New Wine Adventures in Oregon and Washington

always a new challenge when you’re a journalist; that’s what keeps the job
interesting. Taking on a new beat is always a big step, and this month I’m assuming
coverage for two of the most dynamic regions in country: Oregon and Washington.

joining Wine Spectator in 2001, I’ve reviewed wine from California, principally
Zinfandel, Rhône-style reds and sparkling wines. The wines of the
Pacific Northwest are my latest challenge.

following in big footsteps. Editor at large Harvey Steiman, who has been with the publication since 1984, has been covering
Oregon and Washington for two decades now. He has followed these regions
practically from their beginnings, and knows the producers and the vineyards as
well as anyone in the world. Now he’s stepping back, and giving me a great

already blogged about a September trip to Washington, where I tasted with
many of the key players. There was a remarkable vertical tasting of Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon
that made me wish I had a cellar full of those beauties. Dinner with Christophe Baron and his crew at Cayuse made for a memorable night, and I was glad to know I had a few of his bottles in the cellar, like the Cayuse
Syrah Walla Walla Valley Cailloux Vineyard 2007 (95 points) and the Cayuse Syrah Walla Walla Valley En Chamberlin Vineyard 2008 (94).

I’ve visited
Oregon’s Willamette Valley on numerous occasions over the years and the Pinot
Noirs from the region go from strength to strength with a wave of newcomers,
from both within and outside the region, bringing renewed energy.

In the
Dundee Hills, Jared Etzel and Marc-André Roy—sons
of the founders of Beaux Frères—are making impressive wines at Domaine Roy. The French connection
continues to expand with Louis Jadot’s
outstanding Résonance Pinots as well as
the wines of Nicolas-Jay,
a partnership between Jean-Nicolas
Méo of Méo-Camuzet and California music executive Jay Boberg. Then there are
the notable Pinots from Lingua Franca from influential sommelier Larry

For the past year or so, I have been working closely with Steiman
to better know the territory and ensure a smooth transition. We’ve tasted more
than 1,000 wines in blind tastings, side by side. It has been crucial
preparation for me. Steiman’s passion for the two regions has been infectious,
his experience essential.

Now, going forward, I’ll be on my own. You’ll see my
initials attached to wine reviews from Oregon and Washington. In the next few
months, I’ll be visiting both regions on my own, getting my feet on the ground.
But based on what I’ve learned so far, I have a few benchmarks to build on.

The more I learn about Oregon and Washington, the more I
enjoy and respect the wines. Adding these tasting beats to an already-full
plate will be a challenge, but one I look forward to taking on. I hope you’ll
give me your feedback on the way.

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