Released yesterday, “The World in a Wineglass,” is Food & Wine Executive Editor Ray Isle’s new guide to environmentally friendly wines from around the world, with a sizable chapter on California that highlights many Sonoma County producers.
Based in New York, Isle has long been a proponent of Sonoma County wine, participating in many events in partnership with the Sonoma County Winegrowers, including the annual Healdsburg Wine & Food Experience.
Subtitled “The Insider’s Guide to Artisanal, Sustainable, Extraordinary Wines to Drink Now,” the book is 720 pages of both explanatory text on what terms like organic, biodynamic and regenerative mean in the modern wine world, and exhaustive listing of producers from around the world who farm sustainably, organically or biodynamically and make great wines that express the places they come from.
From the beginning, Isle is asking wine drinkers to value wines and wineries that promote sustainability, underscoring that the way a wine is made and who made it can change the way we experience it, taking a farming-first approach as he travels the world’s wine regions.
“Our experience of wine (and food, for that matter) is inescapably contextual,” Isle writes in the book’s opening pages. “The truth is that the story of a wine – knowledge of the people behind it and the place it came from, awareness of the honesty of how it was made and how that reflects your own beliefs – can deeply affect your experience of a wine.”
He states that the wines he remembers best through all his years of tasting and travel are wines that offered something more, something beyond the direct chemical characteristics of flavor and aroma. And so in putting together this wine guide, he’s actually putting together a collection of stories.
“I think there’s even greater pleasure to be found in opening yourself up to a different way of tasting, and to drinking a more rewarding kind of wine,” he writes.
The California chapter opens with a beautiful black-and-white photo of Hirsch Vineyards on the Sonoma Coast. Isle acknowledges that California is defined by its lack of centuries-old tradition, unlike countries in Europe, and that “there are hundreds of small and even not-so-small wineries and winemakers making ambitious, expressive wines, and more and more vineyards looking to sustainability, organics, biodynamics, and regenerative farming.”
Highlighted Sonoma County producers include Bedrock Wine Co., Bucklin Old Hill Ranch, Carlisle, Cobb, Cruse Wine Co., the aforementioned Hirsch, Idlewild, Kutch, Littorai, Pax Wines, Peay, Ridge Vineyards, Scherrer and Stonestreet, with an additional list of North Coast producers to look for at the chapter’s end.
“I’ve tried to shift the balance here to some degree,” Isle explains about the purpose of this book. “The most important information in these pages answers questions. It describes things that really do matter: where the wine is from, how the vineyards were farmed, who made the wine. To me, ‘does it taste like blueberries?’ or ‘how many months did it age in barrel?’ is far less interesting than ‘what’s the winemaker’s story?’ or ‘what’s so special about this particular vineyard?’”
Isle will be an upcoming guest on the Good Stuff Hour, where he will further discuss his new book and the Sonoma County vineyards and wineries he loves. The show airs Saturdays at 1 p.m. on KSRO 103.5/1350 AM.