The guest of honor at the North American Epicurean Society's annual banquet is the single most influential critic on the West Coast. Augustus Poole is known by everyone. A thumbs up or down from Poole - especially where a new restaurant or winery is concerned - could make the difference between success and withering on the vine. Poole agreed to attend the banquet and demanded, in lieu of a fee, a bottle of '47 Yquem. That, and a bodyguard: retired BATF agent and private investigator Jack Donne ... whose own vineyard was batting .500 with the obnoxious critic. While he'd prefer to concentrate on the vintner's art rather than the craft of gumshoe, Donne agrees to help at the urging of friends for whom the banquet is a chance to make their mark. According to Poole, someone is trying to kill him, though no one is taking his fears seriously; the shots are discounted by the police as a random drive-by. During the banquet, though, it becomes clear that any number of people might very well want the critic dead, and,later that night, the threats become something more than idle. It isn't Poole found lying on the floor beside the open bottle of Yquem, however, and that makes him one of several suspects. The poison in the wine is another matter. Now it becomes Donne's job not only to clear his client's name but to find the person or persons responsible for a bottle of sweet poison.