By Bill Marsano. Elliot Essman and I are alike in that we both love wine and write about wine, have James Beard medals for distinguished service in the non-combat beverage zone, take wine seriously but never to the point of being wine bullies, wine snobs or wine bores. Equally we love and admire women and song, indulge in witty (we hope) wordplay. In general we advance the view that wine is the highest expression of the liquid state. But for all that, the idea of using wine to ‘make sense of the world’ seems a bit of a stretch, although wine moderately taken is certainly a morale-builder in most instances. Nevertheless, while entry-level wine-lovers will get a lot from this book, accomplished ones will too. Actually, Essman is using wine as a vehicle to explore his many wine-related interests: philosophy, the senses, desire and lust, the meaning of ‘terroir,’ Samuel Pepys, poetry, tasting notes and just about anything else that engages his inquiring and restless mind. We disagree on a thing or two such as wine poetry and tasting notes (which I generally have no truck with), but his analysis gives a good idea of what tasting notes should be. The highlight here is the several chapters tracing the course of his dating marathon in search of the special woman to go with his wine, the woman who would, so to speak, become the wine of his life and the song of his heart. It IS a marathon—there are 26 meetings—and each is deftly thumbnailed. No rants or bitterness or blame here–the globe is granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints, and Essman knows enough not to linger over losses, knows that each of us inevitably receives his portion of what Martin Amis calls “the shrapnel of life.” Hmmm—we disagree on other things too, come to think on’t: ‘terroir’ and long-aged wines: the former having an excess of dubious supporters and the latter suggesting a romantic fiction. No matter. What’s duller that two people endlessly agreeing? Essman is good company because strong as his opinions are he doesn’t bluster or bludgeon. He explores, discusses and (in both senses of the word) entertains. He is good company because, as he explains in his introduction, “My aim is to open up some thought patterns on how wine opens up thought patterns. My goal is to end this book with questions rather than statements.” It’s enough to make anyone feel welcome.