What’s the one thing that you must have when you visit wine country? A driver? A roadmap? Reservations? Okay, there’s more than one thing. But for me, the one thing I don’t want to leave out is: A Plan. And the only way to get said plan is to research. Talking to friends, Internet search and notes…all necessary “pairings”, but the one thing I won’t leave home without is…
What makes this guidebook different? The world-class photography? The work of no less than four award-winning writers?
Recently I sat down with editor and publisher Tom Silberkleit, before his book-signing debut at Vino 100 Valencia event last month, to learn more.
What makes your books the definitive choice for wine area planning?
“Half the fun of visiting wineries is getting a real ‘sense of place’. When folks take a wine country holiday, their intention is to return home with good wine and good memories.” began Silberkleit. “Wine tasting is much more fun when you experience true hospitality and meet good people along the way. Our books focus on ‘destination wineries’, places with a secondary reason for the visit—in addition to good wine.
I do the ‘prep work’ for my editorial staff. If a winery is producing good wine (of course, that’s the pre-requisite) and has beautiful gardens, award-winning architecture, underground wine caves, an on-site museum, world-class photo exhibits; a patio for picnics… that’s what I’m looking for. Places like this have something for everybody whether people in a group drink wine or someone chooses to abstain. I want readers who visit California wineries to feel that they’ve gone somewhere special. Wine country is very much like Disneyland for adults.
I spend much of the year driving the state to research and taste. However, in selecting wineries for our books I never trust my palate alone. Everyone’s taste is different. I confer with wine tasters who frequent tasting rooms and special events, wine writers, fine wine sellers, and, most importantly, winemakers themselves. It’s all in order to get a broad consensus on quality.
My photographer and writers are top professionals in their fields. They have published works in various media and live right here in California’s wine regions.
Tell me about the Quiz, that I lifted for my blog, on winery trivia, did one of your four writers make that up?
“It turns out, it’s a rather tough quiz. I took the questions directly from The California Directory of Fine Wineries books and had fun doing it!”
About Tom Silberkleit
As a teenager Tom signed up for a free correspondence course on the wines of France. Attending his freshman year of college in Europe further developed his palate.
When a sommelier friend suggested that Tom try a second growth Bordeaux: Chateau Léoville-Las Cases as an investment, Tom dove in and bought 4 cases. He admitted that at first the young wine tasted horrible but 20 years later it garnered him a hefty profit – and a perfect taste, “It was smooth – front to back – and I made enough from the venture to take a holiday.”
Later in life, his career as a writer turned to the promotion of California wines and wineries. Tom spent 27 years touring different places just in Sonoma alone while he wrote about his adventures in a local newspaper. Then, leaving the rat race behind, he started his own graphic design studio while simultaneously making a string of major book sales to such publishers as Doubleday, St. Martin’s Press, and Stein & Day.
In 2001, Tom made the complete switch from writing to publishing. “The idea of working for twelve months on a project only to sell the rights to a large corporation with a large front-list of competing titles always felt counterintuitive. I primarily work on projects that I feel very passionate about. I love the wine industry and certainly made the right choice in retaining editorial control and publishing this best-selling series through my own company.”
“I’ve covered glamorous wine estates in Napa Valley as well as the so-called ‘wine ghetto’ of Lompoc in search of quality wineries. Accuracy is very important to our books. Up until the final publication goes to press I am updating tasting fees, menus, and details of the overall experience. You’ll notice in our books, we don’t make the mistake of offering ratings or suggesting the latest, greatest wine. As I’ve learned, once the word gets out on a hot wine—it’s gone all too quickly.”
The Wines Vino 100 Valencia Paired
No less than 7 wines were partnered for the book signing that night. Lil LePore had arranged with Chris Rigdon, our newest rep in the area for TGIC Importers, to pour Halter Ranch Vineyard from Paso Robles—one of the wineries featured in the Central Coast edition of Tom’s book. I found out from Chris that Halter Ranch wines could only be procured from Vino 100.
Guests were to taste a Rose, Sauvignon Blanc, Cotes de Paso Blanc, GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre blend), Syrah, Cotes de Paso and Cabernet Sauvignon. As it was only 4pm, and I had another interview to conduct over wine that evening, I limited myself to only a few sips of the much recommended Rose, while chatting with Tom.
Great ripe-strawberry color, a floral nose with drops of both honey and light fruit, a watermelon taste that was remarkable as was a little white pepper on the back palate.
There are two editions of The California Directory of Fine Wineries currently available at Vino 100 in Valencia, Barnes & Noble, Borders Books, Amazon.com, and Southern California Bristol Farms stores. The Central Coast edition covers Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara while the Northern Region book, now in its 4th edition, highlights the wineries of Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino.
You can keep up with wine country news by becoming a fan of The California Directory of Fine Wineries on Facebook as well as find Tom’s Winery Trivia Quiz by clicking the blog button on his website http://californiafinewineries.com
(Editor’s note: Vino 100 is now closed.)
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a guest judge for the L.A. International Wine Competition. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com