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Napa: The Story of an American Eden
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Napa: The Story of an American Eden

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  342 Ratings  ·  46 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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Historical Napa, but reads like a novel. I didn't want it to end.
Jan 29, 2009 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.
Oct 11, 2009 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!
Sep 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Cool book on the history of Napa and all the ins-n-outs of the family feuds.
Mar 03, 2013 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.
Al Olson
Apr 20, 2008 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.
Aug 27, 2011 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.
Nov 06, 2008 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.
Donna Pachota
Nov 11, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

Way too long, more of a history book than something that grabbed me. Just to long and drawn out. Many who want history of wine would like it.
thomas kennedy
Inside Napa politics

Decent read about the growth of Napa valley. Decent wine history. Overall a good book that gets bogged into politics.
Rick Barr
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 11, 2015 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
Fiona Akins
May 03, 2012 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
May 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An absolute comprehensive look at modern day Napa Valley that shows how the powerhouse players came to hold their stakes. Part history lesson, part novel, part gossip -- you get the personality behind the vineyards we know by label and get to see how the American wine industry came to rival the European -- that formerly considered us a joke.

I've both read and listened to this book via Audible as research for an upcoming project. I suggest the audible version over the print copy because the reade
Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
You could almost believe this book is fiction but it's not. Napa is the story of the history and the personalities and the families and the grapes and the wineries of Napa Valley, California. Parts of it read like a soap opera. Creatively interwoven among the dramas are interesting facts about grapes and wines and the competition between California and France for premium wines. Add humor and politics and business into the mix and you have a very comprehensive picture of this small valley in Cali ...more
May 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
An incredibly interesting book of you are deeply interested in the goings-on of the Napa Valley. That being said, the last 1/3 of the book which details the minute details of the Genesis of the Agricultural Preserve is drier than dry. This can be especially difficult after the artfully composed essays on the perils and triumphs of many of the Napa OGs.

Being in the industry and living here it definitely gave me a more rounded perspective on some of the things I encounter and interact with on a d
Susan Roden
Dec 07, 2011 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
J Wahl
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book would be a good read if you were enrolled in a city planning program. I was more interested in the human/personal side of this story which probably could have been told in 200 0r 300 pages. I ended up skimming sections of this book and did not find the bulk of this book very interesting.
Aug 10, 2009 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.
Jul 26, 2014 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.

Oct 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
Took me a while to read this because I wanted to be able to fully absorb the information and not rush through and not remember anything. This was a really great comprehensive history of Napa and it's wine industry, and how that came to be what it is now. I'd recommend this to anyone who lives here in Napa or whoever wants to learn more about the Napa Valley.
May 14, 2009 rated it liked it
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.
Nov 12, 2009 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.
Aug 12, 2014 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 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.
Sep 26, 2012 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.
Jun 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Educational and historically based. Very fun read for a california girl born there before it was cool.
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
Detail overload, and frankly not THAT interesting.
Jan 23, 2011 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.
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