Book Review: A Vineyard in Napa by Doug Shafer with Andy Demsky

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There are many motivated individuals who have high hopes and grand dreams of owning a successful and world-renowned vineyard.  Some of these individuals go on to fulfill their dreams, while others run into strife and failure.  The difference between the two is that the successful people are able to persevere during the most difficult times, and make sometimes very difficult decisions in the face of peril that could make or break the future of the winery.

A Vineyard in Napa by Doug Shafer with Andy Demsky tells the story of one family who made the decision to head out to Napa and start a vineyard, the success of which was a huge unknown in their eyes for a long time.  Written by Doug Shafer, the son of John Shafer, the patriarch of Shafer Vineyards, this book tells the “life story” of the vineyard and how it evolved over the years.

Photo credit: University of California Press:

A Vineyard in Napa starts off with the introduction of John Shafer, a war veteran from the suburbs of Chicago who was ready to make a career change mid-life; and a descriptive illustration of his life before Napa and the dynamics of the family Shafer.  The book is written in such a way that one gets the feeling that they really know the Shafer family, and effectively inspires the reader to “root for” the Shafer family throughout every step of the journey, from piling in the family station wagon on the move to Napa to establishing and growing the business which has continued to remain as a family business.

A Vineyard in Napa captivates the reader in such a way that you feel the desire to continue reading to find out how the Shafer’s handled impending doom and how they overcame many trials and tribulations.  Even though this book is about one vineyard, it is written in such a way that the reader really gets a sense of how establishing a growing a vineyard in Napa in the past 40-50 years was for anyone involved in the business.  There were a lot of problems and struggles along the way, from phylloxera infestations to wildfires and to AVA boundary line drawing, and this book eloquently describes stories of how the Shafer’s and other vineyards in the area survived (or failed in some cases).

Napa Valley: By Brocken Inaglory (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Overall, I found this a wonderful book that provides a feeling of warmth and support for the evolution of Shafer Vineyards.  They may have had some very difficult moments in time, however, stories in this book illustrate how Shafer Vineyards was able to ultimately overcome these difficulties and triumph, all the while maintaining their intimacy and rock-solid family values.

If you enjoy American history, American history of wine to be specific, A Vineyard in Napa by Doug Shafer with Andy Demsky is one which you must add to your collection!

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