Sacramento Bee wine writer Mike Dunne captured the essence of Conaway's career and his latest book better than anyone I can imagine in his profile published in yesterday's Sacramento Bee. Here's the link.
"....many of the principal players in the founding of Napa Valley's modern wine trade - several of whom were proponents of measures to maintain the region's agricultural essence - have died or sold out to a 'conglomerate class' that doesn't share their sense of community, sensitivity and vision.
Conaway laments that many of the family wineries pivotal in establishing Napa Valley's reputation as a fine wine region - Mondavi, Martini, Beringer, Raymond, Stag's Leap, among others - are in the hands of corporate CEOs rather than scions. By contrast, he notes, many French wineries have been in the same family for centuries.
"The ultimate goal of a corporation is profit - not community, not the environment, not agriculture. They are going to go where the profit is," Conaway said."This is a conversation that is ongoing in Napa and Sonoma, the latter a place where rural residents are still just waking up to the total transformation of the priorities of the county board of supervisors as more and more Big Money (including the Wagner family from Napa) moves in.
In Napa, citizens were more organized against winery overdevelopment than in Sonoma, but not luckier in outcomes, even after voting in measures that take power over the Ag Preserve out of the hands of the (vulnerable) board of county supervisors and put limited powers in the hands of the voters, requiring public referendums for changes in the Ag Preserve laws.
The Ag Preserve is the continuing vein throughout Conaway's trilogy - which if you haven't read yet, you might want to start now. It's winter and rainy and the perfect time to crawl under a blanket with a good book...or two...or three. The first book of the trilogy is also available from Audible.
As citizens and tourists alike contemplate the 50th anniversary of the Ag Preserve (passed, controversially, in 1968 - the subject of Conaway's first book in the trilogy), there's no finer moment to pick up on the latest chapter of this engaging soap opera, holding up a mirror to 2018 in America.
You can read an excerpt of the book on the publisher's site here.
Conaway will be touring the Bay Area in mid March with scheduled appearances in the following locations:
• Berkeley: Tuesday, March 13, 7 pm
Books Inc. (on Shattuck Ave where Black Oak Books used to be)
• Santa Rosa: Wednesday, March 14, 6-8 pm
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
• Calistoga: Thursday, March 15, 7 pm (advance tickets are free)
Blake Gray has also written a review of the book on Wine Searcher, which has a lot of international traffic. Read it here.