Got an interesting book to review recently, and I’d have to say that the title alone, “The Secrets of My Life: Vintner, Prisoner, Soldier, Spy” by Peter M. F. Sichel piqued my interest. The vintner aspect, beginning in pre-Nazi Germany and ending decades later with the success and eventual demise of Blue Nun Liebfraumilch, linked Sichel, as his name is on the iconic label.
Some recognize him as the creator of Blue Nun, one of the first international wine brands. Others know him best for his influence and time in the CIA. To Peter Sichel, he’s just an ordinary guy who wants to share his life story and maybe enjoy a little vino while he’s at it.
In his new book, “The Secrets of My Life: Vintner, Prisoner, Soldier, Spy”, Sichel takes the reader on a journey from his childhood as a Jew in Nazi Germany to France, where he escaped imprisonment to live in the United States where he immediately joined the military during World War II. He even shares stories from his time as an intelligence officer during the Cold War—which of course had to be cleared by the CIA. After a seemingly eventful early adulthood, he returned to the business he is most passionate about.
In 1960 he took over the family wine business after leaving the CIA, working hard to grow Blue Nun. Sichel looks back on each chapter of his incredible life and thinks fondly of where he has been and the legacy he has left, saying, “I was fortunate to have three unique experiences that shaped my life so dramatically.”
Sichel tells readers that his childhood occurs during a time in Germany when it was a “far-from-happy-land.” We learn a little more about what it would have been like to be a Jew in Germany during Hitler’s time, what it felt like to loose all of one’s childhood friends, exit your homeland and – after successfully fleeing – end up in an internment camp in France. At the same time, we get a glimpse of his growing interest and knowledge of wine via the Sichel family wine business.
The next section of the book is wholly devoted to serving the USA, the homeland he would eventually adopt for the long-term, in the early days of the OSS (what would eventually become the CIA). His covert missions, and the many names that he drops, bring realism to the story.
Two thirds into the book Sichel safely exits all work with the OSS and returns to his wine interests. He shares his feelings on the importance of blending wine, the rise and fall of the iconic Blue Nun label, the “fashion and future” of wine, the wide range of Rieslings that are not all sweet as the public presumes and offers some sage advice.
Sichel worked for many years to build the Sichel brand, as well as wine education as a board member of the Culinary Institute of America and the Institute of Masters of Wine North America.
The book is balanced, full bodied and graced with with long finish. Well done Peter Sichel.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.