Crush: The Triumph of California Wine

Finalist for the California Historical Society Book Award


The Triumph of California Wine

Available September 4th

Crush is the 200-year story of the heady dream that wines as good as the greatest of France could be made in California—a dream dashed four times in merciless succession, until it was ultimately realized in a stunning blind tasting in Paris. In that tasting, in the year of America’s bicentennial, California wines took their place as the leading wines of the world. For the first time, Crush tells the complete and dramatic story of the ascendancy of California wine in vivid detail. He also profiles the larger story of California itself by looking at it from an entirely innovative perspective—the state seen through its singular wine history. With dramatic flair and verve, Briscoe not only recounts the history of wine and winemaking in California, he encompasses a multidimensional approach that takes into account an array of social, political, cultural, legal, and winemaking sources. Elements of this history have plot lines that seem scripted by a Sophocles, or Shakespeare. Crush is a fusion of wine, personal stories, and cultural and socioeconomic history. From the first harvest and vintage, through the four overwhelming catastrophes, to its wholly unanticipated triumph in Paris, Crush chronicles how wine from California finally gained its global due.

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Praise for Crush

Full Praise

“A tour de force of scholarship, fine writing, and multifaceted format, Crush is destined to earn a place among the classics of wine literature and California history. Briscoe describes the process of how California introduced wine to America. With equal verve and amplitude, he evokes the alchemy through which wine—as agriculture, as vintners’ art, as connoisseurship in dialogue with advanced and popular taste alike—helped define California as a regional civilization.”
Kevin Starr, University Professor of History, University of Southern California, California State Librarian, author

Crush is simply superb—both as history and story-telling. The Paris tasting and its aftermath was a transformative moment in California’s cultural history. This immensely readable book captures the excitement, the fun, and the astonishment of the event.”
—Dana Gioia, Poet Laureate of California

“California is internationally recognized for its fine wines. Viticulture shaped large swathes of the California landscape and helped fashion the perception of the region as a destination for the good life ethos at the heart of the California Dream. John Briscoe’s Crush takes an innovative approach to this compelling tale of wine’s improbable journey from the rituals of the mission padres to the center of the California lifestyle. This engaging and humorous account of the four major challenges, or “crushes,” of the wine saga is made compelling by the author’s flair for vivid storytelling. An entertaining and insightful story of California seen through the state’s wine history, Crush is an essential addition to any California bookshelf. Readers may never look at their glass of California wine in the same way.”
Christopher O’Sullivan, professor of history, University of San Francisco