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Napa: The Story of an American Eden

3.52  ·  Rating Details  ·  251 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
James Conaway's remarkable bestseller delves into the heart of California's lush and verdant Napa Valley, also known as America's Eden. Long the source of succulent grapes and singular wines, this region is also the setting for the remarkable true saga of the personalities behind the winemaking empires. This is the story of Gallos and Mondavis, of fortunes made and lost, o ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published October 24th 2002 by Mariner Books (first published 1990)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 513)
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Sep 11, 2015 Scribd rated it really liked it
Shelves: friday-reads
I could claim that my attraction to this book stems from my New Years Resolution to explore more of my adopted region. Or, that it has to do with my conscious effort to read more nonfiction. But the truth is, James Conaway’s bestselling history of Napa lured me in because I’m a total wino. And it kept me in with its exquisite prose, exemplified by lush descriptions of the region like this one:

Sediments miles deep depressed and broke apart the ocean floor, releasing molten rock that eventually li
Jun 04, 2012 Ivory rated it it was ok
I found this book to be merely OK. The idea behind "Napa" is a noble one: to set out the history of the Napa Valley's transformation into the wine mecca it is today. However, the author tried to cram too much into one volume (vintners, wineries, politics, tourism, etc.) and the book reads as vignette after vignette, with little tying them together. Very disjointed.
Nov 04, 2009 karen rated it liked it
I miss Napa and want to learn more about the area...reading it makes me feel like I am there rather than on the NYC subway. Barbara L., if you are reading this...I WANT TO GO BACK!

OK, read most of the book and then just got stuck! I am done with this one and back to reading books that are faster!
Jun 11, 2012 Phil rated it really liked it
Shelves: wine-and-spirits
Engaging account of the players who've made Napa what it is today. Detailed, yet emminently readable. It ends in the late 80's though - I'd like to see a sequel or update.
Jul 16, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it
For someone that fell in love with Napa Valley after the first visit this book was very educational. Without having been to Napa it wouldn't have been as enjoyable.
Nov 06, 2008 Marivic rated it really liked it
For those interested in wine and history of families which gave 'life' to the beautiful Napa Valley; very intriguing and a bit surreal.
May 17, 2015 Jesse rated it liked it
Cut 200 pages and all the mind numbingly boring stuff about zoning and you'd have a great book. Actually kind of frustrating because the author can really write. Not sure why he dedicated so much space to the minutia of land use politics. Some of that is necessary, sure, but I'd be surprised if anyone giving this more than three stars read the whole book and didn't either quit or skip huge chunks. His descriptions of the land are fantastic and the reporting is superb. To understand the history o ...more
Al Olson
Apr 20, 2008 Al Olson rated it really liked it
Great book. It's the story of the wine families of Napa. It reads like a soap opera ... these characters are larger than life.
Sep 11, 2008 Jlleigon rated it it was amazing
Cool book on the history of Napa and all the ins-n-outs of the family feuds.
Historical Napa, but reads like a novel. I didn't want it to end.
Fiona Akins
May 09, 2012 Fiona Akins rated it really liked it
This is an absolutely fascinating insight into the world of wineries - growers, vintners, County politics, and landscape. The book is non-fiction written with impossible insights: precisely how Robin Lain is feeling when she looks out over her lost vineyard legacy; the stress building in Robert Mondavi as his family's tensions grow; etc. The author used extensive interviews, as well as the oral interview collection of the Napa Valley Wine Library, which explains much of this omniscient viewpoint ...more
Aug 19, 2014 Rich rated it really liked it
Unsurprisingly, alcohol and huge egos don't always mix.

This enjoyable and informative history of the Napa Valley does a great job of telling the stories of wineries and the people who own and run them. With so much attention being paid, traditionally, to vinteers it is nice to see a book that includes the stories of growers and pickers.

Susan Roden
Dec 07, 2011 Susan Roden rated it really liked it
This is a very engrossing history of the development of wine in Napa valley. The last 150 - 200 pages dealt with the more boring, aspects of politics in the valley. Since the book ends with 1989, I am interested to read of the last 20+ years 'progress' in this valley.

I found interesting the remarks about the different vintners, as compared with my impression of the wineries & tasting rooms I visited in the mid 90's. I got the impression that some real jerks of people made some great tasting
Aug 15, 2009 Florence rated it really liked it
A comprehensive view of the Napa valley, its people, and the politics of growth versus preservation over a twenty year period. A detailed description of the planting, nurturing, and harvesting of grapes would have added interest. I visited Napa recently and saw the controversial "wine train", but there were still many beautiful rural and undeveloped areas.
Nov 30, 2009 John rated it really liked it
This is a great history of the Napa Valley wine "industry" from the 19th century to 1990. Both uplifting (Rodriguez) and sad (Inglenook), it is a book that filled in many of the blanks this Oakland Calif./Christian Brothers educated boy had. Schramsberg is a favorite and it's story is fascinating.
Sep 26, 2012 Chris rated it it was ok
This was a long history of the Napa families and wineries. I found some aspects interesting, but it went into great detail of some very boring meetings etc of the organizations that control wine. I pushed through it and enjoyed some, but sometimes found it tedious. I was given this book as a gift.
Aug 25, 2012 Amy rated it liked it
Shelves: food
A tremendous amounts of typos for misspelled words and missing punctuation in the Kindle version. Had to read some sentences multiple times. The author was all over the place in his telling of the history. Overall it was enjoyable, but not amazing.
Lafaun Reed
Mar 25, 2014 Lafaun Reed rated it really liked it
An interesting look into the early years of Napa Valley.
Oct 25, 2014 Ruth rated it liked it
Shelves: book-fest
This brings together many different concerns with the growing winery industry, old time farmers, new industrialists, politicians, farm labor, etc. the author did seem like a journalist of the old type, not showing his opinions.
Sep 28, 2008 Richard rated it really liked it
With it's companion, "The Far Side of Eden," pretty much the definitive history of America's first-county of California wine country. More detail than some will want, but fascinating for any of us who lived/worked there.
Jan 23, 2011 Alicia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While worth reading, this book (and its sequel) is slow going. It feels like the editor gave up somewhere around page 300 - the second half is extremely tedious and repetitive.
Mary Paruch Ring
Apr 14, 2010 Mary Paruch Ring rated it liked it
I loved reading about Napa and the wine industry. I did think that the book was hard to follow, jumping all over and back and forth through the extensive list of 'characters'.
Aug 16, 2010 ainsley rated it it was ok
Shelves: wine-books
Got bored and stopped. It was good but just too long. The stories could have been much shorter. Put it down @ page 200 because I was just tired of it.
Cheryl Schibley
Jun 10, 2009 Cheryl Schibley rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Enjoy reading Napa with a good glass of wine. It's a great story of California wines winning out over French. How Napa Valley was put on the map.
Jun 17, 2015 Erica rated it really liked it
Shelves: alcohol
Pretty spectacularly readable. Worshipful, but readable as any piece of fiction. An easy, enjoyable way to pick up the history of Napa's glitterati.
Nicole Ruiz Hudson
Jul 05, 2013 Nicole Ruiz Hudson rated it really liked it
Very in depth and informative. I listened to it on audio and will have to listen/read again to really have it all sink in.
Apr 25, 2008 luv2reed rated it did not like it
The writing in this book was awful. It is packed with information but so difficult to follow that I gave up half way through
Jun 10, 2011 LeAnne rated it liked it
Educational and historically based. Very fun read for a california girl born there before it was cool.
Katherine Thompson
Dec 01, 2009 Katherine Thompson rated it really liked it
This will make you love wine and California even more than you already do.
Nov 23, 2010 Shanyn rated it liked it
This book was way tooooooo long. But I enjoyed the history lesson.
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