Alder Yarrow is widely regarded as the original and most influential wine blogger on the Internet. His award-winning site, Vinography, has been around for nearly 11 years, and in 2011, he was a finalist for the James Beard journalism award.
Yarrow has managed to lead this niche by blogging only at night. By day, he is the chief experience officer at Cibo, a brand experience agency whose clients include Tesla and Volcom. Before that, Yarrow ran his own interactive design and strategy consulting firm.
Now after more than a decade online, Yarrow has turned his attention to print, marrying his eye for design and penchant for poetic writing into a 150-page hardcover coffee table book that celebrates the singular flavors and aromas found in wine.
"The Essence of Wine," which was funded via Kickstarter, is due out in October. Half the copies of the self-published book have been presold; the rest will be available for $70 on www.vinography.com.
By all accounts, this book is Yarrow's baby (especially since daughter Sparrow is now 6). It is odd to hear an Internet pioneer speak so lovingly about "durable library binding" and paper quality -- Mohawk ProLine Pearl Photo 140#, "the highest quality photo paper I can get" -- but Yarrow is guilty as charged: He's an old-school book nerd.
Books "have a special place in my life," Yarrow says. "I grew up without a television, and I still don't have one. I've read voraciously my entire life, and have always read books."
What's so special about this book? The title is benign, but wait until you see the vignettes. Yarrow captures 47 aromas and flavors, everything from wet stones to violets, cured meats and salty sea air, in romantic, succinct descriptions accompanied by the gorgeous photography of award-winning food photographer Leigh Beisch. Have a taste of graphite: "There may come a time when, like the clack of a typewriter or the stutter of a rotary phone, children do not recognize the smell of a freshly sharpened Number 2 Ticonderoga or FaberCastell," he writes. "In the wine world, the scent of graphite might as well be the scent of money, as it most often emanates from the alchemy of expensive wood and wine. Cabernet kissed with finely toasted French oak most often proves the source of such aromas."
He follows each description with eight wine recommendations featuring that aroma or flavor. "Editing those was like stabbing myself with a fork over and over," Yarrow confesses. "Making them consistent, making sure they were widely available and spelled correctly. I'm just really anal retentive." And, unlike with a blog, you can't post a correction.
"The Essence of Wine" actually began in January 2012 as a blog collaboration with Beisch and art director Sara Slavin. Yarrow posted one or two a week, and they quickly became one of the most popular features on the blog. "But the photos and prose were meant to be savored one after the other, and that was difficult to do online," he says.
Publishers have been clamoring to ink a book deal with Yarrow for years, but when he offered them the idea, he got shut down.
"They all thought it was too arty," he says.
Last November, Yarrow launched a Kickstarter campaign and sought out a designer and copy editor to meet his standards. The book features a laminated four-color dust jacket with front and back flaps and a printed spine. The cover is made of a hard-wearing cotton blend that has been coated with water-based acrylic for extra resiliency. Such details make Yarrow proud.
For those who prefer to read books digitally, he has produced a high-resolution eBook version, available for $35 at www.vinography.com. How does Yarrow compare working in both media?
"(Print) is certainly a different mode," he says. "When I blog, I sit down for three hours and it's out and gone. This was a major project. But the book is gorgeous. It's everything I hoped it would be."
Contact Jessica Yadegaran at firstname.lastname@example.org.