A Fool and Forty Acres (July 13, 2004)
by Dean Tudor
A Fool and Forty Acres: Conjuring a vineyard three thousand miles
from Burgundy (McClelland & Stewart, 2004, 275 pages, ISBN 0-7710-4054-7,
$34.99) is by Geoff Heinricks, a journalist and freelance writer who relocated
to Prince Edward County in Southern Ontario a decade ago to pursue a dream
of growing grapes, specifically pinot noir.
Most of the book deals with a history of Prince Edward County, while
some of it also covers Heinricks and his family leaving the safety net
of Toronto big city life for the rusticity and uncertainty of viticulture.
There are sections on why pinot noir is particularly apt for the limestone
areas of Hillier in the County, his relationships with his neighbours,
the difficulty of survival of the vines over the winter, and his stick-to-it-iveness
for developing acres and acres of vines. Indeed, as a pioneer, he ended
up as a consultant and coach, dispensing advice and guidance, to others
who came after him, such as engineer Ken Burford, vineyard manager Deborah
Paskus (who fled from Niagara), and chef Jamie Kennedy.
Still, there is not much on other vine growers, nor on any of the wineries
(except for Waupoos/County Cider, which was there before Heinricks arrived).
And certainly there are no tasting notes for current vintages.
Some of this material had previously appeared in different versions in
Saturday Night and the Ottawa Citizen. For the wanderers
among us, there is also a healthy dose of Al Purdy poetry and conversation
with the man himself. As an avid wine enthusiast, I particularly enjoyed
the pages in the vineyards as fascinating reading. But the title is typically
Canadian, too self-effacing.
Audience and level of use: The general reader interested in memoirs
and/or wine, and certainly anybody in the hospitality trade in Ontario
with a healthy interest in viticulture and winery management.
Some interesting or unusual facts: Wine yeasts are a subject of
earnest discussion that often ends in winemakers taking swings at each
What I don't like about this book:There is no index, which, in
view of the lack of chapter descriptions and the sprawling unfocused nature
of the writing, makes it almost impossible to pull together any kind of
facts. Shame, shame!
What I do like about this book: Well, I do like the sprawling nature
and the sense that Heinricks's life is unfolding nicely. It often reads
as a novel, with a plot and some vivid writing.
Quality/Price Ratio: 80 without the index; otherwise, I'd give
it a 90.