The worst part of ordering books from Amazon is that something else usually catches your eye before completing the checkout procedure.
That was the case with A Wine Journey along the Russian River by Steve Heimoff. I was ordering another book and this one begged to come along for the ride. I'm glad it did.
As with my previous foray into books on the site, this is not be taken as a review, only as my impressions of the book.
It's exactly what the title says. Heimoff starts at the far north of Sonoma County and follows the Russian River to the ocean, focusing on wines, wineries, vineyards and winemakers along the way.
A major part of the book looks at the geologic events that shaped the river over the course of time and how this relates to soils and wine. Very interesting and informative stuff. More of the book deals with the early settlers along the river. Familiar names pop up frequently. Again, this is interesting stuff.
The sections of the book dealing with wine aren't to be ignored, though the thing that shone through clearest to me is that Heimoff and I have opposing views on what constitutes a good cabernet sauvignon based wine. He is more fruit forward and more extracted than I am. Much more.
One good example of this difference is his high praise for Simi Landslide Cabernet Sauvignon. I've tasted it on three occasions and always found it overbearing, over ripe and overly alcoholic. Not my cup of tea, though the story about how it got its name is fascinating.
Heimoff also seems disappointed in this part of the book that in a taste-off between Sonoma and Napa cabernets one winemaker was able to identify 90% of the wines as to their origin. Heimoff seems to have been hoping that the Sonoma wines would be indistinguishable from the Napa wines. Again, it's a difference of opinion, but I would have been (and was) delighted that someone could tell the difference - not because one was better than the other but only because they were different.
Of course the lower end of the Russian River flows through prime pinot noir country and here Heimoff and I are in more agreement. With the exception of Calera and Hanzell the best California pinots I've had came from the Russian River Valley. Rochioli, Dehlinger, and Williams Selyem are some of my favorites, though they are now getting out of my price range. He's also correct that Rochioli makes one of the very best Sauvignon Blancs in California.
On my last two trips to California I have avoided Napa in favor of the southern end of the Russian River Valley, and then into the Dry Creek Valley so he is writing about an area I love to visit, and an area whose wines I like. I worry that some of these wines are starting to get too big, but that's a too long discussion for here.
The book finishes on the Sonoma Coast where the Russian River empties into the Pacific Ocean.
Bottom line - well written and a good and enjoyable read.
A Wine Journey along the Russian River (2005) by Steve Heimoff. University of California Press.