Whatever your score on the above, you're bound to enjoy the Windows on the World Complete Wine Course. Subtitled Millennium Edition, this 14th annual update is again authored by Kevin Zraly, founder and teacher of the Wine School, begun in 1976 as an offshoot of New York's Windows on the World restaurant. On 200 colorful and clutter-free pages full of maps, wine labels, and sidebars full of facts and anecdotes, Zraly acts as your Sherpa through eight classes. Chapters 1 through 3 circumnavigate the white wines of France, the New World, and Germany; 4 through 8 explore the reds of France, California, Iberia, Australia, and South America, concluding with a section on champagne, port, and sherry.
As wine guru, Kevin Zraly is opinionated, knowledgeable, and patient. His skill at talking novice wine devotees off the ledge is especially evident in the chapters on Burgundy and Germany, with their notoriously confusing wine labels. Study Zraly's careful parsing and annotation of a German label and you'll be able to tell the region from the town from the vineyard the next time someone hands you a Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese.
But any book that calls itself a "Complete Wine Course" sets the Barbera pretty high--sometimes too high. Oregon and Washington States share one page while New York State rates two and a half. Certainly a millennium edition could scare up another paragraph for the red-hot Pacific Northwest. And two chapters following the classes--"Creating an Exemplary Restaurant Wine List" and "Award-Winning Wine Lists"--seem little more than padding.
But these are small quibbles about a handsome and approachable volume that will take you from Amarone to Zind-Humbrecht with confidence. Whether you're a true cork dork or someone who doesn't know their Alsace from their elbow, you could certainly do worse than pressing your nose up against these windows on the world. --Tony Mason