Book Review: Soft Soil, Black Grapes: The Birth of Italian Winemaking in California; by Simone Cinotto

To view a complete list of all the books I have reviewed on The Academic Wino, visit my Wine Book Library page and browse!  To purchase any of the books I’ve reviewed, check out my Amazon.com storefront!  Cheers!

Today, I present to you a short review of the most recent book I’ve read: Soft Soil, Black Grapes: The Birth of Italian Winemaking in California by Simone Cinotto.

I admit, this book took me a long time to read, though I don’t think it was necessarily the fault of the author.  In fact, if you follow my blog, Facebook, or Twitter pages regularly, you’d know I’ve been very busy in my personal life getting ready for my upcoming wedding, finishing up my “day job” to transition into writing full time, and in general trying to figure out where we will live after the wedding.  So really, the only time I’ve had to actually read the book was a little here and there right before going to bed.

I was very interested in reading Soft Soil, Black Grapes by Simone Cinotto, as I recently discovered that I have ancestors that were some of the early Italian winemakers in California during this time. Specifically, I am a descendant of the Bonesio family who owned the Bonesio Winery (sold in the 1970s and renamed Kirigin Cellars) for three generations and produced wine under the Uva label.  Part of me was hoping that I’d see their name in the book, but unfortunately, I did not.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, as the number of Italian wineries and winemakers throughout California were so plentiful that the work would start to look more like a textbook than a 200+ page book.

Photo from hmdb.org

Photo from hmdb.org

In general, Soft Soil, Black Grapes provided a solid background on the major players who founded and continued to develop the California wine industry, and painted a clear picture of not only the timeline of events, but also the more personal and political side of immigration into the United States during the late 1800s-early 1900s.

In Soft Soil, Black Grapes, I felt as though Simone Cinotto did an excellent job describing the emotional side of immigration, business, and racism in not only the California wine industry at this time, but also that of the United States as a whole.  I remember learning about this period of time during school and in general how the attitudes toward immigration and peoples from particular parts of the world were viewed, but something about this book really brought out an extra level of understanding and knowledge that I hadn’t completely absorbed during my studies as a youth.

This book, while it is a great historical reference on Italian winemaking in California during the late 1800s-early 1900s, brings to mind many parallels to the problems we continue to face today as a nation.  Immigration reform is high up on the list of pressing issues in government today, in addition to the continued racism and discrimination faced by certain groups of people every day.

In Soft Soil, Black Grapes, the racism and discrimination was directed at non-Italians immigrants and non-whites in general.  Today, while there have been many improvements, this book just reminds me that there is still rampant racism and discrimination faced by people of color in many parts of the United States.

It saddens me to know that this still goes on in the world today.  Who are we to judge someone because they happen to have a different skin color than us?  If you are a good person with a good heart, who the hell cares if your black, brown, white, tan, whatever.  We are all human beings and all deserve the love and respect of our follow man and woman.  No one is better than anyone else, nor does anyone innately deserve better treatment than anyone else. Let’s teach our children to love unconditionally, and to treat other people as they themselves would like to be treated.  There is too much hate and anger in the world that really isn’t doing anyone any good.

Have you read Soft Soil, Black Grapes by Simone Cinotto?  If so, what did you think?  If not, give it a read and let us know what you got out of the book!

To purchase a copy of Soft Soil, Black Grapes: The Birth of Italian Winemaking in California by Simone Cinotto, head on over to Amazon here and grab your copy!

What do you think about this topic?