There's 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.
Since 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.
I'm 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 opportunity.
I've 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 Stone.
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.