Blood from a Stone
André Simon Food and Drink Book Award Longlist
"This is the story of how wine brought me back from the dead."
Thus begins Adam McHugh's transition through the ending of one career—as a hospice chaplain and grief counselor—into the discovery of a new life in wine among the grapevines of the Santa Ynez Valley of California.
"This is the corkscrewing tale of how I got to Santa Ynez, eventually, and the questions that came up along the way," he continues. "You and I are going to take a long wine tour together on our way there, and we will make plenty of stops for a glass and some local wine history. As you will see, I reached into the old, old story of wine in order to find my new story, which begins, as so many wine love stories do, in the French countryside."
With warmth and wit, Adam tells the story of what happens when things fall apart and when where you live no longer feels like home. From the south of France to Champagne to the California central coast, the trail winds toward new life and healing through the good gifts of wine, friendship, and a sense of place. Pour a glass and join the adventure.
"Adam McHugh has not just written a terrific book about wine, he has pioneered a whole new genre of wine writing. At once funny and sad, his book is a deeply personal exploration of how one man finds himself through his relationship with the world's most remarkable beverage. This book made me laugh, cry, and want to share a bottle of wine with Adam McHugh!"
"Adam McHugh is one of the most effortlessly funny writers I know. In his new work, Blood from a Stone, Adam combines his wit with a tender vulnerability to tell a story as poignant as it is funny."
"For an avowed introvert, Adam McHugh lets it all hang out in Blood from a Stone, a very personal, soul-searching tale about a dying career, difficult divorce, and ultimately, inspiring rebirth thanks to Santa Barbara County wine country. Along the way, McHugh educates the reader in an engaging, accessible manner about the great sagas of wine, both those from Old World antiquity and more recent stories from the Santa Ynez Valley. This book should entertain wine neophytes and experts alike, or just about anyone who's pulling for the underdog."
"A sparkling delight, laced with deep and earthy emotion but ultimately finished with notes of hope and love. In Blood from a Stone, Adam McHugh gives us a cultural history of wine alongside his own history, letting us taste the cycles of grief, darkness, and joy that mark every life. With good humor and hard-won depth, he coaxes us toward the attentiveness that great wine, and great writing, can foster—and the result is nothing short of wonderful."
"What a treat to read a wine book about something other than 'tasting notes.' Who cares whether you find that a wine smells like cherries or berries or Ethiopian coffee beans? How boring! Adam McHugh is after a more interesting game. History, religion, and his passion for one of his God's greatest gifts, for example. Page by page his wine pilgrimage, as he calls it, grows more interesting, humorous, and soulful."
"Adam McHugh is a gifted storyteller and has created not only a wonderful tour guide through the rich history of wine but also a guidebook toward salvation and purpose from the depths of human misery and despair. As creatures with feelings, we can all relate by personal experience to his emotional love story. Anyone with an interest in wine, history, and culture will find his writing entertaining and provocative. Thank you, Adam, for baring your soul to remind us we are all pilgrims on the labyrinthine trail toward eternal and internal peace, love, and harmony; and thank you for bringing us back to the importance of humility, compassion, and sympathy in our daily living."
"Adam McHugh's stunning memoir, Blood from a Stone, brings a sideways beatitude: Blessed are the lonely, the detached, the fired, the tired, and the spiritually hungry. They will see God if they're paying attention and willing to be surprised. Read, savor, and listen for the low hum of deep faith in this personal story of a man who writes with a keen awareness of grief and a self-deprecating honesty. You'll leave with a renewed longing for food and meaning, cheese and history, and wine you can't pronounce."
"There is nothing better than reading the first paragraph of a new book and realizing, 'Ah, I'm in good hands. This is going to be fun.' Okay, maybe one thing is better: finishing that book and realizing you were more right than you knew. Adam McHugh's story of how 'wine brought me back from the dead' resurrected my love for memoir. I had forgotten how this genre can sing with insight and originality, wit and wisdom. At its best, memoir teaches us and takes us on a journey. Adam is a fantastic writer and a wonderful tour guide to wine, wine country, and this ordinary yet miraculous life. I always thought water into wine was the miracle. Now I see that grapes into wine is almost equally incredible."
". . . this is no air-brushed autobiography. McHugh tells his story with ruthless honesty and often with dark humour. He’s also a serious history buff, and intertwines his story with the history of wine, weaving a fabric that is stronger than the sum of the two. . . . McHugh studied for and passed his sommelier exam. So the wine stuff in the book is solid. . . . But at the deepest level, this book is spiritual. Not religious, but about grief and loss, the pilgrimage of suffering one must walk in order to heal, to reach the other side. . . . Blood from a Stone moved me deeply."
". . . oenophiles are certain to appreciate the book. An appealingly inspiring journey."
"Adam McHugh's Blood from a Stone is a memoir that brims with love for wine. Heartfelt, candid, and unsentimental, McHugh's story is about how the challenges of ministry fueled his passion for wine -- in a good way. . . . It’s a compelling memoir."
"We highly recommend Blood from a Stone . It's not your typical wine tome replete with tasting notes or questionable advice about buying wine or pairing wine with food.
What is it about? Life, really. Wine is part of that. So is travel. Religion. Change. Humor. A love of place. All that and more are weaved into a . . . captivating narrative. You will find it hard to put this one down."
1. Wine Happens
2. The Way of Van Gogh
3. Feast Day
4. The Train to Champagne
5. A Sense of Place
6. Blood from a Stone
7. The Dark Night of the Soul
8. The Sideways Effect
9. The King's Highway
10. The Fairytale
11. The Last Stop
12. The Beast of Burden
14. The Healing Place
15. The Parade
16. The Story of Soil