Tasting the Good Life

Tasting the Good Life

Wine Tourism in the Napa Valley
George Gmelch and Sharon Bohn Gmelch
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 06/16/2011
Format: Paperback 24 color illus., 23 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-22327-2
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2011 Gourmand Wine Books Award, Wine Tourism

Five million visitors a year travel to California's Napa Valley to experience the good life: to taste fine wines, eat fine food, and immerse themselves in other sophisticated pleasures while surrounded by bucolic beauty. Tourism is the world’s largest employer, and tourists today want to experience the world through all five senses. Tasting the Good Life tells the story of Napa tourism through the words of the tourists who visit and the men and women who provide the products and services they rely on. The stories of 17 people—from winemaker to vineyard manager, from celebrity chef to wait staff, from hot air balloonist to masseuse—provide extraordinary insight into this new form of tourism and its impact on an iconic American place.

Author Bio

George Gmelch is Professor of Anthropology at the University of San Francisco and Union College. He is author of 11 books and numerous articles, many of which have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Psychology Today, Society, and Natural History.

Sharon Bohn Gmelch is Professor of Anthropology at the University of San Francisco and Roger Thayer Stone Professor of Anthropology atUnion College. She is author of 7 books, including Nan: The Life of an Irish Travelling Woman, The Tlingit Encounter with Photography, and Tourists and Tourism.


“Experiencing the world through all five senses, 5 million visitors a year travel to Napa Valley to savor its beauty, luxury, and flavor. These stories of visitors and locals alike tell the story of Napa tourism, providing extraordinary insight into an iconic American place.”

“This ethnography is a winner. Written by Napa Valley insiders George and Sharon Gmelch, it reveals both sides of the renowned wine tourism industry, paying attention to the visitors and to the voices of key local people. Tourism scholars and wine and food tourists alike will find it enlightening.”
 — Nelson Graburn, University of California, Berkeley

“Because of its natural beauty, temperate climate, and fine wines, Napa Valley is a major attraction for visitors. . . . This book offers a look at how wine tourism in Napa Valley developed, how it affects the local population, and what the future might hold. It is a fascinating read.”
 — Michaela Rodeno, retired CEO, St. Supery Winery

“I just finished it, and am recommending it to all our friends who are interested in wine. It's a wonderful book—I learned a lot. It has everything: an interesting subject, broadly treated; good design and good editing; a sense of humor; smoothly written oral histories by pros. And, best of all, the Gmelches have written a book with intellectual heft that's accessible to the general reader. ”
 — Susan Jakab, retired editor, Johns Hopkins University

“I applaud the Gmelchs’ even-handed and thorough approach to tackling this complex topic. . . . Tasting the Good Life does an excellent job of identifying not only the economic benefits of well-planned tourism development and defined constraint in a genuine American icon such as the Napa Valley, but it also explains clearly the benefits that are received by the residents who shape the character of this special place. Well done!”
 — Clay Gregory, CEO, The Napa Valley Destination Council

“Even-handed and thorough....Well done!”
 — Clay Gregory, CEO, The Napa Valley Destination Council

“Opens a new chapter on California's celebrated Napa Valley...presenting both the economic benefits to, and the negative social impacts on, those who live and work in 'Eden'.”
 — Rue Ziegler, California Heritage Research Group

“Tasting the Good Life is an interesting and readable consideration of what tourists are doing to us—and what we think of ourselves. October 6, 2011”
 — Napa Valley Register

“Tasting the Good Life is a fine study of wine and what it offers people, highly recommended. August 2011”
 — Midwest Book Review

“An excellent book for all tourists, winery managers, and city or region planners.August, 2011”
 — Winesworld's Magazine

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Tasting the Good Life
1. The Napa Valley--a Brief History
2. The Tourism of Taste
3. Consuming Place: Napa's Culinary Terroir
4. From Vine to Wine
<INDENT>Vineyard Foreman: Juan Martinez
<INDENT>Vineyard Manager: Jim Lincoln
<INDENT>Winemaker: Pam Starr
5. Touring and Tasting
<INDENT>Wine Educator: Ellen Flora
<INDENT>Tasting Room Consultant: Craig Root
<INDENT>Tasting Room Server: Jim McCullough
<INDENT>Salonnier: Shawn LaRue
<INDENT>Wine Tour Guide: Don Partier
6. Food and Fine Dining
<INDENT>The French Laundry: Thomas Keller
<INDENT>The Front of the House: Salvador Aguilara and Josefina Gonzales
<INDENT>Napa Valley Cooking School: Barbara Alexander
<INDENT>From Back to Front of the House: Edgar Bonilla
7. Napa's Other Pleasures
<INDENT>Wine Train: Melodie Hilton
<INDENT>Massage: Claude Smith
<INDENT>Hot Air Ballooning: Joyce Bowen
<INDENT>Bike Tours: Brad Dropping
<INDENT>Art Gallery: Paul Thoren
8. Tourism, Quality of Life, and the Future of Napa