Connecting the Dots
a book review
Wine Country Table:
With Recipes that Celebrate California’s Sustainable Harvest
By Janet Fletcher
Photographs by Robert Holmes and Sara Remington
in collaboration with Wine Institute Rizzoli Publications, Inc., 2019
Expecting out-of-state visitors this summer or looking to spark your own California wanderlust? Here’s a book for your coffee table as well as your kitchen, one that both inspires and informs. Pull up a chair (or put on your apron) for a magnificent journey into California’s agricultural richness and the epicurean culture it has spawned.
In her new book, Wine Country Table, award-winning Bay Area food and wine writer Janet Fletcher looks at our state—pretty much every arable part of it, north to south, and from the Pacific Coast into the Sierra Foothills—as Wine Country. Think Italy or France: places where enjoyment of local wine twines into the food culture and where unique regional food traditions spring from thoughtful land stewardship and reverence for craftsmanship. Since the 1970s, when California was first revealed to the world as capable of producing wines on par with those of France and Italy, California vintners have been cultivating an equally tempting image of Wine Country and its intermingled pleasures.
Here in a land newer to wine culture, producers enjoy more freedom to innovate, and that extends into rethinking ways to honor and protect our precious ecosystems with forward-thinking practices. Throughout the book, Fletcher celebrates the leadership role California growers have played in finding effective ways to lighten winemaking’s environmental footprint.
“A vintner from fifty years ago would be astonished by viticulture and winemaking today: the thick stands of cover crops in place of the weed-free vineyards of the past; the solar panels and wind turbines that power wineries and irrigation; and the pervasive recycling mind-set,” Fletcher writes.
As dwellers on a fragile planet, we can offer our thanks to Fletcher for weaving the discussion of sustainability into a subject matter that normally begins and ends at the pursuit of pleasure. But also, this is a book that acknowledges winegrowing as it exists within a context of food growing here in an agricultural state that produces abundance the world depends on. In that vein, the book celebrates not only the grape harvest, but also the wider bounty laid out on Wine Country tables.
Be prepared to meet growers of California’s best cared-for row crops and tree crops—including many in the Northstate—as you ramble through this huge, diverse, and productive landscape. The stories, gorgeous images, and 50 easy-to-follow recipes are sure to inspire you to set your own sustainable California Wine Country table.
Cheryl Angelina Koehler is the publisher and editor of Edible East Bay, an Edible Communities sister magazine to Edible Shasta-Butte.