Aug 31, 2009

Proposed Titles for October

Below are my three book selections for our October meeting. All books center on a “Wine” theme! I am hoping you will like my book theme idea because I plan to entertain you with good food and great wines. And, like always, everyone will provide the wonderful social and interesting book discussions.

Although the three books do not clearly meet our book selection criteria, I request your “relaxation” of the criteria. All are paperback and appear to be easy reads from the reviews I’ve read.

See you at Dan’s on September 8th and we can discuss. Thanks.

Tom J.

The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine” by Ben Wallace. (323 pages) A New York Times Bestseller.

“Part detective story, part wine history, this is one juicy tale, even for those with no interest in the fruit of the vine. . . . As delicious as a true vintage Lafite.” —BusinessWeek
The Billionaire’s Vinegar tells the true story of a 1787 Ch√Ęteau Lafite Bordeaux—supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson—that sold for $156,000 at auction and of the eccentrics whose lives intersected with it. Was it truly entombed in a Paris cellar for two hundred years? Or did it come from a secret Nazi bunker? Or from the moldy basement of a devilishly brilliant con artist? As Benjamin Wallace unravels the mystery, we meet a gallery of intriguing players—from the bicycle-riding British auctioneer who speaks of wines as if they are women to the obsessive wine collector who discovered the bottle. Suspenseful and thrillingly strange, this is the vintage tale of what could be the most elaborate con since the Hitler diaries. Updated for paperback with a new epilogue.

The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty” by Julia Flynn Siler. (464 pages) A New York Times Bestseller.

Set in California's lush Napa Valley and spanning four generations of a talented and visionary family, The House of Mondavi is a tale of genius, sibling rivalry, and betrayal. From 1906, when Italian immigrant Cesare Mondavi passed through Ellis Island, to the Robert Mondavi Corporation's twenty-first-century battle over a billion-dollar fortune, award-winning journalist Julia Flynn Siler brings to life both the place and the people in this riveting family drama. - Barnes & Noble

Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine” by George M. Taber. (352 pages)

The Paris Tasting of 1976 will forever be remembered as the landmark event that transformed the wine industry. At this legendary contest -- a blind tasting -- a panel of top French wine experts shocked the industry by choosing unknown California wines over France's best. George M. Taber, the only reporter present, recounts this seminal contest and its far-reaching effects, focusing on three gifted unknowns behind the winning wines: a college lecturer, a real estate lawyer, and a Yugoslavian immigrant. With unique access to the main players and a contagious passion for his subject, Taber renders this historic event and its tremendous aftershocks -- repositioning the industry and sparking a golden age for viticulture across the globe. With an eclectic cast of characters and magnificent settings, Judgment of Paris is an illuminating tale and a story of the entrepreneurial spirit of the new world conquering the old. - Barnes & Noble

Aug 24, 2009

He Can Carry Our Water Anytime....

Today's story in the Marin I.J. ( about the 7 candidates for the board of the Marin Municipal Water District mentions the involvement of one of our own. Too bad the article highlighted so few of Armando's many qualifications for serving in this important role. As a former Recreation and Parks Commissioner in San Rafael, a school district volunteer and activist, the chair of the Sequoia Parks Foundation, and in his prior life a National Parks Service Ranger in Pt. Reyes, Armando is ideal for the job. You have our support, Armando!

Aug 13, 2009

Another Pulitzer Evening at Larry's

First, my apologies for this tardy summary. Larry’s fine hospitality on July 28 deserves better than this late—and abbreviated—post about an otherwise delightful evening. But, with summer hard at hand, my attention has been elsewhere.

The first time Larry hosted MBC, it was on a winter evening and we drank corn liquor, ate a hearty stew, and talked about the Battle of Gettysburg. This occasion could not have been more different. Seated outside and overlooking Peacock’s 12th fairway, we were served a delicious paella followed by Larry’s homemade burnt sugar ice cream (thank you for the recipe, Larry!). While Larry’s menu tacitly acknowledged the colonial history of the Dominican Republic, Paul’s beer selection was less subtle. The Oskar Blues label reminded us that Oscar’s trajectory was more tragedy than triumph.

Our numbers were thinner than usual, but Jack’s return more than made up for it. It was also a pleasure to have our friend and neighbor, Tony, join us as a guest. However, with his Oscar Award in one hand and his passel of advanced degrees in the other, he was almost as intimidating as our resident rocket scientist, Glenn (whose absence for back surgery was duly noted and mourned).

The Book
Since this post is meant to be short, I’ll cut to the chase. Diaz’ novel about a multi-generational immigrant family living in New Jersey but forever rooted in the Dominican Republic was profoundly polarizing. Stan sung its praises and gave it a 10; Dan flinched and graded it a 3. We would have ignored Dan’s complaints (as he didn't finish the book), but they were largely mirrored by George, our Thoughtful Republican, whose vote was a 4. Even with Doug, Larry, and John celebrating the book’s virtues, we couldn’t develop a consensus rating above 7.1.

Whether it was the language (tough for the monolinguists), the cultural and political asides (the footnotes were clever, if distracting), the author’s in-jokes (enough geek content to last a lifetime), or simply the herky-jerky narrative quality (confusing POV shifts), the book was a hard read for some. And yet the book was both a fascinating cultural statement (who knew the DR was so interesting?) and a suspenseful narrative (even if Oscar's finale was like a beautiful slow-motion trainwreck). Paul sidestepped all of this and repeated the common observations he made about the last several books we’ve read. To his thinking, we can’t seem to avoid deeply flawed misogynists!

Next Up
We were given and agreed to read Ollestad’s Crazy for the Storm during August. We’re also set to discuss Jess Winfield’s My Name is Will when we meet next at Dan’s on September 8. Let’s see if George’s prognostication comes true and Blindness is finally dislodged from the top of our rankings.