When I’m really busy yet still want to read a book, I’ve found that Audible.com (a subsidiary of Amazon, apparently) is the best way to knock out some “reading” via my ears.  When I picked up Sideways 3, Chile and listened through the first two paragraphs of the book’s prologue, I realized that listening was not option.  Not only would I need an actual paper copy in my own hands to see the written words, but having a dictionary on the side wouldn’t hurt either.

Prologue

At a certain point in my life I reached the ineluctable conclusion that the only truth I believed in was the immortality of my despair.

I have been called every name on the planet: intense, troubled, a flâneur (their word was probably layabout, but I like flâneur), driven, dipsomaniacal, mendacious and a mendicant, taker not a giver, an artist, a loser, the worst writer on the planet (by nasty, underpaid senior editors at publishing houses), “gifted,” “raw talent,” “a great lover,” a “terrible boyfriend,” accused of writing from too personal a place … I’ve heard it all. Still I persevere.

See what I mean? Those two paragraphs made my own inner nasty underpaid senior editor tremble with both euphoria and envy. And sent me to Amazon to buy the actual physical book so that my eyeballs could take part in the same ecstasy.

CasablancaValley_Chile_VinaVeramonte_JamesonFink_BY-CCThere are few writers whom I can read without mentally wanting to take out a red marker and swipe though misplaced apostrophes, random commas, questionable homonyms, and “creative” spelling. Chris Kassel of Intoxicology Report is one of those rare people whose writing gives me pleasure and keeps my inner proofreader at bay. He has won the much-coveted (at least by me) Best Blog Post of the Year for 2015 and has been a consistent finalist in the Best Writing category. I reviewed his book, A Rite of Paso, with gritting teeth and veins swirling with jealousy. Not only because he’d spent weeks in Paso, but that he wrote so well about it and about the people I know. Damn him.

Another person whose wine writing holds me in thrall is Mr. Pickett himself. I’ve read all three Sideways books and each one has its own particular personality. Sideways 3, Chile is the culmination of all of them. We get to see the inside of Miles’ psyche which is only hinted at – by comparison – in the other two books.

Through a series of seemingly unrelated but potentially disastrous mishaps, Miles finds himself getting the Chile Sauv Blancopportunity to go to Chile in order to write about the wines there and to salvage his fading glory. Once he gets to Chile, the adventures begin. Whether it is braving Chile’s innumerable earthquakes, drinking the ethereal wines, or falling in love, Miles finds that Chile speaks to him in a way that no place – not even California – has. In Chile, Pinot Noir is no longer the golden girl. As a matter of fact, all of the wines of Chile that Miles experiences replace Pinot Noir as the star.

In Sideways 3, Miles connects with people from the past books: Laura from Vertical, Maya from Sideways, and of course, the omnipresent Jack, who’s now divorced but hoping for reconciliation. All of these relationships play out in unexpected ways, and the end of the book, while not entirely surprising, is nevertheless gratifying and complete. That being said, it leaves open the possibility of a Sideways 4, despite Pickett’s protestations to the contrary.

As you can probably tell, I have tried very, very hard not to be a spoiler and attempt to leave the mystery of the plot intact. This book requires you to lay your own eyes on each page and there’s nothing to be gained by spilling the details. You need to feel what Miles feels, you need to see what Miles sees. You need to harness your imagination and take it to Chile.

rex-pickettOf all of the three Sideways books, this one was in every way, shape, and form my favorite. I don’t know why it is, but I found that I could relate to Miles in ways that I had not been able to in the other two books. Don’t get me wrong, Miles is very relatable – at least to me, but I’m weird – but his being in Chile made it unique.

If you read this book, you will want to go to Chile and try the wines. Believe me. It is absolutely inevitable. If this book is ever made into a movie, Chile’s tourism department will be swamped with Americans who will want to go on the new Chilean wine trail. I only read the book and I want to go!

I can’t recommend it enough. If you are a Sideways fan like I am and understand that the Sideways books are about people, characters, human relationships, and that wine is only a secondary player in the structure of these books, you will absolutely love them. I know that wine is an actual character, but not the star. It’s the human interactions and connections that shine, none more so than in Sideways 3 Chile.

Rex Pickett done good.