There have long been books for winery dogs and cats, but a new wine country coffee table book celebrates the empowering women of Napa Valley, including winemakers, chefs, entrepreneurs and artists. “Wine Country Women of Napa Valley” spotlights 65 local females and was released in October.
“The premise is to educate the reader that there is a diversified group of women of different ages and occupations that live in the Napa Valley,” said author Michelle Mandro. “It really is a patchwork of women that make up this great area. People unfortunately think everyone works in the wine industry, but we have fabulous people of differing occupations.”
The women range in age over four decades, from mid-20s to 60s. The book gives readers an intimate look into the lives of inspiring women like Gina Gallo of E & J Gallo, Hilary Newsom of the PlumpJack brand and Carissa Mondavi, granddaughter of Robert Mondavi.
Mandro hired local photographer Dona Kopol Bonick to take portraits of each woman that tells a story about their lives; playing a game of bocce, hugging a chicken or even hanging out in a cemetery, as is the case with St. Helena writer Shannon Kuleto. Other photographs in the book were submitted by the women themselves, capturing moments from family gatherings, events and growing up.
But if there were ever a time to use the tired saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” literally, it’s now. Though sized like a coffee table book, “Wine Country Women of Napa Valley” also doubles as a cookbook, featuring as many recipes as women. The Table of Contents is even segmented as such, broken up into categories of Appetizers, Soups & Salads, Entrees and Dessert. Each recipe is coupled with a recommended pairing—mostly wine, but some spirits as well.
“I call it an instant wine dinner book. The consumer can not only enjoy reading this book, but they can pull a recipe from each of the sections and, voilà, they have a wine dinner,” said Mandro, who got her wine industry start as the executive director of the American Institute of Wine & Food. “So many of our wine regions are driven by great food and wine, so being able to feature a favorite family recipe, and learning what that woman loves to pair it with, will be intriguing to people, I think.”
The concept for this book has been years in the making, but started out as an idea for a TV show, inspired by Robin Leach’s “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” It would focus on the lives of prominent Napa Valley women, with a touch of The Food Network added in. But after trying for two years to get it picked up, and not willing to take the show in the standard, drama-fueled reality TV direction, Mandro moved on.
Eventually, she realized she could take that same concept and bring it to life in book form. “Wine Country Women of Napa Valley” is now just the first in a series of books to be published by Mandro’s company Wine Country Women, LLC, the next of which will focus on the women of Sonoma County.