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Berger: Reading for the dedicated wine fan

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Wine is a subject that lends itself to words. From the technical to the romantic, from the philosophical to the idyllic, the subject is almost endless.

As a result, any review of recent wine books can range from the enjoyable beach-side reader to the analytical, chemist-oriented tome worthy of becoming a reference book.

Since I delve into all aspects of the industry, what follows may well not be everyone's cup of chai, but all are fascinating reads to one degree or another.

“The New California Wine, A Guide to the Producers and Wines Behind a Revolution in Taste,” by Jon Bonne, $35; Ten Speed Press.

The San Francisco Chronicle's wine editor profiles many of California's less-than-widely-known producers of wines of distinctiveness, and does an excellent job describing them.

Regional profiles are helpful in understanding each region he visits, and it's clear Jon's quest is for the “new,” not the established.

One of America's clearest voices as a champion of balanced wine, Bonne has a message in this work, yet it's muted. It seems that his tone is a bit less than acerbic when it appears he was all set to be just that.

Still, and despite some irritating design problems, this is an excellent work and infinitely more valuable than reading lists of scores.

“A Carafe of Red,” by Gerald Asher, $23.95, paperback; University of California Press.

This is a number of charming collected essays on various aspects of wine by one of the wine world's most stylish writers, historians and wine lovers.

I've known Asher for nearly 35 years and admit an admiration for his vision, poetry and passion for real wine, which is hard to describe.

While sitting with him at dinner a year ago, he was served a wine he decided had been far too manipulated, thus robbing us of the fruit he knew the vineyard once had. His frustration was palpable.

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