June 28, 2006

My First Crush: Misadventures in Wine Country

I just finished reading My First Crush by Linda Kaplan, who until last year was the co-owner of Panther Creek winery here in Oregon. It’s a fun read, not the best wine book ever but perfectly worth your time. Especially if you’re looking to learn a bit about what really goes on in an Oregon winery.

Kaplan’s book details the tumultuous first year of operating a winery after her husband Ron somewhat suddenly took his wine passion to another level by purchasing the McMinnville business. That the Kaplans lived in Des Moines, IA, only complicated what would be a tough transition for almost anyone.

So Kaplan has plenty of stories to tell. The purchase, leaving Iowa and old friends, the journey west, arrival in Oregon, finding a place to live, the first harvest, wine tastings, wine dinners, making new friends and meeting old ones again.

Kaplan is an experienced writer, and she handles the book professionally. It’s not flashy, which is a plus. But it isn’t as poignant as I think she intended it to be. Still, she conveys the sensitivity of her transition to Oregon life well.

The book begins with a recipe for Pinot Noir. The story is that Kaplan, previously a white zinfandel drinker, couldn’t imagine the winery didn’t come with a recipe for making the wine. After all, good mid-western woman know that recipes are essential to success in food or beverage preparation.

The recipe symbolizes her initial naiveté about wine, which she overcomes with determination seemingly fueled by the angst felt by any50-something woman, a recent empty nester in an unfamiliar part of the country and business. The angst propels her to succeed in gaining wine knowledge and hosting savvy, the bread and butter of boutique winery owners.

Such that, in the end…well, why don’t you read it for yourself. Suffice it to say, I don’t share her appreciation for Panther Creek wines. But that’s beside the point. You can drink any Oregon wine with this book and have some fun.

You might even get the urge to sort grapes or, gasp, become a certified fork lift operator.

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