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The Wild Vine: A Forgotten Grape and the Untold Story of American Wine

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  311 ratings  ·  79 reviews
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Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 4th 2010 by Clarkson Potter (first published April 25th 2010)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  311 ratings  ·  79 reviews


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Kim Eley
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Virginians
Recommended to Kim by: The author
I bought a bottle of Norton from Chrysalis Vineyards at the Total Wine and Beer and drank it while reading the book. I suggest you do the same. Call me a method reader.

So...I met the author one night at a fancy shmancy restaurant in DC. He was reviewing it for the Washingtonian magazine, and we were delighting in a once-in-a-lifetime meal. When my friends and I said we were from Richmond, he started telling us about Danial Norton, the man from Richmond who accidentally discovered the Norton grap
...more
Mattthew McKinney
Sep 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I started this book when I first moved to the east coast 10 years ago. I got distracted and didn’t make much progress. On the 10th year of my arrival I’m glad I finally finished it. After reading the first few chapters in 2010 I sought out Chrysalis Winery. It became a staple of my Virginia winery visits, bringing friends and dates here over the years, and almost getting married here in 2016 (we chose another winery that had more/better bathrooms haha). Now, after finally reading the rest of the ...more
T. Brandon
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Wild Vine perhaps didn't contain the most compelling writing, so it's been shelved a few times as other books have caught my attention while reading it. I finally, a couple weeks ago after a trip to Missouri where I brought back a case of Nortons, picked it up again and read it all the way through.

Regardless, I love the idea of exploring the history of a single grape, and doing so in a narrative style. Once I really got into it, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of travelling with the aut
...more
Mary
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written story of wine in the United States from the time of Thomas Jefferson to the present and the struggle of two wine growers, one in Missouri(!!) and the other in Virginia, to prove that an American grape can produce great wine. Kliman himself becomes a convert to the Norton grape and so traces its history from its discovery by Norton in Virginia in the early 1800’s, its journey to Missouri by German immigrants searching for a new-world wine-making grape, its award-winning succes ...more
Parker
Sep 26, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. This has a lot of potential and with a little additional editing I think is easily 4 stars and rereadable. There is a lot of information that covers quite a large swath of time, but it bounces around a lot from biography to fan piece to personal memoir and tries to do so using the Norton grape as a common thread. It just feels a bit too much. Any one or even two of the story lines would have felt more cohesive. Aside from what may have just been a personal issue with that story tellin ...more
Lydia
Jun 15, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The best section was the middle, about wine country in Missouri. The last 60 pages got a little... strange? Not sure I LOVE him digging into a trans women's past like that, but I think it's meant respectfully, and he takes pains to avoid deadnaming her. (spoilers, I guess? I wasn't expecting this at all in a wine book)
An enjoyable read about a niche history.
Kay
Aug 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written, evocative book

As a foodie living just across the river from a slew of up-and-coming Virginia wineries, how could I not be drawn to a book on an all-but-forgotten and all-American grape?

Little did I know that there would be much more to this book than a lively treatise on American wine history and culture. From the first chapter of Wild Vine, it was patently clear that I was being taken along on a personal quest, a quest that would take me back in time and into the compan
...more
Lidia Meghan
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: vino
A must read for everyone. All about the Norton. The forgotten grape not only known as a Missouri native, my husbands favorites the grape is believed to have first been a native of France. We also loved Divine Vintage, a book about following the wine trail from Genesis to Modern Age.
Paula Lehman
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not a page-turner, but good book on history of American wine.
Terri
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food-and-drink
"She runs her fingers through the tiny blue-black orbs, like a jeweler showing off the quality of the pearls. 'That's history, right there. The native grape of America. Good old Norton. Born right here in Virginia, in Richmond.'" Jenni McCloud is the exuberant woman who introduces the author to the Norton grape and Kliman credits her with so much knowledge of "the doctor" that she could be his biographer.

In 1821 Daniel Norton was "at a single blow of destiny made a childless widower." In his dep
...more
Stan Crader
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you're at all interested in wind and its American 'roots,' this is an excellent read. And if you're from Missouri, it should be mandatory reading.
Bernie
Jul 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wine
The Wild Vine by Todd Kilman

This a very interesting book about the history of Wine in America. More specifically it is about the first attempt to make wine from a Native American grape, vitus nortoni, or the Norton grape. Though Thomas Jefferson was not able to jump start the American Wine Culture, a life time pursuit of his, his enthusiasm and support eventually set many colonial farmers on the path to cultivating grapes for wine in America. Dr. Daniel Norton, an amateur horticulturalist, while
...more
Casey Kirk
Oct 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
I read this book after an improbable discovery. Three summers ago I went with my wife on a wine tasting tour around Birmingham, Al (one of our favorite short vacation cities). My mother suggested a North Alabama Wine Trail due to the fact that wineries are springing up there. We went to one of the recommended ones and honestly I wasn't expecting much. The taster said that the wine was grown on their property. I was anticipating some skunky muscadine. What I tasted blew me away. I asked them aga ...more
Matthew
Mar 10, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
One of the pieces of advice that people often give for public speaking is that you shouldn't say something like "I am not much of a public speaker..." when you begin. It automatically tells the audience you have no confidence and perhaps are not worth listening to.

Throughout this book, the author frequently undermines the reasons why I should care about the Norton grape. At the 1873 Vienna World Exposition, a Norton wine from Hermann, Missouri won a gold medal. OK, that is interesting, but if a
...more
MaryJo
Sep 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One can’t have an interested in local food in mid-Missouri without being aware of the Norton grape. Norton is the “serious red” made from a native grape, and now, once again, produced by a few of the new wineries growing up in the Midwest, as well as some in Kliman’s Virginia. Around 2004-2005 David Lind, a friend of mine, was involved in project for MU –extension, producing a map of regional food and wine. I think he was the first person I knew to actually drink Nortons and talk up the local gr ...more
Rhodies
Apr 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate in getting a publisher's ARC copy of this book a couple months before release. Great book about the truly American Norton grape and its wines (not to be confused with eastern muscadine wine and worse). This book reads like a novel as the author ping pongs you back-and-forth between 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries introducing wonderful characters that all were concerned in making legitimate American wines. Bottom line, after two centuries of experimentation, America now has w ...more
Dave Roberts
Apr 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Are you interested in wine and wine-making? And in Virginia wines and wine-making, in particular? If you are, this could be the book for you.

The book starts with Thomas Jefferson, who during his time in France became enamored with French wines, and wanted to grow the same grapes near Monticello. Alas, he never succeeded.

But during this same time, a physician was experimenting with hybridizing grapes in his own attempt to develop a strain that would grow in the US. And he succeeded!

Alas, when gra
...more
Kelly Forrest
Jul 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
I wanted to rate this higher. I do think it's worth reading because the story it tells is fascinating. I just wish someone else had told the story. The Wild Vine tells the story of the Norton grape, the only grape native to the United States that makes a really great red wine. In telling the story of the Norton, we learn about the early obsession of the Europeans who came to this continent with producing wine on American soil, the importance of wine in the British Colonies and newly independent ...more
Anne
Jul 08, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I purchased The Wild Vine in Hermann, MO after drinking a very good bottle of red wine produced from the Norton grape at the local Stone Hill Winery. I have a weakness for local histories. I pick them up during our cross-country travels. They rarely disappoint, even if they aren't always outstanding examples of literary skill. The Wild Vine is no exception. Kliman tells his tale as a mix of economic and cultural history, a romance and a mystery. The different approaches clash occasionally but th ...more
Dana
Dec 11, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a little torn on this book. I liked the story, the background, the facts, the occasional assumptions about the history of American wine, in fact, I really liked most of this, but the writing was a little clunky for me. I don't know if it was only apparent because I was reading the book aloud, or if it would have even bothered me had I read it silently, but it was tough to get through that aspect. The writing didn't seem bad, just very unsmooth. Some of the negative reviews I read talked abou ...more
Linda
Norton is America's mostly forgotten grape. A potential contender to the great grape varieties of Europe, it was nearly forgotten and still struggles in relative obscurity. Though I had heard of Norton and even tasted wine made from Norton, I knew little about it.

Reading the tale of Norton, itself woven into the larger tale of wine making in America was a fascinating journey through time. From Jefferson's failed attempts at growing European vines to the rise and fall of Virginia and Missouri as
...more
Christina
As a Virginia wine lover, I found this book to offer an interesting approach to the history of the Norton grape and early attempts at wine production in Virginia. I was recommended this book by one of the managers at Paradise Springs Winery in Clifton, Virginia. The book started with some great background on wine in Virginia through Jefferson and into Dr. Norton and the "discovery" of the Norton grape. From there, it continued with a back and forth story of the grape in Missouri then back to Vir ...more
Juliana Haught
Jun 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a very interesting book, written by a journalist who wanted to track down the story of the Norton, a unique American grape varietal that has struggled to gain respect in the wine world. The author firsts tastes a Norton wine at a gathering with friends, and is so taken with it that he tracks down a winemaker who champions the wine and the grape. The book goes back and forth between describing the process the author goes through of trying to find out all he can, and then sharing the hist ...more
Jay Rich
Sep 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and thought-provoking and beautifully written. I learned so much, too, but it was all done so smoothly. Jenni McCloud, the heroine of the book -- I'm tempted to call it a novel because of its complexity and structure -- is one of the greatest characters I have come across in a long time. She's larger than life, a millionairess and transsexual who cusses up a storm and also seems to contain all the best qualities of being an American. I think the genre-bending of the book is going to ...more
Rob Roy
Apr 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book tells the story of the Norton grape and the wines that are made from it. Few have heard of this grape, a native American grape, that makes a magnificent age worthy wine. The story is also about Americans who have thought outside of the wine box and have learnt the tie between land and wine. For me, particularly fascinating is that I know two of the people written about in this book. The author has captured them very well. If you enjoy wine, read this book, then hie thee to your local w ...more
Apryl Anderson
It was a real push to get through the first couple of chapters—simply too many words. The descriptors abounded like bindweed in a Virginia vineyard in August.

But there were luxuriant vines here, too. Kliman presented each element as an individual plant—all had their own story to tell—just as it takes many grape stocks to make a great wine.

I won't reveal his little secret. I found it tacky, but I see where he was going with it: the wild vine, dontcha know.

And yes, I'm prepared to be a Norton advo
...more
Jorge Scheirer
Feb 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kliman takes us on a journey through the history of this obscure American grape. Who'd heard of Daniel Norton and his grape and an internationally acclaimed wine that was made with it in the 1870s. Reminiscent of Robert Mondavi in California and Angelo Gaja in Barbaresco, Italy, the Norton grape has had ardent advocates in the likes of Dr. Norton, George Husmann in its early days and today, Jon Held, Dennis Horton, and Jenni McCloud. By coincidence, I had visited Monticello two weeks before read ...more
Candace
Jul 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
A much more enjoyable and engaging read than expected. I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in wine, wine-making, or the history of viticulture in the U.S. Kliman interweaves the story of the under-recognized and under-appreciated Norton grape (developed and introduced by a contemporary of Jefferson) with that of its greatest modern-day champion, the Virginia-based wine-maker Jenni McCloud, all contextualized by the larger history of wine-making in the U.S. I was maybe most surprised by ...more
Mike Mathews
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing


I picked up a bottle of Chrysalis Norton at my neighborhood wine shop on a whim. After tasting the wine, my curiosity led me to the Internet, which led me to this book. It is a great story told by a great storyteller. Being a native Richmonder, I was familiar with many of the locales described in the book, and the author does a wonderful job capturing the spirit of the places he describes. If his descriptions of the Missouri wine country are as accurate, I need to start planning a trip! While r
...more
Memphis
Oct 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
American wine has some great stories. This book does a very nice job of telling some midwest and modern east coast tales, instead of rehashing Jefferson and California over and over. Kudos for that.

The book celebrates a unique, native American grape and its flavors. We have rejected most Old World standards for everything else but still cling to them in wine. Thus, most American grapes are dismissed out of hand. At the same time, other countries seem invited to try unusual grapes. So why are Am
...more
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