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A Vineyard in Napa

Doug Shafer (Author), Danny Meyer (Foreword), Andy Demsky (Contributor)

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At the age of 47, when he a successful publishing executive and living with his wife and four children in an affluent Chicago suburb, John Shafer made the surprise announcement that he had purchased a vineyard in the Napa Valley. In 1973, he moved his family to California and, with no knowledge of winemaking, began the journey that would lead him, thirty years later, to own and operate what distinguished wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr. called “one of the world’s greatest wineries.” This book, narrated by Shafer’s son Doug, is a personal account of how his father turned his midlife dream into a remarkable success story.

Set against the backdrop of Napa Valley’s transformation from a rural backwater in the 1970s through its emergence today as one of the top wine regions in the world, the book begins with the winery’s shaky start and takes the reader through the father and son’s ongoing battles against killer bugs, cellar disasters, local politics, changing consumer tastes, and the volatility of nature itself. Doug Shafer tells the story of his own education, as well as Shafer Vineyards’ innovative efforts to be environmentally sustainable, its role in spearheading the designation of a Stags Leap American Viticultural Area, and how the wine industry has changed in the contemporary era of custom-crushing and hobbyist winery investors.
Doug Shafer is President of Shafer Vineyards. He and his father were winners of the 2010 James Beard Foundation Award for “Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional.”
Andy Demsky is a Napa Valley–based writer and PR consultant.
“This is also the story of the people who came to Napa Valley in the 1970s from many different walks of life, how they and a young industry came of age, overcoming disappointment, avoiding making the same mistakes twice, and facing realities - both economic and environmental - that are humbling and sobering.”—Wine Spectator
“A thoughtful and entertaining portrait of one of Napa’s most acclaimed wineries, Shafer Vineyards. But by virtue of the 1972-2012 arc the book comprises, it’s also a fascinating history of Napa’s transformation from a rural community, full of walnut orchards and grazing cattle as well as vineyards, into one of the world’s most wealthy, famous and acclaimed wine regions. Plus, it contains the appealingly inarguable line: ‘There must be a million American stories that begin with a family packing themselves into a station wagon.’”—Eatocracy
“A charming and refreshingly honest story with a happy ending.”—Forbes
“A Vineyard in Napa is a delightful, easy read that successfully relates the trials and tribulations of a family winery in the Napa Valley while at the same time documenting the many changes—commercial, environmental, technical and legal—affecting California vineyards and wineries over a 40 year period. The evolution and unqualified success of Shafer Vineyards over these four decades parallels the growth and transformation of the Napa Valley into one of the world’s most highly respected wine growing areas. While the book does not portend to be explain the technical details of this transformation, its easy going prose deceptively does just that. A Vineyard in Napa is the best told story of a California family winery I’ve yet read.”—International Wine Review
“For more intimate reading, check out "A Vineyard in Napa" ($29.95, University of California Press), in which Doug Shafer and Andy Demsky recount how Doug's father, John, left a cushy Chicago job at age 47 and forged one of America's very best wineries. (Wine Spectator named the 2008 Shafer Relentless its wine of the year last week.) Full disclosure: I have met all three men and winemaker Elias Fernandez and admire them mightily. You will, too, after soaking in this captivating saga.”—Bill Ward, Wine Critic Minneapolis Star Tribune
‘Whether you have a bottle of Shafer or the book, each will easily be savored.”—Sacramento Bee
“Shafer loyalists will find a warm read.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“The story of the Shafer family of Shafer Vineyards -- as told by Doug Shafer and his collaborator, Andy Demsky -- is funny, inspiring and instructive. . . . Doug Shafer places the family's journey in historical context, offering a window into the development of the Napa Valley over the past 40 years, from a bucolic time when vintners drove beat-up pickups, to the touristic, flashy, well-heeled place it is today. And in detailing some of the day-to-day tasks that confront any vintner, Shafer also educates the readers about everything from bugs to Brettanomyces.”—San Jose Mercury News
“If you're looking for an immersive read, or a noble gift, it's a page-turner to love. . . . It's a must-read for anyone who likes a good family story as well as anyone interested in how the Napa Valley came to such prominence in the wine world in such a short time.”—Santa Rosa Press Democrat
“John Shafer and his family brought a surprisingly haphazard and improvisational approach to learning the winery trade, but Jay McInerney finds that the results are some of Napa Valley's finest wines. . . . While the Shafer story illustrates how much Napa winemakers have learned and how far they have come, it also illustrates the inexplicable mystery of great wine, how sometimes serendipity and intuition trump experience and technical expertise.”—Jay McInerney Wall Street Journal
“The last 40 years at the California wine industry’s heart, seen through a pioneering vintner’s eyes.”—American History
“This true-life story of one of the great success stories of the American wine industry focuses on John Shafer, who made a midlife change in the early 1970s to start a winery without having any practical experience. His son, Doug, and co-author Andy Demsky tell how Shafer Vineyards evolved into one of the world's great wineries.”—Assoc Press/SF Chronicle
"Without ever setting out to teach, it has lessons for us all."—The World of Fine Wine
“Trends in winemaking come and go but, over the past 40 years, Shafer Vineyards has delivered consistent, high-quality wines regardless of the trends. A Vineyard in Napa provides an inside look at how wine history is made.” –Tom Colicchio

“We all have our unique stories as to how we came to the Napa Valleyand chose to call it home. But the Shafer family history is a truly compelling tale and their journey is equally as inspiring. One doesn’t have to be a wine connoisseur to appreciate John Shafer’s story. His son Doug makes it clear why Shafer Vineyards has become one of the iconic wineries in the Valley—and in the world—today.” –Thomas Keller

“Wine at its greatest is not a beverage—it’s a story. This is the story of the making of an American First Growth. From broken-down tractor to breaking into the highest echelons of world-class wine, Doug Shafer takes us on his family’s journey. It is story no American wine lover will want to miss.” –Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible

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