I’ve read a lot of cookbooks in my life. Some are indispensible reference works, some are entirely dispensable regifts, and some are just plain fun and inspirational. Down home: downtown, which compares the recipes of two of wine country's best Chefs, is one of those cookbooks that you actually want to read.

Published by Rodney Strong Vineyards, down home:downtown represents the essence of wine country cooking. Wine friendly dishes that draw on the bounty of local farms in all their seasonal glory. Each chef has carefully crafted a set of recipes based on the same basket of main ingredients. It’s Iron Chef on paper, and a blast to read. It would make a great gift for your favorite foodie/wine geek.

The recipes are clear, easy to follow, and precise, though these are restaurant recipes so some involve quite a few steps.  I love the way the dishes are presented, and the photos, of the dishes, the respective restaurants, and the Sonoma countryside are gorgeous.  I had to pop a bottle of Rodney Strong’s 2006 Knotty Vines Zinfandel to enjoy while reading down home: downtown, and just happened upon a wonderful foil to this fine wine.

What to expect: Zinfandel

Zinfandel is considered America's own great indigenous grape, even though its origins lie on the Adriatic coast. Planted throughout California and the Pacific Northwest, Zinfandel is at its best in warm regions with cooler temperatures during harvest. The wines can range from off-dry Rosés (aka White Zinfandel) and light bistro styled wines, to big, rich powerful wines - and even luscious dessert wines. The flavors range from plummy to raspberry, although deep blackberry fruit and brambly spice tones are most common.