Monday, January 25, 2010

Rating the Raters, cont.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt) 89/9 I don't know anything about the other raters for the Wine Enthusiast. Paul is our northwest rater, so I have to pick on him.

Paul is first and foremost a rock musician. (Not that this disqualifies him as a wine writer - heck if an actor can be President, anyone can be anything they choose.) When I went to load up his car with wines from the Rattlesnake Hills there was hardly room for it to fit in and among the guitars, amps, and speakers. In addition to rock musician, he is a feature writer and a blogger.

I got to know Paul while doing a guided tour of the Rattlesnake Hills AVA. I needed to clarify some of his misconceptions about our AVA, like it gets cooler as you travel west. Nope, the far western point is the warmest in the AVA. It gets cooler from North to South. And the fact that the AVA was an outgrowth of the Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail marketing organization. No, the AVA petition came first.

Paul mentions Bonair Winery in his book Washington Wines & Wineries for historical purposes (we are one of the older wineries in the state), but we aren't one of the "leaders" so we didn't get a rating. But after reading the rating for Wineglass Cellars, I thank Paul for not rating us. I'd rather receive kindly mention than a cutting review.

Speaking of reviews, Paul is opinionated and is not afraid to express those opinions in print. Sometimes it hurts, but knowing him, I respect him for that. Other people love him or hate him for that trait.

After spending time with me seeing the Rattlesnake Hills and what is NOT Rattlesnake Hills, he submitted this article about our then new AVA. Some people in the AVA were angered by it, I wasn't. He is telling the truth when he states, ".. the Rattlesnake Hills designation seems to be missing from many of the best wines sourced here." I would like to see that change. Why label a fine Bordeaux-style wine 'Yakima Valley' when the Yakima Valley isn't known for great Bordeaux reds? It is known for cool-climate whites. Things like that make me grumpy.

Paul judges with the labels out. He opens the bottles and starts sampling. He says he leaves them open and revisits them throughout the day because things change. Giving wine this attention is better than the ten-second sniff, swish, spit, score used by the competition.

The Wine Enthusiast uses the 100-point scale, so I have to deduct points for that, but by and large the magazine is very thorough in its coverage of the northwest wine scene, thanks to Paul. Paul has done a lot to promote northwest wines.

I'd like to give the Wine Enthusiast a 90/10, but as Paul says, there is a leap between an 89 and a 90. It isn't a smooth scale. A 90 is significantly better than an 89.

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