Book Review | Drive Through Napa / by Brian Yost

Drive Through Napa: Your Ultimate Companion to Napa Valley’s Wine Regions, by Paul Hodgins, Kathy Lajvardi and Naushad Huda. Ilikethisgrape.com (2019).

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Few will argue that Napa is one of the most recognized names in wine. It is also one of the most visited wine regions on earth. As such, it has been memorialized and described in books, articles and blogs too many to mention. Nevertheless, there is one recent addition to the Napa bibliography that is worthy of our attention.

This recent book, Drive Through Napa: Your Ultimate Companion to Napa Valley’s Wine Regions, has been assembled by the team of Paul Hodgins, Kathy Lajvardi and Naushad Huda. Together, the trio takes aim at the confusing world of Napa. The key to their approach is found in the book’s subtitle. Instead of treating it as a single geographic entity, they look instead at “Napa Valley’s Wine Regions.”

Moving from south to north (Carneros to Calistoga), the authors chop Napa into its 16 distinct American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) or subregions. The logic behind this approach is the distinct differences between each subregion. This is perhaps the most important takeaway. Rather than think about Napa in the aggregate, visitors might better consider a trip to one of the smaller appellations.

The book itself has the look and feel of a field guide. It is a useful reference in much the same way as my Audubon Guide to the birds of North America. Drive Through Napa’s utilitarian structure is its strength. It can simultaneously help identify the differences between the AVAs and prove an indispensable tool for planning or conducting a visit.

If this book was solely a field guide, it would be enough. Hodgins, Lajvardi and Huda chose, however, to include the voices of people who have devoted their lives to Napa wine. This is the book’s most delightful aspect and humanizes the subregions with short narrative contributions from industry leaders. It adds a degree of readability that might otherwise be missing.

Drive Through Napa: Your Ultimate Companion to Napa Valley’s Wine Regions holds the key to understanding this diverse region. Added to your planning arsenal, it can be consulted and studied prior to your next assault on Napa.