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The Winemaker’s Dance

Exploring Terroir in the Napa Valley

Jonathan Swinchatt (Author), David G. Howell (Author), José F. Vigil (Illustrator), Kate Barton (Illustrator), Timothy Lesle (Illustrator)

Available worldwide

Hardcover, 243 pages
ISBN: 9780520235137
September 2004
$85.00, £66.00
Other Formats Available:
There is a saying among winemakers that "great wine begins with dirt." Beginning from this intriguing premise, The Winemaker's Dance embarks on an eye-opening exploration of "terroir" in one of the greatest places on earth to grow wine—California's Napa Valley. Jonathan Swinchatt and David G. Howell weave a tale that begins millions of years ago with the clash of continental plates that created the Napa Valley and go on to show how this small region, with its myriad microclimates, complex geologic history, and dedicated winemakers, came to produce world-class wines. A fascinating look at the art and science of winemaking and the only comprehensive book that covers Napa's geology, history, and environment, The Winemaker's Dance will help wine enthusiasts better understand wine talk and wine writing and, most importantly, wine itself.

The Winemaker's Dance is animated by the voices of Napa's winemakers talking about their craft. The book also contains two driving tours through the valley that highlight the landscapes and wineries discussed. An array of unique illustrations—including shaded relief maps overlaid with color aerial photographs—provide a new and illuminating look at the region: its bedrock, sediments, soils, sun, wind, and rain. The expansive narrative considers how these elements influence wines from particular vineyards and how specific winemaking practices can bring out or mask aspects of terroir. It concludes with a discussion of the state of the winemaking industry today.

Unraveling the complex relationship between the people, the earth, and the vines of Napa Valley, The Winemaker's Dance brings the elusive concept of terroir to a broad audience, adding a vibrant dimension to the experience of the valley's wines. It also provides insights that enhance our understanding of wines and winegrowing regions the world over.
Introduction: The Place and the Notion

1. Birth of a Valley
2. The Underpinnings of Terroir

3. Great Wine Begins with Dirt
4. The Land and Its Climate
5. Civilizing the Vine

6. The Winery: Preserving Character or Shaping Style?
7. The Winemaker’s Dance
8. Some Final, and Fundamental, Issues

Jonathan Swinchatt, a geologist by training, writes and produces educational video programs about earth and earth science; he is the author of The Foundations of Wine in the Napa Valley: Geology, Landscape, and Climate.. David G. Howell is a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California, and author of Principles of Terrane Analysis (second edition, 1995). Together they produced the video EarthNectar, which explores relationships between earth and wine in the Napa Valley.
“Any member of the trade or connoisseur interested in terroir will find the text interesting, informative, and honest.”—Bill Nesto Beverage Media Group
“This work sets standards for other winegrowing areas to analyze their own terroir. Regional collections in all winegrowing areas will find this book uniquely useful.”—Mark Knoblauch Booklist
“A fascinating overview of the myriad of technical and human factors that inevitably are involved in making great wine. Very highly recommended.”—Bob Foster California Grapevine
“Without doubt, California's Napa Valley has a unique terroir and geologist authors Swinchatt and Howell take the reader on a journey that began millions of years ago when the clash of continental plates created the Napa Valley. Their driving tours through the valley today illustrate the landscapes, wineries and influences that make wines from the region taste the way they do.”—Ray & Eleanor Heald Canton Observer
“If you have ever wondered about the Napa Valley's topography and rainfall, the sun exposure and slope that create microenvironments hospitable to creating fine wines, this book will tell all in a straightforward, understandable way.”—Janice Fuhrman Contra Costa Times
“This book’s geologist authors . . . explain the scientific realities of wine-related terroir (as opposed to the usual mythology) with exemplary lucidity, aided by brilliant maps and photos.”—Brian St. Pierre Decanter
“Unlike other books on ‘terroir’ . . . The Winemaker’s Dance is also an interesting story, punctuated by scientific facts. For that wine or geology connoisseur, this well-written book would make an excellent gift.”—Geotimes
“Anyone who has ever suspected that there’s more to a glass of wine than mere grape juice will want to accompany these authors on a fascinating trip to the heart of the Napa Valley terroir.”—Robert Balzer K-Mozart (Kmzt Radio), Los Angeles
“[The] definitive study of Napa Valley terroir.”—Jerry Adler and Tara Weingarten Newsweek
“In this exhaustive . . . book, Swinchatt and Howell take on the Herculean task of explaining how the ‘topography, bedrock, sediments and soils, temperature and rainfall’—that is, the terroir—of Napa Valley affect the taste of its famous wines. . . . Even a quick flip through its many maps, photographs and diagrams can be tremendously informative.”—Publishers Weekly
"For all the dirt you'll ever want to read on the Napa Valley, turn to The Winemaker's Dance. In exploring the complex relationship between place and wine, geologists Swinchatt and Howell have written a text that is . . . a fun and engaging read."—Mike Dunne Sacramento Bee
“Every visitor to the region should have this book in his glove compartment.”—Henry Gee Scientific American
“Intriguing concepts and impressively clear and artful aerial photography await the intrepid wine enthusiast as he wades into the scientific waters of this nonfiction detective story about Napa Valley terroir. . . . An incredibly detailed and useful piece of work for those who want the real scoop behind Napa’s wines.”—Claudia Conlon The Wine News
“Even if the cultivation of the vine is not among your current ambitions, this story will add a new dimension to your appreciation of wine and the path that brings the bottle to your table. If this slender, easy-reading volume isn’t the Clicquot wine book of the year I’ll be surprised.”—Robert Kirtland Toledo Blade
“Wonderfully opinionated and non-technical.”—Peter Calamai Toronto Star
“Provides a great deal of insight and explanation of what makes wine the way it is, and in particular, why today’s wine is so different from that of yesterday.”—Paul Franson Wine Business Monthly
“This beautifully written and illustrated account of Napa's landforms, their history, and their relation to winemaking blends real science with a very special culture. Wine enthusiasts will have a whole new set of conditions to ponder, and some new things about the land to learn.—Donald Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief, Science

"The Winemaker's Dance reveals the complexity of what lies beneath the familiar landscape of the Napa Valley. It is a revelation for both the enophile and the neophyte wine drinker. It is a useful and insightful addition to the library of anyone who cares about California wine."—David Graves, co-founder, Saintsbury Winery

"A page-turner on wine and geology? Here it is. Engaging, lucid, substantive, with colorful characters, brand-new theories and the momentum of a detective story—The Winemaker's Dance is hard to put down. Anyone who has ever suspected that there's more to a glass of wine than mere grape juice will want to accompany Swinchatt and Howell on a fascinating trip to the heart of Napa Valley terroir."—Rod Smith, wine writer for the Los Angeles Times and Wine & Spirits magazine

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