Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rating the Raters (Cont.)

Wine Press Northwest 92/12 Wine Press Northwest, as its name indicates, deals with wines from Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, and Idaho. Since Bonair Winery is a Washington winery, this is important to me.

Wine Press Northwest uses a double blind methodology to insure complete anonymity to the wines being judged. They use a simple scoring system, Outstanding, Excellent, Recommended, and if none of the above, a simple description of a wine that at least rates publication. A 'Best Buy' is awarded on price and quality. They even allow winemakers to sit in on the tastings as blind judges – a good idea to let winemakers know their strengths and weaknesses. Only in a blind tasting would Washington Pinot Noirs stand up to Oregon Pinot Noirs. When raters see the bottle, Pinot Noir loses ten points for being from Washington. When raters see the bottle, the wine gets five extra points for a three pound bottle. Obviously, only a great wine would be put in an ecologically insane chunk of glass. (Waste makes me grumpy and rewarding waste makes me grumpier.)

Their judging panel is listed on the website. In addition to Dan Berger (already rated) the panel includes Bob Woehler. I have judged with Bob at the Washington Wine Competition and in my opinion he is not the most perceptive judge, but on the bright side, he is very positive toward Washington wines and rates things generally higher than I do. When I was on his panel, more gold medals were given than from any other panel I have served on. Great news for wineries! Bob is like a cheer leader and probably adds to the positive aspect of the reviews.

Andy Perdue, editor, gets a little testy when challenged on the facts, so tread lightly. For example he made the following assertion, " The Rattlesnake Hills can be somewhat cooler than other areas of the Yakima Valley." which just ain't true. The Rattlesnake Hills is one of the warmer AVAs in Washington and definitely a warmer area in the Yakima Valley. He defended his statement by saying it is cooler than Red Mountain. Well, Red Mountain is cooler than Badger Canyon (not yet an AVA, but sure could be), so does that make it a "somewhat cooler" area of the Yakima Valley, also? The year in question was 2006 when the Rattlesnake Hills AVA racked up 2799 degree days - 228 more than the Yakima Valley. The new Snipes Mountain AVA is cooler than the Rattlesnake Hills AVA. There is a continuing misconception that the Yakima Valley gets cooler as you go west. If this were true, Red Willow Vineyard, in the shadow of Mt. Adams, would be ice cold. It is not. It is considered a warmer site. The cooler areas in the Yakima Valley are found around Prosser, Grandview, and Sunnyside. (Misconceptions make me grumpy.)

So, I give Wine Press Northwest and 'outstanding' rating and a 'best buy' if you are interested in northwest wines.


  1. I only get grumpy when my last name is spelled wrong. ;-)

    Andy Perdue, editor
    Wine Press Northwest

  2. :( Sorry. Correction noted. I'll try not confuse you with a wine research university ever again.