My Book Party! My Book! My Dreams!

It’s been a long, strange journey, and it all comes together starting now: My book is out! It was legally for sale as of midnight last night. I can’t believe it.

If you don’t know what I’m babbling about, here’s the skinny: I wrote a book! It’s about wine. It’s called Drink This: Wine Made Simple. Essentially, it’s what I wish I had had ten years ago, when I started writing about wine, in that it provides just enough information and just the right sort of edited information to explain the basics of wine to a smart person who doesn’t have any time—and then it gets out of your way to let you explore your own taste.

Helping and then getting out of the way is one of my core beliefs as a wine critic, because I truly believe it really doesn’t matter what any critic anywhere says about any wine in general or particular; what matters is your ability to reliably find wine you enjoy, at a price you want to pay, so that your life can be a little easier, a little less stressful, a little more flavorful, and a little more fun. This core belief stems from one of my core ideas, which is that the most imporant part of being a wine drinker is the person, not the wine.

Well, I’m not going to waste your time going on and on about my core ideas forever. Let’s just say that I poured a lot of heart and time and soul into this, and people seem to be responding. The Splendid Table’s Lynne Rossetto Kasper said, “Dara is about to give you the best and easiest kind of wine smarts, and gift you a good read in the bargain.” Andrew Zimmern said, “Most wine books have left me feeling like I am bringing a knife to a swordfight, completely underprepared. Not this one. Drink This is what I’ve been waiting for.” Book Page made it their lead review for wine books and call it “sensibly straightforward” (which is actually one of the nicest things I think any critic approaching this absurdly pretense-riddled topic could ever hear). The Library Journal liked it for its “friendly, conversational tone minus the highbrow snobbery.”

Judge for yourself by checking out the excerpt in December’s Minnesota Monthly. (I also have some nice pieces related to the book coming up in Saveur and Food & Wine, about which I can’t say much yet.)

Needless to say, there’s also a big personal component to all of this: I’ve wanted to write a book forever. And over the course of that forever I’ve always day-dreamed about the book party. There would be wonderful food, wonderful wine, and it would be glamorous and special in every way. And I actually got to work through a dry-run of my perfect imaginary book party a few years ago when I helped Anthony Bourdain put together his local party.

So now, drum roll please… Introducing the book party of my dreams! It’s Wednesday, December 2 at Solera. You’re invited!

Tickets can be ordered online and cost $80 ($75 for MPR members). For that price you get a copy of the book, a sit-down, eight-course dinner especially designed by James Beard Award winner Tim McKee, served with a small but carefully selected Tempranillo wine flight picked by Bill Summerville. A few highlights from the menu: Grilled pork belly with Morcilla and lentils; smoked salmon with pistachio pesto and coriander yogurt; black cod with white asparagus in chorizo broth; veal meatballs with spicy honey glaze; Piquillo peppers stuffed with herbed goat’s milk cheese. (Tax and tip are included in the ticket price.)

Steve Seel from the Current will be introducing me and I think there will be music supplied by the Current as well. It starts at 6:30 and is scheduled to run till 8:30. The plan is to read and talk and mingle, then eat, then read some more, and have tons of time for book signing and celebrating—it is a party, after all!

Admittedly, I feel a little sheepish about the ticket price… All I can say is that it was awfully like planning a wedding, and the cost of doing an appetizer-and-glass of wine reception was a lot more like that of a full dinner than you’d think, and Anthony Bourdain’s people told me people really appreciated the one-stop nature of his event; that way, they didn’t have to go to a bookstore, buy the book, and then find dinner. Well, we’ll see. I’m no Anthony Bourdain, but… I can’t dwell on that too long because it paralyzes me.

But I really am excited about this party, as well as the book, and I dearly hope you can come. I don’t know… Sell some of your old books. Raise the cash! Or, come see me at Surdyk’s on Friday the 27th from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. We’ll be doing a Black Friday event, and I can walk through the store with you and recommend specific bottles of wine. Or keep up with my many, many upcoming public appearances both here and at my personal website: I’ll cut and paste the vast list below. 

And thanks to all my readers over the years. In a lot of ways, my wine book is a very Minnesota project; it assumes highly literate readers who both have no particular aversion to foreign words or European history, but no great respect for pretense or self-declared kings. Now I’m off to be extremely busy. But come to an event! Celebrate with me! It’s been a lifetime in the making.

Tuesday 11/24, 8:30 – 9 a.m., Dara on The Current, 89.3FM
I’ll be talking to Steve Seel on the Current from around 8:30 a.m. on, and if we can get the logistics right, giving away books!

Wednesday 11/25, 8 – 9 a.m., Dara on Patrick Reusse’s Show, AM1500
I’ll be on for a whole hour of Patrick Reusse’s radio show, and they’ll be doing radio call-in, which they never do. Call up and ask me Thanksgiving questions!

Friday 11/27, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Dara at Surdyk’s
I’ll be book-signing and hobnobing at Minneapolis liquor store Surdyk’s from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Black Friday; if you ever wanted personalized wine-shopping advice, today’s your day! Surdyk’s Liquor Store, 303 E Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, 612-379-3232,

Saturday 11/28, 4 p.m., Dara at Common Good Books
Come on down St. Paul, I’ll be at Common Good Books, Garrison Keillor’s bookstore, reading books, signing books, and generally having a good time at a respectably early hour. 165 Western Ave. N., St. Paul, 651-225-8989,

Sunday 11/29, 7 p.m. – Noon, Magers & Quinn
Since Heavy Table editor Jim Norton and I have books coming out at the same time, we decided to help each other out. I’ll be emceeing this Q&A of Jim and his wife Becca Dilley, the amazing photographer of their new book The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin and of course I’ll be happy to chit-chat or sign books afterward. However, this is really Jim & Becca’s show; completists will want to return to Magers & Quinn on Friday, December 4 to see Jim lead me in a Q&A on my book. Magers & Quinn Booksellers, 3038 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, 612-822-4611,

Monday 11/30, 11 a.m. – Noon, Dara on Kare-11
Watch for me during the 11 o’clock hour on Showcase Minnesota.

Wednesday 12/2, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., Book Launch Party at Solera!

Friday, 12/4, 7:30 p.m., Dara at Magers & Quinn with Jim Norton
Logrolling in our time? Perhaps, but I’m really looking forward to these complementary events of Jim Norton (founder of Heavy Table, writer of fabulous new book Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin). On December 4, he’ll be asking me insightful questions and we’ll be drinking free wine. Come on down and get some!

Friday 12/7, 10 – 11 a.m.; Dara on MidMorning with Kerry Miller
I couldn’t be more thrilled about this; it’s one of the most coveted radio appearances in the nation because of the chance to have a serious in-depth conversation with insightful host Kerry Miller. Tune in to MPR, 91.1 KNOW. We’ll be chatting for the whole second hour!

Monday 12/7, 7 p.m., Dara at the Ridgedale Library
Ever been to the Ridgedale Library? It’s really nice, and I’ll be appearing there to lecture on the meaning of taste, answer questions, and allow parents with young kids to trade off spells in the children’s section. Come on down! 12601 Ridgedale Dr., Minnetonka

Friday 12/11, 7 p.m., Dara at the Bookcase, Wayzata
The Bookcase is certainly one of the great gems of the Western suburbs. Come on by and join us! The Bookcase, 607 Lake St. E., Wayzata, 952-473-8341,

Friday 12/18, 7 p.m., Dara at Micawber Books, St. Paul
I’m really looking forward to my Micawber appearance. We’ll talk wine, I’ll answer your questions, and it’ll be a great time. However, since it’s also my son’s 4th birthday, I’ll also be hitting you up for good kids’ books suggestions for gifts!