Everything wrong with this picture
Wine writing recs, and a book on Malibu in the '80s.
I hope you had a great weekend. We spent ours in Chicago. Good news - Chicago is rather perfect at this time of year; the cold didn’t really hit until our last day. Bad news - we were both feeling very “fluish” so didn’t get out as much as we would have liked. Next time. Unlike most places, Chicago is actually an easy flight from Bentonville.
The Wine: 2020 Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay
14.5% AbV, ~$16
I’m struggling a little with some of the “wine snobbery” I’m running across as I traverse the internet. I swear it wasn’t this bad 10 years ago, when I last wrote about wine. Maybe I’m just more sensitive to it now. I had a little fun with it though, when I realized we could play a game of what’s wrong with this picture. 😉
What you can’t see in the photo: It paired quite well with my microwave chicken fettuccini alfredo and animal crackers. A chef, I am not.
All joking aside, I enjoyed this wine. It’s a screw top, which is like a neon sign screaming “Drink Me Now!” Listen to the wine, unscrew the cap, and enjoy.
This chardonnay was aged in French oak, which means that while it does have the structure and butter you still find in many California chardonnays, it’s thankfully a lighter touch, and brings just the right amount of toffee flavor. I know this sounds ridiculous, but my low-cal animal cracker desert actually pulled forward a little more butter and pear flavors.
This is by no means a fancy chardonnay. It’s not heavy, so it needs to be paired with lighter foods such as fish or chicken. I’m pretty sure it added flavor to my microwave dinner. Remember that it is 14.5% AbV, so while you’re enjoying the glass, you may find yourself accidentally enjoying the entire bottle in one evening. It’s well balanced, so that alcohol will sneak up on you.
This is a good, everyday chardonnay and I would buy it again.
Wine Writing Recommendations
After a 10+ year break, I’m rediscovering the world of everyday wine writing. I’ve come across some blogs/newsletters I enjoy, some of whom are old friends and others are new discoveries. I recommend checking out The Wine Curmudgeon,, and Press Fraction (specializes in NY and other regional wines), all here on SubStack. For a little more professional take, but still not taking it all too seriously, you’ll enjoy Vinography, which is an evergreen wine blog still as great now as it was many years ago.
Book Pairing: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I don’t remember how I stumbled onto this book. But I’m glad I did, because it introduced me to a new author who has written a series of books that aren’t a series at all, yet the characters move in and out of each other’s lives in brief cameos throughout the stories.
Sometimes, I’m just really taken by an author’s writing style. I started with Reid’s Malibu Rising, but I followed it with The 7 Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (I noticed on Sunday that this is on the Best Seller list) and Carrie Soto is Back. There is still another by Reid in my To Be Read (TBR) pile. These books are not-quite-historical fiction, as they all take place in the 20th and 21st centuries, but you do get the nice vibe of glamorous Hollywood and ‘60s rock in her books too. In Malibu Rising, while you get the rock and roll, you also get surfing.
I’ve always wanted to surf. I’d probably fail hilariously, but have a great time trying. In Malibu Rising, surfing is meditation for the Riva family of four siblings. While the family is still in high school, their mother passes away. Their dad, Mick Riva, is out of the picture, a famous musician who chose to not be in their live. As adults, each of the siblings has their own issues to deal with, many of which are tangled up with each other.
The story mainly focuses on the oldest sister, Nina Riva, who dropped out of school to support her family after their mother passed away. (Dad may be famous, but he wasn’t sending checks.) Nina tries her best to run the family restaurant (a seafood diner near the Malibu coastline), maintain the house they grew up in, and take care of her younger brothers and sister in the Malibu of the 80s.
The story unfolds over a single day and evening, the day of Nina Riva’s “famous” annual party that is often huge and out of control. Nina, now a famous model, is rather tightly wound, taking care of everyone in her life and maintaining tight control of her own. On this particular day, Nina is reeling from her impending divorce from a famous tennis player. But the party must go on and is scheduled for the evening at her cliffside mansion they had shared.
Flashbacks are woven throughout, providing context and backstory for our characters. By the time the party happens - the moment the book has driven relentlessly towards - you know something has to change in all of their lives, especially Nina’s. A lot of things need to be unpacked, including feelings, situations, and actions, for all of the Rivas, including Mick.
You really start to care about these characters. One thing I enjoy about a Taylor Jenkins Reid book is that there is always a slight effervescence underneath it all, an element of play and fun, which balances the more serious parts. After all, this is more than just a beach read.
When the book ended, I missed these characters, and that’s what drove me to binge on Reid’s books. Mick Riva, our delinquent dad rock star, has shown up (as a cameo or more) in every book so far, and minor characters in Malibu Rising, such as Carrie Soto, have their own stories to tell in later books. Daisy Jones & the Six is the next of Reid’s books in my TBR stack. I’m looking forward to it.
I really enjoyed Malibu Rising - and I’m continuing to enjoy the author’s writing. But these will stay in eBook for me.
What types of books (fiction please) would you like to discuss? What do you want to know about wine? Did you know you all can “like” and “comment” on these posts? I’d love to keep the dialogue going.