Book Review: Washington Wines and Wineries, Second Edition

By John ~ September 17th, 2010.

Paul Gregutt has done it again! If you have any interest in Washington State wines, you need to get a copy of his latest book, Washington Wines and Wineries: The Essential Guide, Second Edition. When you travel around Washington wine country as much as we do, you very quickly see the respect and admiration that Paul has among the people in the wine community. He’s certainly earned it, arriving in Washington in the 1970’s when the Washington wine industry was in its infancy and growing right along with it.

When I got my copy of his First Edition of this book a few years ago, I studied it from cover to cover to see how his rankings compared with ours and to find some new wineries to check out. It has been a constant and invaluable companion on our extensive travels through Washington wine country since then. So, naturally, Kori and I were excited to receive our review copy of this new edition last week and get it autographed by Paul at the Full Pull book-signing event. On a side note, it was a treat to hear Paul and Rob Newsom of Boudreaux Cellars play music together.

I’ve since made my first pass through the book, compared it to the First Edition, and come to a number of conclusions that I would like to share with you. While someone new to Washington wine should definitely purchase this book, the first and most obvious question to be answered is whether or not this book has enough new material to be worth purchasing by someone who already owns the First Edition. The answer is a definite yes.

Personally, I like the layout and structure of the book, and I’ve always appreciated Paul’s writing style. I especially enjoyed his discussion of Washington’s AVAs and Top Eight Wine Grapes and his listings of the wineries he believes produce the best bottles from each varietal. He includes twice as many wineries and vineyard listings in this book than in the First Edition, and I wish he had room for even more.

I would like to call special attention to the wineries who have zoomed up the charts from Paul’s first book to this one: Alexandria Nicole, Amavi, Andrew Rich, Barrister, Beresan, Boudreaux, Brian Carter, Bunnell, Chateau Rollat, Corliss, Cote Bonneville, Fielding Hills, Gorman, Gramercy, Long Shadows, Nicolas Cole, Pacific Rim, Sheridan, Stephenson, Stevens, and Waters. One would have to assume that these are wineries that Paul believes are really on the move in improving their stature and performance.

In any book like this that rates wineries, or in any list of top wines, the one thing that is always missing that readers would find valuable is what the universe was from which selection was made. More importantly, if a winery is totally omitted from the book, is it because Paul has not visited the winery, not tasted through their wines, or is it because they don’t suit his palate?

Because this book is promoted as “The Essential Guide” to Washington wines and wineries, I believe that there is a higher responsibility to make sure that no deserving winery was left out than if it was just called “My Favorites.”  Therefore, I struggled when reading the winery profiles of some wineries that Paul panned in his comments, indicated they might be going out of business, or implied the listing was just due to location or an associated vineyard. Those listings made me wonder why they were included over other wineries that I believe would be deserving of higher praise such as Adams Bench, Benson Vineyards, Cave B Winery, Four Lakes, Glencorrie, Hollywood Hill, Icicle Ridge, Jones of Washington, Kontos, Mountain Dome, Parejas, Obelisco, Plumb, Rio Vista, Robert Ramsay, and Tempus.

On the vineyard side, I really liked his much-expanded list of top vineyards from the First Edition. However, I was surprised at the inclusion of one historically important vineyard that doesn’t appear to have any of the four or five-star wineries purchasing its grapes today and another vineyard whose listing appears to be based more on potential than actual performance to-date. As with the wineries section, I would have preferred to see some other vineyards that I believe would be deserving of higher praise listed. Some that come to mind are Destiny Ridge, Dineen, Gamache, Horse Heaven Vineyard (Columbia Crest), Kiona, and Loess.

Despite my concerns for the wineries and vineyards that were left out, it is still a darn good book and one that should be on your wine bookshelf. If you love Washington wine or would like to learn more about it, I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book today.

Have you already read Washington Wines and Wineries: The Essential Guide, Second Edition? If so, please leave a comment and let us know what you thought of it.


Full Disclosure: We received this book as a review copy.

Filed under: American Wine, Washington State Wine, Wine Books

Reader's Comments

  1. Paul Gregutt | September 21st, 2010 at 8:42 am

    John, thank you for this very thoughtful and kind review. I appreciate the time and care you spent looking at this work. As for the wineries that you feel should not have been left out; I don’t think any book written by anyone that attempted to make a critical selection of the best wineries could possibly match another critic’s list. I did not expect this one to do so. Some of the wineries you mention I simply do not feel set a high enough standard; others are too new to have been included. This book went to the publisher a year ago; I was tasting and updating right up to the last minute, but inevitably some wineries got missed. I will try to keep the blog current and let the book be what it was meant to be – a well-researched record of a moment in time.

  2. John | September 21st, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Paul, again kudos for a “well-researched record of a moment in time,” and thanks for your comments on my review.