The best books about wine, love, and landscape

Who am I?

I am a winegrower, farmer, writer, photographer, and pop-upeuse. I fell in love with food and wine while living and working in Italy, then returned stateside to create an homage to the people and place that embraced us and taught us so much. That endeavor--the restaurant osteria pane e salute opened with my chef husband Caleb Barber—was where I curated the wine program and became passionate about wines farmed artfully. I began working as a winegrower in 2007, a personal landscape experiment that led me down the rabbit hole of growing and making wine from hybrid varieties focused on regenerative viticulture and low intervention winemaking.

I wrote...

An Unlikely Vineyard: The Education of a Farmer and Her Quest for Terroir

By Deirdre Heekin,

Book cover of An Unlikely Vineyard: The Education of a Farmer and Her Quest for Terroir

What is my book about?

Against all odds, I planted vines on my hillside farm in Vermont believing that what I was embarking on was a small experimental and personal project about growing natural wine in the fringe wine region of Vermont. What happened instead was the blossoming of a vineyard that has become one of the most creative projects in American wine. An Unlikely Vineyard tells the story of our farm and winery, our kitchen and table, from overgrown fields to a fertile, productive, and beautiful landscape that melds with its natural environment.

We wanted to create, or rediscover, a true sense of place using the philosophy and techniques gleaned from organic gardening, permaculture, and regenerative farming. Written as a joyful and inspiring narrative that celebrates wine, food, farms, and connecting with the landscape.

The books I picked & why

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Naked Wine: Letting Grapes Do What Comes Naturally

By Alice Feiring,

Book cover of Naked Wine: Letting Grapes Do What Comes Naturally

Why this book?

Wine writer, and now friend, Alice Feiring has often been controversial, but she has always been a champion of the kinds of wines I love, natural wines that are allowed to tell the story of where they are grown and the people who steward them. Her book Naked Wine came out in 2011, just a year after my first very small vintage of natural wines. In her own tale of making wine in Oregon and her journey tracing the roots of modern natural wine in France, Spain, and America rang so clearly for me from her stories of a wine made in a fixer-upper farmhouse in France replete with scorpions to a vineyard cum garden of Eden scented with mint and thyme in Spain, I realized I not only loved wines that told stories, but writers who tell the stories of wine and place.

This book, an icon of its time, inspired my own writing about my journey in wine, food, and place, encouraging me to capture the stories of my own fixer-upper farm, the planting of my vineyard, orchard, and gardens scented with roses and sweet clover as a way to have a meaningful and thoughtful conversation with my own landscape in both my wine and my writing.

South of Somewhere: Wine, Food, and the Soul of Italy

By Robert V. Camuto,

Book cover of South of Somewhere: Wine, Food, and the Soul of Italy

Why this book?

I have long loved Robert Camuto’s writing about living in Italy and the wines and winemakers he’s discovered. My own food and wine awakening happened while living and working in Italy, so naturally I gravitate to books that take place there or tell the stories of others who’ve chosen to live there against all odds. Robert Camuto’s newest book South of Somewhere has quickly risen to my list of favorites. In this evocation, he traces his own history back to the town of his ancestors, and the relationship that evolves from a life-defining memory of a childhood summer in this village to his exploration and understanding of it as an adult. His work captures the essence of Italy, Italian life, and Italian wine: “the chaos that gives birth to inspiration”.

From chapters on the nostalgia of that Southern Italian childhood summer to a series of portraits of winegrowers from Italy’s south, who they are, and how they live deeply in their magical and sensuous world, Camuto also captures the essence of dark and light in this endlessly fascinating culture.

Upstream: Selected Essays

By Mary Oliver,

Book cover of Upstream: Selected Essays

Why this book?

Mary Oliver, as a poet and an essayist, writes with a lyric sword. Upstream is a collection of essays that reflect her willingness to lose herself in the mysteries and intricacies of the natural world. In this work, Oliver contemplates the joy of her work, her passionate eye for observation, her ability and responsibility to write and think about the flora and fauna, the flowers, the grass, the water, the sky, and how they connect us to the natural world, to each other, and to ourselves.

The sheer power of her writing and command of language has always drawn me in, what pushes me as a person, a farmer, and a writer to give into the “stream” of our consciousness, to stop and observe, but to also keep moving forward with the power of words and my experience of the world around me.

The Orchard: A Memoir

By Adele Crockett Robertson,

Book cover of The Orchard: A Memoir

Why this book?

The Orchard is a mesmerizing story of one woman’s efforts to save her family farm in Depression-era Massachusetts. It is a glimmering and moving memoir of “Kitty” Robertson’s determination to save the small orchard she inherited from her father, the last thing that linked her family to their history. It is a story of struggle and determination, and she is a heroine who didn’t receive medals or accolades or fortune for accepting the bone-cold physical labor in winters, inherited debt, broken dreams. Somehow she is able to still see the beauty in the grit of farm life in a grim period, spring blossoms in the orchard, the green of summer, the kindness of neighbors as they help each other through challenge after challenge.

In the end, it is a narrative of redemption and victory and reminds me that the life of farming and writing is hard scrapple, but it is done in community and with ever-needed hope. If we remember to open our eyes to the natural and cultivated world around us, we reap the beauty of our landscapes.

Pioneer Species

By Ross Thurber,

Book cover of Pioneer Species

Why this book?

Pioneer Species is a book of poems by friend and farmer-poet Ross Thurber. A small vineyard I work with in southern Vermont, my own agricultural essay and investigation on a sense of place different than my own, is part of Ross’s Lilac Ridge Farm. Like Mary Oliver, Ross is intensely bound to the natural and cultivated world of his farm in which he lives and his poems capture a language that brings forward the light, the shadow, the fog, the till, the butterfly, the flower, the cow. I am constantly inspired by his poems to be out in my own fields and to contemplate and communicate my own place in them. A delicious collection about a deeply personal and lyrical view of farm life.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in wine, Vermont, and France?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about wine, Vermont, and France.

Wine Explore 35 books about wine
Vermont Explore 21 books about Vermont
France Explore 587 books about France

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Outermost House, Otherwise Normal People, and The Paper Palace if you like this list.