A Memoir of Mythic Vines and Improbable Winemaking
In 1880, a star-crossed Englishman planted a Zinfandel vineyard in the wildlands of California’s Central Coast. Nearly a century later, in 1974, an iconoclast from Santa Barbara discovered the Englishman’s abandoned old vines and restored them with nothing more than a pick and shovel. And in the fall of 1995, an improbable cast of characters found their way to this vineyard, embarking on a season of folly and adversity in the pursuit of making one great wine.
The Mad Crush is the eyewitness story of that wine and the souls who shaped its making over a period of 115 years—including nude grape stompers, a freethinking village potter, a California surfing legend, a reclusive winemaker, the winemaker’s ex-wife’s one-legged boyfriend, and a mysterious dead coyote. This true account of devotion and redemption will ultimately change how you drink and think about California wine.
“ENTERTAINING FROM START TO FINISH…Part Thoreau, part Bourdain, The Mad Crush strikes a solid balance between poetic winespeak and countercultural intrigue.”
-Eric Annino, Terroirist
“A RIVETING MEMOIR…Wine books are seldom as engaging as The Mad Crush…Weir uses humor and insight to deliver a revealing look at the sweaty, dirty, hazardous side of the process, but he doesn’t leave out the pure romance of it either.”
-Sandra Silfven, Detroit News
“FILLED WITH PASSION, MYSTERY AND MISCHIEF…A great wine book.”
-Mary Orlin, San Jose Mercury News
“AN EXPERIENCE TO BE SAVORED…The Mad Crush is one man’s almost mythic celebration of wine-making and self-discovery – and a harvest season long past. But it’s also an ode to a California, its people and a way of life that many think gone.”
-Tom Bobak, American Craft Beer
“IT’S SOCIOLOGICAL, A HISTORICAL PIECE, A MOMENT IN TIME, A LIFE STORY…It really isn’t just a wine book.”
-Tom Wilmer, NPR Podcasts
“THE MAD CRUSH IS IRRESISTIBLE…It’s a great read. Its entertainment value is not restricted to those who know a lot about wine. Everyone can enjoy this book.”
-Randy Fuller, Now & Zin Wine Report
“HISTORICAL, WITTY AND LAUGH-OUT-LOUD FUNNY…”
-Russ Winton, Modesto Bee
“RICH, INFORMATIVE AND, AT TIMES, INTENSE…A great book by a great writer.”
-Margaux Sky, Paso Robles Daily News
“A SMALL STORY THAT HAS A LARGE RIPPLE EFFECT….HIGHLY RECOMMENDED…Weir manages to be erudite about his subject without being pompous or pretentious.”
-Amy Glynn, Paste Magazine
“FUN AND INFORMATIVE–a combination that’s hard to find in wine books…I’m a slow reader, but I finished The Mad Crush in one sitting.”
-Gerald Boyd, Sonoma County Press Democrat
“POWERFUL…FASCINATING…Beyond wine and beyond the charm of regional lore, The Mad Crush appeals for its multilayered story about the human experience.”
-Gabe Saglie, Santa Barbara News-Press
“Through the interactions of an intriguing cast of characters, the immensely difficult yet rewarding work of the crush comes alive.”
-Jonathan Cristaldi, The Tasting Panel Magazine
“The Mad Crush offers something to wine newbies and enthusiasts alike…Just about anyone–oenophile or not–will appreciate the message of survival, whether it’s 100-year-old-vines, a 20-year-old vintage revisited or the human spirit.”
-Sally Buffalo Taylor, Vintages Magazine
“A quick, enjoyable read…Weir gracefully depicts the hardscrabble efforts behind making a delicate, sought-after product.”
-Marc Bona, Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Pithy, entertaining and pulls little punches…You don’t have to be a wine lover to appreciate The Mad Crush.”
-Joe Roberts, 1WineDude.com
“A quick and lively read, perfect for anyone with any shred of interest in wine.”
-Matt Kettmann, Santa Barbara Independent
“Full of bygone details that crackle to life, The Mad Crush is thoughtfully interwoven with poignant personal truths, humor, and dry wit.”
-Hayley Thomas, Santa Maria Sun
“One of the two best books I’ve read about a single year at a winery…A short, fun, realistic depiction of a harvest season at an iconoclastic small winery.”
-W. Blake Gray, The Gray Report
“An engrossing historical account…This memoir hinges on the distinctive characters who have built up Central Coast wine, and the wild rumpus that is harvest in the vineyard.”
-California Winery Advisor
“A fun read, and one that will set you straight on the glorious and grunt-laden world of winemaking.”
-Michael Cervin, Boozehoundz
Click here for an author Q&A via HootnAnnie.
"As a lover of California wines, I consider the Mad Crush a must-have...It's an in-depth and intriguing adventure into the heart and history of California winemaking."
Heavy Metal Legend and Wine Connoisseur
115 Years in The Making
“When left to their own devices, grapes will just rot. But when turned into wine, they tell a story…”
So begins The Mad Crush, the improbable but true tale about the making of one great wine and the souls who paved its way over a period of 115 years—including nude grape stompers, a freethinking village potter, a California surfing legend, a reclusive winemaker, the winemaker’s ex-wife’s one-legged boyfriend, and a mysterious dead coyote.
The Mad Crush starts when Bill Greenough, owner of Saucelito Canyon Vineyard in the wildlands of California’s Central Coast, recruits author Christopher Weir to work the 1995 “crush”—the seasonal push to process the harvested grapes. What ensues is a life-changing harvest season like no other, during which a motley winery crew is challenged to make fine wine the hard way in the face of folly, adversity and even fire.
But while The Mad Crush revolves around the eyebrow-raising escapades of the 1995 crush, it ultimately tells the larger tale of a century-old Zinfandel vineyard and the adventuresome characters who have dared to call it home. Along the way, Weir unearths a trove of serendipitous stories, all of them somehow pointing the way to this remote place that cuts an unlikely path through the history of California wine.
From the planting of the vines in 1880 by an itinerant Englishman to Greenough’s 1960s winemaking exploits in Santa Barbara’s bohemian Mountain Drive community, The Mad Crush is not just an exploration of wine, but also a question of destiny.
In A Remote Canyon
A short video excerpt for The Mad Crush.
The Zinfandel vineyard at Rancho Saucelito in 1894, with vines spaced for farming by horse and plow. The vineyard was planted 14 years earlier in 1880.
In Vino Veritas
Thanks to the following artists…Book cover design by Stefanie Collins; back cover photograph (and second home page splash photo above) by Chris Leschinsky; video by Rob DaFoe.
Special thanks to Don Dokken for sharing his kind words. In addition to being a heavy metal legend and a pioneer of the iconic Los Angeles hard rock scene, he is a true wine connoisseur. I’ve been a longtime fan, so his endorsement means a lot to me. For info and upcoming tour dates, check out DokkenCentral.com.
If you have thoughts or questions regarding The Mad Crush, I’d love to hear from you. You can send a message through the contact form below, or call me at (805) 709-3817.
Click here to download a high-resolution book cover graphic.
Click here to download a high-resolution author photo.