July Reading Glasses Book Selections and Wines:
1. In the Kitchen: A Novel (Hardcover) by Monica Ali
A new novel by the author of Brick Lane would have normally caught our attention but the fact that the setting is in a restaurant kitchen made it truly compelling. Even though there is an (over) abundance of reality shows on TV set in kitchens, they somehow due to the formula now used on TV never completely stay ever in any scene longer than a good 15 – 30 seconds to let you experience the real chaos of a kitchen. Well this novel certainly does, told through the eyes of its protagonist, Chef Gabriel Lightfoot, as he struggles to open a new restaurant in an old hotel amidst a mad environment filled with immigrant staff who can’t really communicate well (they all speak different languages) and whose culinary beliefs are in conflict with his goal of bringing back traditional French cuisine. He becomes ever more manic as a whole series of dramas unfold in and out of his kitchen.
The wine to drink with this book needs to be both complex, spicy, and with some grit. That is why we are pairing this book with the 2007 La Fenetre A Cote Red Blend (60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 40 percent Merlot) from Santa Barbara County.
2. The Song Is You: A Novel (Hardcover) by Arthur Phillips
Arthur Philips is a fine novelist who wrote a favorite novel of mine “Prague” about a group of young expatriates in Budapest right after the end of the cold war. (The title was about the characters feelings that they were missing the real action in Prague.) In his new novel, the main character, commercial director, who’s fast approaching middle age and in the midst of dissolution of his marriage becomes sort of obsessed with an up and coming singer. Through email and other communication they begin an interesting relationship where both the creation of art intersects with love.
The wine to drink with this book is the Black Cat Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 from Napa. This wine from the one of the smallest single estate vineyard in Napa is a work of true passion matching the singer in this novel. Only 125 cases of this vintage were made.
3. The Spies of Warsaw: A Novel (Paperback) by Alan Furst
Every summer, I love reading espionage or thriller novels and I hope Alan Furst has a new novel out. Furst sets all his novels in mostly Europe between 1933 and 1945. They all deal with incredible, but ordinary, people caught up in the conflicts that beset Europe in the years leading up to and during WWII. Each book is like having a new fine vintage of your favorite winemaker. His attention to historical detail is breathtaking—it actually makes you almost feel, taste, see and hear the era. Furst’s latest novel is The Spies of Warsaw that follows a French Army Attache in Warsaw in the fall of 1937. The attaché must gather intelligence in a city full of spies (Russian, German and British) and figure out Germany’s military strategy against Poland. If this is your introduction to Alan Furst, you are lucky because he has nine other incredible novels to savor.
The wine to pair with this book is Del Bondio Syrah 2004 from Napa Valley. This wine is a French influenced Syrah that combines an old world feel with California fruit. This wine reflects the changes in the world of wine that are similar to the changes the French attaché was experiencing in Warsaw in 1937 where all the old ways of culture, nationalism and politics were in flux.
4. Netherland (Paperback) by Joseph O’Neill
We’ve been waiting for this book to come out in paperback since it’s Pen Faulkner Prize and was named a New York Times Best Book of the year. The story revolves around a Dutch financial analyst who lives in New York City with his British wife, a successful attorney, and young son. But after 9/11, they are evacuated from their loft home into a funky hotel. Shortly thereafter, his wife and child return to England. He stays behind in New York, and undergoes feelings of displacement while living at his surreal hotel. The story follows his changes as he joins a cricket team of immigrants from British colonies (Indians, Pakistanis and Caribbeans) that are nonwhite and from a different economic world. This causes him to reexamine his life.
The wine we recommend to pair with this book is Lomond Sauvignon Blanc 2008 from South Africa. This crisp white wine with both apple and citrus notes is an artful blend of many immigrants take on sauvignon blanc.
5. 1959: The Year Everything Changed (Hardcover) by Fred Kaplan
This book by Slate columnist, Fred Kaplan argues that 1959 is an overlooked pivotal year and that it was truly when the sixties actually began. Recently excerpted in New York Magazine this book , highlights cultural, political, scientific breakthroughs that would alter all our lives. For example, the groundbreaking jazz albums by Miles Davis (“Kind of Blue” and “Sketches of Spain” Williams Burroughs published Naked Lunch, The first trials and FDA approval were sought for birth control pills, the introduction of the microchip to computing and in politics, the Cuban Revolution and the nascent John F. Kennedy candidacy for President. All these would change America forever.
The wine we recommend to drink with this book is a Domain Jean-Pierre-Seve Pouilly-Fuisse 2007. This beautiful terroir driven chardonnay is perfect because during 1959 in New York this was most likely the leading white wine drank (remember American wine was still undergoing its transformation to what it is today).
All the wines matched with these books are available at Wine Valet.
Originally published in Women&Wine