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A Fool and Forty Acres (July 13, 2004)

book review
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 other.
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.

 

 

 

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