If you're reading this blog with any regularity, you probably don't need this book yourself, but know someone for whom it would be a perfect gift. How many times do you get asked a wine question that is so broad that an answer would fill a whole book? Well, this is the book.
Courtney Cochran is a certified sommelier and has a business called "Your Personal Sommelier" and holds events under the "Hip Tastes" brand in San Francisco. She has put together what looks on the surface a very basic book about how to get started learning about wine, but a deeper look into the book reveals some extremely thoughtful touches: a good pronunciation guide of essential terms, a wine place-names appendix with a good sampling of which grapes are associated with which region in Europe, and another appendix with world wine regions, sub-regions, recommended producers, and recent top vintages. She's also included a guide to yearly wine festivals around the U.S., and some good wine tourism web addresses.
But beyond the resources in the back of the book, there are some other excellent topics I haven't seen many other places, like winery etiquette and how many wineries one should hit for the non-spitting crowd. Wine pairings are pretty basic, but a good beginning for someone trying to make sense out of a new wine list.
Really, the most remarkable thing about this book is that she avoids the endless name dropping that is so easy to do when writing a basic wine book. Instead, she focuses on elemental knowledge and does it in a fun, Generation-Y kind of writing style. The shape of the book looks like it's intended to live next to the Food & Wine guides, or Oz Clark's guides, or in the supermarket checkout line where it would work well for the female wine buyer market. (BTW, women buy LOTS of wine, both supermarket and boutique wines.)
So, if you have someone who really wants a "Cliff Notes" starter book for wine, don't have them begin with the Wine Bible, but rather with something like Hip Tastes.
Full disclosure: this was a press sample.