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12 Must-Read Books for Napa Valley Wine Lovers

Napa Valley Book Recommendations

Napa Valley Book Recommendations

Below are 12 must-read Napa books for any traveler who wants to brush up on the area’s history and wine offerings.

While some wine-producing locations have cultivated and created spirits for thousands of years, Napa Valley is a relatively young winemaking area. It was not until the late 1800s when Napa Valley, CA, started to become a wine tourist destination (less than 100 years after the first vines were cultivated). Even still, it has become one of the most prestigious and celebrated wine regions in the US.

If you’re planning a trip to Napa Valley or a wine tour of the Valley and want to arrive well-educated on its unique, storied history, you’ll want to read through at least one or two Napa book offerings. Many are available on a range of topics, including the available Napa Valley wines, the jump in popularity of the region’s wines due to Robert Mondavi, the exploration of the American dream for those creating vineyards, and more.

See our list with the corresponding Amazon links:

Row of grape vines in California with mountains in the background, an embodiment of the Napa book experience
Row of grape vines in California with mountains in the background, an embodiment of the Napa book experience | Photo by Daniel Salgado on Upsplash

1. The House Of Mondavi: The Rise And Fall Of An American Wine Dynasty

Robert Mondavi, a graduate of Stanford University, is credited for bringing more attention to Napa Valley wines due to his inventive techniques and unique marketing. This best of Napa Valley book dives into the complicated familial relationships of the Mondavis, including Robert’s troubled relationship with his brother, which included a legal battle over the family winery. This book offers insight into the family behind one of the biggest wineries in the Valley. This book is written by a former Wall Street Journal reporter and has been named a New York Times bestseller.

2. Harvests of Joy: How the Good Life Became Great Business

If The House of Mondavi has intrigued you, it’s worth looking at the Harvests of Joy. This is another book that looks into Robert Mondavi further, though from a different angle. This book is written by Mondavi himself and offers insight into how his battle with his family helped him create one of the largest wineries in the US. He discusses his business successes and offers tips to readers who want to explore the wine business (or those interested in general entrepreneurship). This exquisite book inspires readers to strive for excellence (like Mondavi), even after family feuds or other negatively impacting events.

3. Napa Valley Entertaining Book

The Napa Valley Entertaining Book is a Napa Valley book must-read, especially for those who want to move to the area. This entertaining book provides insight into famed vintners and resident’s lives through stunning photos of the decor, dishes, and more. Besides showing how one can achieve wine experiences in Napa Valley with wine country flair, it also offers delicious recipes to pair with local wines. This book effortlessly captures what makes Napa Valley unforgettable and how to incorporate the region’s style into entertaining.

4. Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine

The 1976 Paris Tasting was a monumental event for California winemakers. It was organized by Steven Spurrier, an English wine expert who gathered the top French wine judges, the best French wines, and a few wines from up-and-coming California winemakers. This blind taste test was held in the heart of Paris at the InterContinental Hotel. The results of the taste test noted the top three white wines as California-produced spirits. As for the red wine rankings, the first place went to Warren Winiarski, a Napa Valley vintner. This taste test proved to the wine world that good wine could come from places other than Europe. Thus creating a ripple effect in the wine industry, opening the options for vintners in other locations.

This book is written by the only reporter who witnessed the momentous event, George M. Tabor. He describes the contest, along with the American vintners present. The book also discusses the man behind the event (Steven Spurrier) and the aftereffects. It’s a unique read that is so interesting it led to the creation of the movie Bottle Shock.

Napa Valley book recommendations Judgment of Paris Cover

5. Margrit Mondavi’s Sketchbook: Reflections on Wine, Food, Art, Family, Romance, and Life

Magrit Mondavi was the wife of Robert Mondavi. While Robert was a wine legend, Magrit was also quite influential in the wine world. She met Robert at his winery when she was leading tours. Eventually, she became the head of public relations for the Mondavi Winery. Together, Magrit and Robert were unstoppable in Napa Valley’s wine industry.

This book explores Magrit’s love of food, fine wine, and art. In this sketchbook, you’ll find some of Magrit’s personal sketches, restaurant menus, historic photos, and more. It’s a unique view inside Magrit’s life via memories and mementos. Magrit Mondavi’s Sketchbook is ideal for the reader who wants a more personal look at one of the top forces in Napa Valley’s wine world.

6. Reflections of a Vintner: Stories and Seasonal Wisdom from a Lifetime in Napa Valley

purple grapes during daytime
Up-close image of wine grapes on vines in Napa Valley | Photo by Eva Fan Source

This Napa Valley book recommendation, written by Tor Kenward, creator of TOR Cellars, explores how the wine industry in Napa Valley has changed in the past fifty years. It dives into Kenward’s personal experiences in the wine region, beginning in the 1970s when there were fewer than 60 wineries and vineyards.

It also demonstrates Kenward’s personal development as he works his way through and conquers the typical challenges (and opportunities) of a vintner. He discusses these opportunities and challenges one month at a time, providing budding vintners insight into the unique world of growing and selling wine. Much of his book focuses on how wine and food intertwine, including his relationships with well-known food/wine icons like Julia Child and Andy Beckstoffer.

7. Napa: The Story of an American Eden

Napa: The Story of an American Eden by James Conaway is the first in a series of three books. It discusses the history of Napa Valley’s top wine producers, like the Mondavis and Gallos. This is a historical book that explores the policies and politics that occurred in the past, which helped Napa become the wine-making region it is today. It delves into the American dream, along with the concepts of land, money, greed, and more.

Though it’s a historical book, it is written more like a novel, turning the story into an exciting read. This book recommendation of Napa Valley is also possibly the most comprehensive in covering the entire story of Napa and its explosion in modern times.

8. Private Reserve: Beaulieu Vineyard and the Rise of Napa Valley

Private Reserve: Beaulieu Vineyard and the Rise of Napa Valley delves into Napa Valley’s wine history, focusing on those who created the famous Beaulieu Vineyard. This 100+-year-old vineyard was among the first to use French winemaking techniques to produce their spirits. Georges de Latour and Fernande, his wife, and André Tchelistcheff all played crucial roles in Napa Valley’s wine history. They worked together to create the Beaulieu Vineyard, along with other winemakers, which was one of the driving forces that kept winemaking alive in the Valley. This book discusses the trials they faced, such as phylloxera, Prohibition, and the Great Depression, while creating wines considered to be of international quality.

This deep dive into the life of the Latours, Tchelistcheff, and Beaulieu Vineyards includes information from family archives. Newer versions of the book include interviews that were previously not released.

9. Great Winemakers Of California: Conversations With Robert A. Benson

This book was produced in 1977 when Napa Valley’s wine industry was beginning to grow and flourish. In Great Winemakers of California: Conversations with Robert A. Benson, Benson interviews winemakers at the start of modern winemaking. These interviewees would later become some of the top winemakers in the region. Some interviewees include Robert Mondavi, André Tchelistcheff, Joseph Heitz, and more. It’s a technical book that explores the methods used by these (now famous) winemakers in the 70s.

10. The Winemaker’s Dance: Exploring Terroir In The Napa Valley

This interesting Napa book is part art, part science, and part insight into Napa Valley’s terrior. It explores the geology and history of the region while providing visuals through relief maps and photos. It focuses on the land and how it was able to produce wine grapes that turned into world-class wines. The primary intent of The Winemaker’s Dance is to educate readers on the importance of the terrior, from how it’s formed to the methods winemakers use to bring out the unique notes of the wine grapes from the region. Within this book, you’ll also find a few wine tours noted, which allow the reader to explore the wineries mentioned.

11. The Best We Can Be: The Life and Wisdom Of Joseph Phelps

Joseph Phelps was another leader of innovation in Napa Valley’s wine industry. He was the first to add a unique, fanciful name to a Bordeaux blend. This book explores his life, from childhood to moving to Napa Valley to pursue his wine passion, cultivated in him during World War II. Even in childhood, Joseph Phelps faced many challenges, which translated to a persistent drive that paid off in his adult years.

This drive led him to create a powerhouse of a winery, the Joseph Phelps Vineyard. This family-owned vineyard is internationally celebrated for its world-class wines. Besides creating world-renowned wine, Phelps was also innovative in other ways. Some more of his accolades include opening women’s healthcare centers and starting one of the first specialty grocery stores in the area. This is a true book-lovers book and takes the reader deep into the Napa Valley experience.

12. Napa Valley Cabernets: The Best of California’s Wine Country

Those interested in purely learning about/understanding the wine offerings of Napa Valley will enjoy this wine book on Napa Valley. It focuses on 100+ cabernet sauvignons from the Valley, providing information on each wine’s characteristics. Here, you’ll find details like tasting notes and the stories behind every wine. It also includes beautiful photographs of the mentioned wineries and winemakers.

There you have it! Your entry into Napa Valley through our best Napa Valley book recommendations!


Want to read more? Try these books!

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