Best Books and Films About California Wine Country



Bouchon Bakery (2012), by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel. The legendary Keller and his executive pastry chef share recipes that made Yountville's Bouchon Bakery an instant hit.

The Cakebread Cellars American Harvest Cookbook: Celebrating Wine, Food, and Friends in the Napa Valley (2011), by Dolores and Jack Cakebread. This book collects 25 years’ worth of recipes from the authors' annual cooking workshops.

The Essential Thomas Keller: The French Laundry Cookbook & Ad Hoc at Home (2010), by Thomas Keller. Recipes inspired by Keller's upscale and down-home Yountville establishments show the chef's great range.

Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook (2001), by Cindy Pawlcyn and Brigid Callinan. Pawlcyn describes her iconic eatery as "a cross between a roadside rib joint and a French country restaurant." She shares recipes and expounds on her culinary philosophy.

Plats du Jour: The Girl & the Fig's Journey Through the Seasons in Wine Country (2011), by Sondra Bernstein. The chef behind Sonoma County's two "fig" restaurants reveals her cooking secrets and adapts some of her signature dishes.


Murder Uncorked (2005), Murder by the Glass: A Wine-Lover's Mystery (2006), and Silenced by Syrah (2007), by Michele Scott. Vineyard manager Nikki Sands is the protagonist of this light and humorous mystery series that unfolds in the Napa Valley.

Nose: A Novel (2013), by James Conaway. A fictitious Northern California wine-making region—couldn't be Napa or Sonoma, could it?—is the setting for a mystery.


Appellation Napa Valley: Building and Protecting an American Treasure (2016), by Richard Mendelson. An industry lawyer describes the Napa Valley's evolution into a major wine region, from a legal and business standpoint.

The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste (2005), by Elin McCoy. Examination of the American critic's enormous influence considers the sources and worldwide impact of his wine rating system's dominance.

The Far Side of Eden: The Ongoing Saga of Napa Valley (2002), by James Conaway. Conaway's second book on the Wine Country picks up where the first—Napa (1992)—left off.

Harvests of Joy: How the Good Life Became Great Business (1999), by Robert Mondavi and Paul Chutkow. Wine tycoon Robert Mondavi tells his story.

The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty (2007), by Julia Flynn Siler. The author ruffled many a Napa feather when she published this tell-all book.

Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine (2005), by George M. Taber. The journalist who originally broke the story of the pivotal event analyzes its history and repercussions.

Murder & Mayhem in the Napa Valley (2012), by Todd L. Shulman. A Napa police officer recounts a century and a half of crime in the land of fine wine.

Napa County (2009), by Todd L. Shulman. Old postcards of Krug, Inglenook, and other historic wineries add visual spice to this county chronicle.

Napa Valley: The Land, the Wine, the People (2011), by Charles O'Rear. A former National Geographic photographer portrays the valley in this lush book.

The New California Wine: A Guide to the Producers and Wines Behind a Revolution in Taste (2013), by Jon Bonné. A former local wine critic profiles the leaders of the movement to create "wines that show nuance, restraint, and a deep evocation of place."

A New Napa Cuisine (2014), by Christopher Kostow. The much-lauded chef of the Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena describes his evolution as a chef and his land-focused approach to cooking.

A Perfect Score: The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21st-Century Winery (2016), by Craig and Kathryn Hall. The owners of Hall Wines describe their path to achieving a 100-point Wine Advocate score.

Postmodern Winemaking: Rethinking the Modern Science of an Ancient Craft (2013), by Clark Smith. A longtime winemaker and current Santa Rosa resident ponders the roles of science and art in the creation of great wine.

Sonoma Wine and the Story of Buena Vista (2013), by Charles L. Sullivan. California's first winery provides the hook for this survey of Sonoma County's wine-making history.

Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California (2015), by Frances Dinkelspiel. Rare vintages by the author's great-great-grandfather were among the 4½ million bottles destroyed in a deliberately set warehouse fire were

When the Rivers Ran Red: An Amazing Story of Courage and Triumph in America's Wine Country (2009), by Vivienne Sosnowski. The author chronicles the devastating effect of Prohibition on Northern California winemakers.

Films and TV

Bottle Shock (2008). Filmed primarily in the Napa and Sonoma valleys, Randall Miller’s fictionalized feature about the 1976 Paris tasting focuses on Calistoga's Chateau Montelena.

Burn Country (2016). Sonoma County seems downright sinister (especially at night) in this indie drama about an Afghani exile who becomes a reporter for a local paper and falls into danger pursuing leads on a murder case. Melissa Leo and James Franco are among the stars.

Falcon Crest (1981–1990). This soap opera centered on a winery in the fictional "Tuscany Valley" (aka Napa) may not have aged as well as wines made during its era, but it has acquired a nostalgic patina. At its best it’s pulpy good fun.

Napa Valley Dreams (2013). Rodney Vance wrote and directed this contemplative love note to the Napa Valley; the 41-minute documentary includes juicy location shots and interviews with major winemakers and other valley residents.

Somm (2012). Some scenes in Jason Wise’s documentary about sommeliers striving to pass the master sommelier exam were shot in the Napa Valley.

Somm Into the Bottle (2015). Jason Wise followed up Somm with this introduction to the world of wine via the stories of 10 bottles, one from Napa.

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