What follows is a summary of a book by a Times employee.
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK OF CALIFORNIA WINES by Robert Lawrence Balzer (Abrams: $37.50). Nationally syndicated wine columnist Balzer, whose work appears in The Times' Home magazine, provides a history of California wine making and its five distinct grape regions in the introductory chapters. The richly illustrated book then offers a synopsis on 180 of the 500 wineries operating in California, grouping them alphabetically by the appropriate region, such as North Coast, Southern California, etc. The sketches are accompanied by tasting notes on a selected sampling of the wineries' products, some background on the owners or wine maker and the firm's address. Balzer then lists what he believes are the "stellar" new wineries of the 1980s, a chapter included because this book is an updated edition of a 1978 work by the author. "California Wines" also details which wine grapes do best under the various climatic and soil conditions in the state. Here Balzer discusses why a Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon might have characteristics more desirable than, say, an identical varietal from the Napa Valley. The information is intended to help consumers discern between the thousands of different wine products available today.