Jamie Goode on the itinerant lifestyle of a wine writer


Photograph: Jason Lowe

Photograph: Jason Lowe

Midway through his first visit to Washington State, Jamie Goode takes a moment to reflect on the importance of visiting wine regions, meeting the winemakers and understanding the story behind each bottle.

As I write, it’s just before 5am in the morning, and I’m jetlagged. I’m in Seattle, and the second day of a journalist trip to Washington State wineries is about to begin, so I’m not expecting too much sympathy for my lack of sleep. If you’re a wine writer you learn to deal with it. Besides, being on tour in wine country gives you stamina and energy that counters sleep deprivation pretty effectively.

This is my first time in this, the USA’s second largest wine state. One of my goals as a wine writer is to try to visit every significant wine region at least once, because it’s amazing how much better you understand a region’s wines once you’ve actually been there. It just begins to make sense.

Yesterday was the first day of visits, and we began with wineries close to Seattle. The Washington State vineyards are pretty much all three hours’ drive east from here over the Cascade Mountains, which, with their rain-shadow effect, create desert-like conditions. But the people are mostly over this side of the mountains, which is why a lot of wineries – and cellar doors – are located within a short drive of the city.

We visited quite a range of producers, from the big guys – Columbia Winery and Chateau Ste Michelle – to smaller boutique and garage operations, finishing off with a dinner with Chris Camarda of Andrew Will, one of the most highly regarded of Washington’s wineries. And we’ve only just scratched the surface.

As a wine journalist, it’s really interesting to compare the experience of tasting wine in situ, with the winemaker present, versus tasting wine in a big line-up at a London event. If you are in the business of rating wines, it’s important to try to treat the wine the same, independent of the context. There’s a strong temptation to fall in love with wines when you’re tasting in the region, especially if the vineyard region is beautiful and the people who make the wines are smart, engaging and nice.

But on these trips, I’m not here to taste as many wines as possible and dish out scores. That would be a bit depressing. I’m here to learn; to try to understand what the region is about. What are the challenges for the winegrowers? How do the wines reflect the place? I’m looking for stories, and it’s important to see the wines in light of the connections and the people who make them.

So today we drive into the desert, to see the vines. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s the best part of my job, travelling, tasting, learning and exploring. The wine world is big, and there’s a lot more to be discovered.

Jamie Goode is a wine journalist who contributes to a range of publications including the World of Fine Wine, and whose blog – wineanorak.com – has won various awards. He is also the author of Wine Science.