Two of my favorite things in the world are craft beer and books. On the last Thursday of every month I pair a story I love with a pint to sip while reading it. The series kicked off in earnest in May 2015, which means it turns one this month. Happy birthday, dear Books & Brews, happy birthday to you…
The events in Laura Dave’s EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES take place against the backdrop of the yearly harvest party at a vineyard– which makes it a perfect read for this celebratory month. (Synchronization, perhaps. *winking at anyone who has read the book already*) However, unlike my quiet little confetti throwing on the blog, Dave’s novel is full of family drama, in all the best ways. The main character, Georgia, returns home to her family’s vineyard in search of the comfortable familiar. Instead she finds that everything (really, literally everything) has changed. Here’s what I loved about the book:
- The first chapter. It’s perfect. Seriously. You’re immediately drawn into the story of this woman who is running away from something. Clearly being completely impulsive in a way that is not normal at all for her. That alone is enough to draw you in, but then there’s the bombshell at the end of the chapter that you didn’t see coming at all. It is SO very well done.
- The setting and the wine. I’m grouping these together because they are inextricably linked. I had never heard of Sebastopol, California (and I still have to keep asking if I’m pronouncing it right whenever I say it out loud). If you’re also unfamiliar, it’s in Sonoma county, and to read Dave’s descriptions of it, it’s magical. Cool mornings full of fog and dewy grass, golden sunsets, the smell of lavender and chamomile. Yes, please. And if I could enjoy it while sipping a glass of small batch, biodynamic wine, even better. The descriptions of Georgia’s father’s winemaking practices helped me understand the art behind the science of winemaking.
- The ending. Obviously, I can’t say a lot here without spoilers, but basically Georgia has a choice to make and I was very happy with the one she made. You know how sometimes you’re reading a book and thinking I really, really want this to happen… but I’m really not sure it’s going to go that way. Well it did. And I loved everything about it, from how well it showed change in the main character, to the truths about risk and life and love all wrapped up in it.
So I knew this was going to be a tough one– what beer pairs best with a book about wine? I basically want to drink wine the whole time I was reading the book, and so I really had to mentally shift my thinking to focus on beer, but I think I’ve manged to do it. I’m pairing this book with Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch. It’s part of their Ancient Ales series, which there is a lot of research and science behind– just like the winemaking in EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES. The name is fitting, because turning grapes into wine is all about turning something everyday into something spectacular. And if that’s not enough evidence for the pairing, the brewery’s website has the following to say about the beer: “Somewhere between beer, wine and mead, Midas will please the chardonnay and beer drinker alike.” So there you have it– the perfect beer for a wine book.