Review: 'Vertical: Passion and Pinot on the Oregon Wine Trail' by Rex Pickett
Have you ever been given a book that was supposed be awesome, only to find out the awesomeness begins once you 'get into' it?
Happily, Vertical is not that book.
Vertical opens with Miles, now a famous writer and wine personality, following the success of his book and movie Shameless, scrambling to get himself to a speaking event. The simple task of showing up at the right place at the right time proves to be much more difficult than succeeding in the literary world however, and we are reintroduced to Miles the Man, a very different person than Miles the Celebrity, a dichotomy with which he grapples throughout. Miles is a mess, and half the time I wanted to shake him and tell him to pull himself together, but it right away becomes apparent that Miles is aware that he's on two journeys: one is the Oregon Trail to entertain at wine events as the emcee. The other is personal and characterized by all that goes along with personal journeys: poignancy, self awareness, and self deprecation.
Luckily, hilarity acts as a balancing counterpoint. While Miles the Man struggles with himself and his relationship with his mother, who is also on the trip, and of course his best friend Jack (returning from Sideways) who's along too and battling his own demons, Miles the Celebrity and Jack continue to find themselves in ridiculous, wine fueled, college road trip type situations that more than go sideways, providing legitimate head shaking and laugh out loud moments. All self reflection is abandoned at the sight of beautiful women and barrels full of Pinot Noir. But morning always comes.
Vertical is written fluidly and wittily. It is a sesquipedalian beauty (meaning, uses lots of big words), not dumbed down to be simple, yet smartly includes a dictionary in the back so that all of the 'rexicon' (Rex Pickett's lexicon) can be quickly referenced.
At once you as the reader are pulled right in, hence the lack of investment time to 'get into' the story. Vertical could have easily been written in first person, probably as a semi autobiography, but instead Pickett lets Miles tell it in third. You cannot help but feel that you and the author are in an animated conversation about life. Two friends bonding over wine, sharing the crazy, the sad, and everything in between over a glass or five of Pinot Noir.