Nose, by James Conaway

Jim (as I allow myself to call him, due to having met and chatted with him on a few occasions) is a luxurious writer. He loves language, revels in its richness, muddles it playfully and dollops it extravagantly onto the page. His writing is, fittingly, as complex as a fine wine, as adjective-laden as a fine wine review. His intimate knowledge of Napa Valley and its characters, painstakingly researched for his bombshell work, Napa, and its sequels, allows him an insider's look at the wine industry and to recreate it on the page. Having lived in Napa for several years, there is much in this novel that is familiar to me, despite the name changes.

This is a mystery, of a kind: Clyde Craven-Jones, king of wine critics, tastes his first perfect wine. But alas, the bottle is unlabeled, its provenance unknown, and no credible source steps up to claim it. CJ's wife hires recently fired journalist Les to do some digging, and Les finds a whole lot more in the valley than just the vineyard that birthed the perfect wine. It's a familiar story of greed, shone through the lens of the high stakes, small world of the wine industry. I can see this book appealing both to those already in the business (as a way to relax and laugh a bit at themselves) and to those who are completely removed from it (as a way to feel a part of this exclusive world, and to feel superior to those who sometimes snobbishly make it their lives). I enjoyed it as someone who's feet rest in both worlds, as the non-industry girlfriend of a winemaker. Plus Jim is just such a wonderful, playful writer to read. Always a pleasure, sir.


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