For the past few years, Dorothy “Dottie” Gaiter and John Brecher have written a wine column for the Wall Street Journal. The column has earned them much praise from readers and appearances on prominent talk shows such as “Martha Stewart Living” and “Today.” The reason for their success is plain: they don’t just write about wine in the static, snooty manner of some oenophiles. They write about wine in the context of life and, often, in the context of their own love affair and marriage.
It’s obvious from reading the couple’s second
book, Love By the Glass: Tasting Notes From a Marriage (their first
book, now in revised edition, was The Wall Street Journal Guide to Wine: New and Improved), that Brecher and Gaiter don’t just want to educate their readers about wine. They want to share the power of wine and how it can add to life. Love By the Glass is, first and foremost, the story of the couple’s romance and marriage. They met when they were both working and The Miami Herald in the 1970’s, and pretty much stuck together ever since. Along the way, another love story develops – their affair with wine.
Their interest piqued by a mysterious copy of The Signet Book of Wine that Brecher receives in the mail (the book turns out to have been a gift from Brecher’s brother, but how he came by it is something I won’t reveal here), they begin experimenting with wines from all over the country and beyond. They go to Napa Valley, Italy and, oddly enough, Long Island, which apparently has its own wine country. The book lingers with special poignancy on their trips to Cellar in the Sky, a wine cellar-restaurant that was part of Windows on the World in the World Trade Center. Cellar was hit hard by the 1993 bombing of the building and eventually went out of business, but Windows, and another restaurant called Wild Blue, remained and were frequented by the couple, until the World Trade Center’s collapse in last year’s terrorist attacks.
The book charts Brecher’s and Gaiter’s growing knowledge and enthusiasm for wine as they take notes on each bottle, with ratings ranging from “Yech” to “Delicious.” Yet, as the book is careful to note, neither is a big drinker. In an ironic twist, the couple points out that too much of any alcohol makes them ill. Their many wine tastings, however, don’t cause a problem as they often drink a bottle over several hours. Their interest and love of wine follows them wherever they go, eventually leading the Journal’s weekend editor to ask them to write a column. The couple have written the column for several years, and even gave up their “real” jobs at the paper – she wrote on race relations, he was page-one editor – to dedicate more time to the column.
Though wine is an important component of the book, the backbone is the couple’s love story. For those who don’t know, Brecher and Gaiter are an interracial couple: she is black and he is white. Although this is pointed out
in the book, the couple says that their relationship never seemed to be a problem to anyone, least of all their parents. The couple’s passion, love and respect for each other is clear on almost every page.
They even have their own strange ritual. Brecher often has objects made in the shape of Gaiter’s face, which they call “Dottie” presents. The book details several of these gifts, which include a necklace, a rug, a mirror and even a neon sign.
The book also tells of their long struggle to have a family and the eventual birth of their two daughters, Zoe and Media.
Love by the Glass is an engrossing read – funny, intelligent, poignant and filled with wonderful tips about food and wine (there are even some great-looking recipes in the book). If you haven’t read their column before, you may start after reading Love by the Glass, simply because the couple’s work is so much fun to read, no matter what they’re talking about. Which, of course, is the whole point.