|Author David Darlington signing books at the July 13 reading at Moe's|
Darlington, despite winning a James Beard award for his New York Times article on Enologix, entitled The Chemistry of 90+ Wine, protests that he is not a wine writer. "I don't have the taste buds for it," he told his audience. "And I can't get behind the way they describe the flavors." (I agree - I can't either and I don't even think the wine industry should either because it's so offputting to so many of their would be customers. If it wasn't for the British wine writers [and the history of French-duped British wine merchants], one wonders if the class system reflected in wines would have carried on as far as it has.)
Despite his protestations, Darlington does indeed regularly write for Wine & Spirits magazine - but about bicycling through the hills of West Sonoma or other wine or wine country-related topics.
In short, Darlington is a writer - not a wine writer - attested to by his five John-McPhee-like nonfiction books. Throughout An Ideal Wine, I, like many other readers, felt like I was watching a documentary unfold - on paper.
Darlington told the audience he wrote the book to tell the whole Enologix story - including the parts that were cut, he said, from the New York Times Sunday magazine article.
In a nutshell, Enologix's strategy is to game the system of wine critic scoring, by making wines that specifically correlate - down to the chemical compounds - with certain critics' high scores. Its founder Leo McCloskey can tell a winemaker what James Laube (Wine Spectator) prefers as well as Robert Parker (Wine Advocate) from his database of 70,000 chemical profiles of wine. (One wonders how this will be handled as the new Wine Advocate California wine critic comes on board).
Darlington is probably the only real wine journalist we have, at the moment, who stands outside the industry enough to be able to comment on it. It doesn't hurt that he is a very good writer. For it is the writing that makes this tale unfold so compellingly.
The reading concluded with free wine for everyone. Originally the plan was to have wines from both of the book's main protagonists - Randall Grahm's Bonny Doon wines as well as some Enologix client wines (in this case it was to have been Pine Ridge). Since the Pine Ridge wines did not arrive in time for the reading, the small crowd sampled a red and a white from Bonny Doon: the aptly named Contra (carignane from Contra Costa county) and the Ca del Solo Albarino, with its biodynamic spectrograph on the label.
New York Journal of Books here
Darlington will be doing more readings around the Bay Area. I for one would like to be a fly on the wall when he reads at Copperfields in Napa this coming Friday.