Val de Grâce Books

From “The Best We Can Be”


Powerful Storytelling

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The big, important books that we love to do are not simply written; they are built, from the ground up. And the foundation is always the same: Powerful Storytelling. Whether our subject is the building of the Napa Valley, or the history of Marin County, or the life and wisdom of Joseph Phelps, or the places of inspiration for great American writers, the key is telling the story in a clear, accurate, and compelling way. Done right, this is high art. And done right, powerful storytelling takes readers deep inside the characters and the subject at hand. But storytelling is just Step One in the process.


Stunning Imagery

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There are many gifted photographers in the world, but Matthew Klein is in a class by himself. Whether the subject is Visa cards, or Constellation Brands, or the life of Joseph Phelps, or the wine and culinary treasures to be found at The Oakville Grocery or The Oxbow Market, Matthew has a way of bringing us fresh, original images that enhance our storytelling and help create a very special feeling and ambience for the finished book. Matthew has been our go-to photographer for decades, and his art sets a tone and a standard that reach across the entire portfolio of Val de Grace Books.


Iconic Design


Now comes the fun part, and the most challenging part: welding the text and the imagery into a distinctive, compelling layout and package, creating the kind of book that we love to read and savor and hold in our hands. And who better to guide us than Milton Glaser? In the world of design and publishing, Milton is a legend and a consummate creator. His posters, (Bob Dylan!) his drawings, his logos, (I Love NY!), and his track record as a builder of iconic brands have earned Milton a glowing international reputation and a unique place in the history of American design. Years ago, Matthew Klein brought Milton and Paul Chutkow together, and ever since then Milton has been our guide and our constant inspiration. “The good is the enemy of the great,” Milton reminds us, and watching him work eloquently makes the point. Over and over Milton has shown us what it means to be a relentless perfectionist, and for all of us at Val de Grace Books, second best will never, ever do. Dorothy Carico Smith, our West Coast director of design, and Connie Hwang, who designed our book on Joe Phelps, hold to the same uncompromising ethos -- and their work proves it.


State of the Art Printing


Speaking of relentless perfectionists, there are few who can compare to the master printers of Japan’s Toppan Printing. These are Old World craftsmen of the highest order, and we at Val de Grace Books have been working hand-in-glove with them for the past 20 years. And what a treat they are! Getting every printed image right, like the one above from “The Best We Can Be,” takes an enormous amount of skill and patience. But, as always, our print team, headed up by Thomas Hummel, did us proud, down to the last pixel. And the result is a book of stunning beauty and keepsake value. We have equal faith in our national book distributors, Publisher's Group West, a division of Ingram, and one of the very best in the business. 


Consulting and Mentoring

Paul Chutkow and his pal Charlie

Paul Chutkow and his pal Charlie

Consulting and mentoring are a crucial part of our job. Why? Because outside the inner circles of book publishing, very few people understand what it takes to create books of exceptional quality and distinction. The conceptualizing, the research, the writing, the imagery and design, the choice of paper and printing -- each of these disparate elements must be mastered and then carefully drawn together and built into a seamless whole. The process takes time, expertise, and patience -- and seamless cooperation with our clients too.

Likewise, few CEOs and their PR and marketing teams truly understand what a top-quality book can do for their company’s prestige, their brand, their internal training, and even their bottom line. But we’re here to help. Through our experience with Robert Mondavi, Visa International, Constellation Brands, Joseph Phelps Vineyards, CF Napa Design, and other corporate clients, we have developed a wealth of expertise in how to use our books as a corporate tool of incredible power and prestige. And we have a track record and the testimonials to prove it, as you will see under the tab “Our Results.”


“Words are only painted fire; a book is the fire itself.”

- Mark Twain