'American Wino' Not Your Typical Wine Memoir

Pop Culture
"American Wino" is a memoir of the author's tour of American vineyards like this one. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Aaron Logan)

When a 15-year-old boy dreams of who he wants to be, I imagine it’s something like Dan Dunn, a former Playboy magazine nightlife columnist and author of the new book, “American Wino: A Tale of Reds, Whites, and One Man’s Blues.”

Like me, Dunn’s a booze writer, but he’s in Los Angeles and is way cooler than me. I mean, seriously, he hangs out with celebrities. But as he says our job is “a flaming butt ton of subtle, nuanced fun.”

And so is Dunn’s book. After his girlfriend dumps him and his brother dies, Dunn decides to travel the country and enjoy your atypical region’s wine. 

Early on, you realize this is not going to be your typical wine memoir. I’m pretty sure Tony Terlato didn’t reference either a bag of heroin or the word “fuck” at all in his book, Taste: A Life in Wine.

But in “American Wino,” you find an unfiltered Dunn finding himself. 

“American Wino” is an adventure of a booze writer who admits to keeping butt plugs and Viagra in his room (but they’re not his, of course) and to struggling with loss. Dunn’s raw, rich comedic style in American Wino is lost in today’s memoirs. Everybody’s so damn serious in wine memoirs! Dunn keeps you laughing from page to page, with the occasional sex tale and self-deprecation woven into wine terroir and grape knowledge.

I especially appreciated Dunn’s attention to the North American grape, Muscadine, which often grows wild and intentional in the South. I stopped tasting this grape seven years ago when a friend brought it to my birthday party and said I’d love it. I’ve never been able to describe Muscadine, other than it sucks. But Dunn said it tastes like “fermented Dr. Pepper.” Nailed it!

If you’re easily offended or prefer the company of stuffy types, “American Wino” might not be for you. But if you enjoy a writer adventure with red solo cups, “American Wino” will steal your heart and make you want to drink cheap wine in a Texas trailer park.

Like all the great books that make you laugh, tears may happen in “American Wino.”

You feel the brother’s love.

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