How I Became a Wine Writer
It was in 1969 that I became a professional wine writer. In December of that year Esquin Wine Merchants of Seattle was opened. From the beginning, it published and mailed monthly newsletters modeled after those of the San Francisco store of the same name. They were mostly about French and German wines. Washington wine was still in its infancy. I would write detailed descriptions of each wine being offered so customers would know just what they were getting. That was the marketing cornerstone.
In those early years, Esquin was basically a mail order business. A typical newsletter would describe about a dozen wines together with an order form. From the late 'seventies on, I would take trips to France and Germany and report on my wine discoveries upon my return. In the 'eighties the business grew steadily. As the wine selection expanded, the newsletter became a four page tabloid with over a hundred wines. But the original concept remained the same. In 1997, though, I finally decided to let Esquin go into the future with a new owner.
Settling my parents' estate kept me busy for a year afterwards until one day when Esquin's owner, Chuck Lefevre, asked me if I was interested in returning as a consultant to do the newsletter. So I agreed. Then, in March of 2007, my wife and I happened to stop in Walla Walla on the way home from Sun Valley. We fell in love with the town and its wines. In January of 2008, we bought a second home there. I subsequently proposed adding a "Washington Wine Review" to Esquin's monthly on-line newsletters. The experiment, however, somehow got lost among Esquin's myriad marketing activities and was abandoned by year's end. It was then that my independent Review of Washington Wines was born, with the launch issue going on-line in December.
I have not had any formal training in wine tasting and writing. My first wine event was as an undergraduate at Columbia University where I attended a tasting conducted by the California Wine Institute. My learning since has come from decades of experience. My approach has always been the same: to evaluate wines objectively and write descriptions as accurately as possible. After nearly forty years, I am still doing the same thing.
Check out the Washington Wine Commission's Website
This is a website any serious follower of Washington wines should bookmark. It has all kinds of information about Washington wines, news and tips for wine country visiting. For instance, there is a link to Budget Travel's article "Wine Country Contenders," which lists Walla Walla as one of those places where "Perhaps they're not the first place you think of when it comes to wineries, but these four regions offer character and great wine without the hoopla." Go to www.washingtonwine.org.
Wine Tip of the Week
Woodinville Wine Cellars has turned out a very nice "combination of select barrels" consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah, aged in 40% new oak.
2006 Woodinville Wine Cellars Little Bear Creek Red, Columbia Valley ($20)
This offers a ripe raspberry, plum and spice nose with generous, yet focused red (berry and cherry) and dark (plum, blueberry) flavors that are accented by licorice, cocoa, bramble, nutmeg and clove notes. Overall, it delivers considerable flavor depth and interest for under $20.