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Finding Time to “Wine” Over Books
I met Vinny Catalano back in 2002 while living in Folsom, California (yes the city that Johnny Cash talks about in the song Folsom Prison Blues). Being that Vinny is a huge book lover, we always have a full glass of things to chat about whenever our busy schedules allows us to catch up by phone.
For his day job, Vinny is a healthcare industry consultant helping employers navigate the complexity of strategic planning. He provides innovative solutions to companies selling into the employee benefit space while helping medical providers that serve Medicare patients increase revenue.
But if you really want to get him to talk, just bust out some questions about wine and books and off he goes. So much so that his @Vines_with_Vinny Instagram is approaching 2000 followers, connecting him with scores of rabid wine lovers worldwide.
As a followup to one of our infamous random conversations, I asked him to share his thoughts on the synergies between a great book and a great bottle of wine.
And his responses? Well, they’re very epic Vinny
Can you describe the unique sensory journey that reading a book and sipping wine can offer? How do these experiences complement each other?
Reading a book and sipping wine can create a multisensory journey, where the wine is a visual, olfactory, taste and touch experience. It can certainly complement the atmosphere of the story in a more brainy and intellectual sense. The taste of the wine can enhance the flavors of the narrative, making it a truly immersive experience that engages both the palate and the imagination.
Some believe that certain books pair exceptionally well with specific wines, much like food and wine pairings. Have you ever come across a book-wine pairing that was particularly memorable for you?
I've experienced a memorable book-wine pairing with Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea" and a crisp, sea-inspired Sauvignon Blanc. The maritime setting of the book and the wine's fresh, briny notes harmonized perfectly, enhancing my connection to the story.
I also have read several books about wine like “Moveable Thirst” by Rick Kushman chronicling his travels throughout Napa Valley and “The Emperor of Wine” about the wine critic Robert Parker and his influence on the wine industry. I’ve also read “A Wine Tour of France” by Frederick Wildman Jr.
The great thing about the latter book is that while it was a recent acquisition, it was published in the early 1970’s. The beauty here is that much of it is still factually correct in terms of giving you a sense of the history of French wine . Books like these not only helped me understand more about wine, but also evoked the need to drink something that helped enhance the story.
Both reading and wine tasting can be deeply immersive experiences. How do you create the perfect ambiance to fully enjoy a good book and a fine glass of wine?
To create the perfect ambiance for reading and wine, I prefer a cozy spot in my basement with good lighting, a comfortable chair, surrounded by my wine collection. The setting is tranquil, allowing me to fully immerse myself in the book's world while savoring the wine.
Wine regions often have rich literary histories. Are there any books that transport you to the vineyards and wineries of a specific region? How does reading such books enhance your appreciation of the wine from that area?
A book like "Sideways" by Rex Pickett helped transport me to California's wine country, and reading it enhanced my appreciation of the region's wine. A book can connect you to any region where the story takes place. There are so many great wine regions in the world, especially up and coming ones like South America and Australia. The word terroir symbolizes a sense of place where drinking something from a region that a book is set helps to enhance the reading experience.
Books and wine can be enjoyed alone or in the company of others. How do these activities influence your social interactions and connections?
Sharing a book discussion and wine tasting can lead to insightful conversations and stronger bonds, creating memorable moments with friends and loved ones. And the more tipsy people get, the more entertaining the conversation….. except if it’s something political or religious based!
Like wine, books come in a wide variety of flavors and styles. Can you draw any parallels between different wine varietals and genres of literature?
A bold Cabernet can be likened to a thrilling mystery novel, while a Pinot Noir may accompany a poetic piece of literature. Or a champagne can be coupled with a work of science fiction, each appealing to different preferences. That being said, I need to experiment more with intention to get a better feeling for this.
Wine enthusiasts often talk about the concept of terroir, the unique characteristics of a wine based on the region it comes from. Do you think books also have a literary terroir, shaped by the cultures and landscapes they originate from?
I think this is a given. Books do have a literary terroir, springing from the cultures and landscapes they originate from. The settings, traditions, and histories of a region can seep into the pages, giving each book a unique sense of place, much like wine from different vineyards.
Reading can be a form of escapism, allowing you to explore different worlds and cultures. How has literature broadened your perspective on wine and its global significance?
I can’t honestly say that I remember many wine references in the things I’ve read with the exception of wine industry specific books or periodicals. That said, there is so much written on wine that it’s overwhelming. I started my Vines_with_Vinny Instagram to help make wine more approachable vs. the complex and misunderstood tasting notes you read in magazines.
The aging process can significantly change a wine's flavor profile. Are there books you've revisited after some time and found that they had evolved in meaning or impact for you?
I know this isn’t the answer you want, but I have never read a book twice. I can’t justify the time to re-read something versus always seeking something new.
Wine and books have been cherished throughout history. If you could share a glass of wine and a literary discussion with any author, living or deceased, who would it be, and what wine would you choose for the occasion?
I’d say that sharing a glass of wine and discussion with the late Anthony Bourdain, over a bottle of an adventurous, complex Bordeaux, would be an unforgettable experience. His worldly insights and passion for both food and storytelling would make for a fascinating evening.
What are some of the book titles that have been on your nightstand this year? Can you offer a couple that you found to be particularly impactful? Were there any that were a complete disappointment?
Some of the books on my nightstand this year include “The Personal Librarian” by Marie Benedict and "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt. I also am currently reading two books, “Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream” by Doris Kearns Goodwin (whom I adore) and “Trust” by Hernan Diaz. The latter, despite its Pulitzer, is a bit of a tough read. Many characters and zero proper dialog. I’d pair that with a rich Zinfandel to keep me motivated to finish it.
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