and boredom. One would think that with all the extra time on my hands with shelter-in-place, I’d have more time to devote to this blog, and my social media platforms. However, contributing to my COVID blues is the inability to get out and explore, which results in a lack of content and creativity. How many times can you post a picture of a bottle of wine in the same dining room or boring backyard?   

Fortunately, not long ago I received an email from Darby Higgs, offering me a complimentary copy of his new book, What Varietal is That?  (Also fortunately, we recently moved – yes, mid-COVID – and our new house has a much nicer, park-like backyard, perfect for relaxing with a book and a glass of wine.)

The following book was provided by the author as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are my own. I received no additional compensation.

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What Varietal is That? is an informative and educational book detailing 86 major wine grapes from around the world. It’s a fairly short read, only 127 pages in all, but those pages pack a punch! Darby’s subtitle for the book is “A Beginner’s Guide to the Most Important Wine Grape Varieties”, but don’t let that fool you, or dissuade you if you don’t consider yourself a “beginner.” There are a lot of varieties listed that I’d never heard of! And I’m a proud member of the Wine Century Club, with well over 140 different varieties under my belt…or more accurately, in my belly!  

After a brief introduction, in which he takes on one of the most controversial topics in wine: “varietal” versus “variety”, along with some history and a dabbling into science, Darby gets to the heart of the matter. Starting with white grapes, the author details the country of origin, typical aromas and flavors, and food pairings, along with a description of the wines produced and the history of each grape. Conveniently organized in alphabetical order, the book is a worthwhile reference for wine students of any level. 

What Varietal is That? is available in digital format at Smashwords for just $6.99. You can also order a paper copy from Amazon

If you like What Varietal is That?, and enjoy Australian wines, check out Darby’s other book, Rare Ozzies: A Hundred Rare Australian Wine Varieties. In this one, Darby outlines 100 grapes used in Australian wine production. 

Check these books out and dive right in. You may learn a few things, like I did, and they’ll help you through the rest of the COVID blues summer. 

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds 

Book Review: Sipping Away – 30 Years of Unique Wine Experiences

We all have our own, individual wine stories. Stories of how we got on this wild journey into wine. That first, really memorable taste, the evolution of our palates, and other influential moments along the way. These stories are often fun to share and compare, when socializing with fellow wine lovers. David Klein compiled his story into a book: Sipping Away: 30 Years of Unique Wine Experiences.

The following book was provided by the author as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

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Sipping Away is David Klein’s 30+ year wine story. His story starts out like many others of the day; memories of gallon jugs of Carlo Rossi wine on the table, alongside lovingly home-cooked meals, and surrounded by family eager to enjoy the meal.

The son of an Italian mother and Jewish father, David grew up in Queens, New York. He shares early memories of those food oriented holidays, filled with delicious dishes prepared from family recipes handed down from generation to generation. 

David’s father, Howard, worked on Wall Street as a stockbroker. That is, until the firm’s funds were embezzled, and Howard was out of work. He learned about a neighborhood liquor store that was for sale. Howard knew nothing about liquor stores, but was willing to give it a try. Soon, David began working in the store while attending Chiropractic College. It was there that David’s wine journey began in earnest. 

Sipping Away is a tale of discovery, blossoming passion, friendship, and sophistocation. David shares his tales of wine groups and tasting parties. Some members of his group have been with David for more than 30 years. He also shares tips for finding relative bargains from top growth producers, and what to do in a restaurant if you receive a faulty bottle. David presents all this information in an entertaining, engaging style, though stories of his own experiences. 

Want to learn more about David’s wine journey? At just 132 pages, Sipping Away is a great read for a quiet weekend, or on a cross-country flight. Sipping Away is available on Amazon.com. Check it out. I bet you’ll learn a thing or two. I know I did! 

Cheers!  

  • By Kent Reynolds

Book Review: Root Cause

I’m not a big reader. I’ve gone through phases when I was; I’d curl up with a good Victorian detective novel and disappear into the fog-shrouded back alleys of Old London Town for hours on end. But these days, I’m busier with more live-action adventures, and have less time for the literary kind.

Not long ago, we were wine tasting, and the topic of this blog came up. Our server asked if I’d read this or that wine-related book. I told him I had not; that I’m really not much of a reader. He replied, with genuine and obvious disdain, “how can you be a writer if you don’t read?”

I pondered this for some time, and finally concluded that I write short articles, (usually fewer than 1,000 words) that readers can get through in a couple of minutes. Novels can take me weeks to get through, especially if their chapters are long. I prefer shorter, smaller bites when it comes to reading. Given today’s busy pace of life, I think a lot of readers agree.

About this same time, we were contacted by a publishing rep, offering us a complimentary copy of a new, wine-related novel. We read the excerpt and thought it sounded pretty good, so we agreed. I figured it’d be a good opportunity to read more, since it clearly will increase my street cred with judgy tasting room servers.

Root Cause is an action packed, entertaining story. Written by Steven Laine, it is his first published novel. I must say, it’s a pretty good debut!

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Root Cause tells the tale of flying winemaker, Corvina Guerra, and the associates she befriends during the adventure. While visiting a vineyard in Italy, Corvina discovers the pest that all vineyard owners fear the most: Phylloxera. The very louse that nearly wiped out wine production in Europe in the mid-19th century. Concerned that this new infestation may affect her own family vineyards in Italy, she begins an investigation. She soon discovers that this new strain of Phylloxera is actually genetically engineered. Someone is infesting the world’s vineyards intentionally!

Corvina soon connects with two unlikely allies; Bryan Lawless, a disgraced Master of Wine candidate, expelled for misconduct, and Malcomb Goldberg, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter who picked up the story, and through his trust in auto-correct, coined a humorous new name for this threatening pest.

Brian saw that by helping to stop the new outbreak, he could redeem his name in the wine community, and perhaps be allowed to take the Master of Wine exam. Corvina was motivated by her desire to save the family vineyard and the entire wine industry. While ——- saw this as an opportunity to make a name for himself in the journalism world. The three embark on a fast-paced, globe-trotting adventure, covering four continents in just a matter of days! (Oh, how I wish I had that kind of youthful energy again!)

Through highs and lows, danger and adventure, and often at odds with the Interpol detectives working the case, the trio must work to find out who is behind this, and how to stop it. Will they solve the mystery in time?

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Pick up a copy of Root Cause to find out. It’s available on Amazon.com in Kindle, paperback, or hardback, or at your favorite local bookstore.  Root Cause is a great summer read, especially paired with a refreshing glass of your favorite wine.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds