Neal Martin's WA Oregon Report, your thoughts?

I’ve got a couple issues with his write-ups:

  1. He gets some names wrong. Moresh planted in the Dundee Hills in the '70s? (It was Maresh) Greg Andrus founded Archery Summit? (It was Gary). He should’ve had somebody familiar with the region read through his write-up to correct these kinds of insulting mistakes.

  2. He lets price influence his score, and even mentions price in some of his tasting notes. To me, the wine should be scored as the wine itself, not factoring in price, and there should be a natural progression where the highest priced wines score the highest (not that they always do).

  3. He tells OR winemakers/growers what they should and shouldn’t be doing. For somebody who, before this assignment, knew very little about Oregon, he sure knows exactly what we should be doing to make the best wines. Maybe he should become a winemaker since he obviously knows better than the hundreds of people who do it daily.

Sloppiness with details and horrific editing has long been a WA hallmark, and nothing has changed with the recent shifts.

Please explain. Surely you don’t mean that higher priced wines should score higher!

I am assuming he meant “there should NOT be a natural progression.”

I guess. But he goes on to say “(not that they always do)”. A former WA editor? neener newhere

I absolutely mean that higher priced wines should score higher, but not just because they are higher priced. Here is what I mean:

The best wines should cost the most, in the same way that the best cars cost the most, because they are the best. In a blind tasting of wines, it should be obvious which wines are the best wines, and those wines should be the ones that are priced the highest. Price should have absolutely zero influence in the score, but I would expect a $100 wine to be a better wine than a $50 wine, and therefore the $100 wine would have a higher score. It isn’t always the case, but to me, price should be based on quality of wine, not perceived level of quality or market position that the owner/winemaker has. Scores/ratings should be based on the quality of the product in the bottle, not the marketing behind the brand, the time spent with the winemaker, nor the price.

Spot on + 2…

I found his report refreshing. While I didn’t agree with all of his reviews (Matello/Goodfellow in particular) or all of his opinions (his dismissal of Oregon Riesling), it was wonderful to see that he was willing to state how he really felt. It is very frustrating to read other publications and see the majority of wines ranked between 88 and 92. Really? Did all of the wines fit into this 4 number spread out of 100?

When it was announced that Neal would be the Oregon reviewer I was really frustrated. Why were they putting a man who has a love affair with Bordeaux in charge of the Oregon report?? I looked into his writing and found it really entertaining. He is sharp, intelligent and opinionated, but not arrogant. I loved it! When we met him we had the same impression, and he was very thoughtful in his tasting. He listened and asked great questions. It was less about his ego, and more learning about this new region he had been assigned.

The great thing about wine is the diversity of styles, varietals and vintages. There is something for everyone. But, not everyone is going to love the same bottles. I love that Neal stated his opinion, didn’t write the report based on previous reviewers palates, or with the need to be politically correct in mind. As he wrote , He had a blank canvas void of preconceived notions or relationships, and he was able to form his own impressions.

The great part… We all know what wines we like, and based on this we can determine if our palates align with Neal’s or Harvey 's or Josh’s or Allen’s or David’s or Patrick’s. Thank god there is a whole slew of them to choose from!


Thanks for posting. You should clarify in your posts that you’re ITB with Walter Scott. You can do that by using a signature line (like John Peacock, Eric Levine, etc.). You can create one by going to your User Control Panel (should be near the top left of this page) and clicking on “profile”. Hope to read more from you!


I haven’t read the write up yet but scanned the numbers. I appreciate he’s not over scoring. I got mid 80s numbers and I’m fine with that. It’s just a review.

I submitted because I was curious what he would think, as I’ve found his writing to be thoughtful. I’m not selling wines on points. I’m not looking for absolute validation though it is always nice to see good reviews.

I loved seeing Walter Scott get some well deserved love. Others I love didn’t score as well. Whatever.

I have a lot of respect for Neal and, while I appreciate some people emotionally involved or not may actually agree or disagree with him, I believe he always brings value and entertainment. To put him down the way some do it is their loss. He is a great human guy, has multiple talents and worth following. I Don’t know much about Oregon wines so cannot be specific but anybody disagreeing should keep respect and avoid disparaging comments. Keep your guns in your pocket, he is an Englishman after all…

Neal Martin may very well be a humble guy; I have never met him. The complimentary things that a some OR producers have written about him on this thread certainly speak well of him. But the introductory sections he wrote to his Oregon report did not convey humility. I have no problem with a reviewer offering opinions abut wine or even practices in the vineyard and winery. But the meaning that came across (at least to me) in his introductory sections was that he knows better how Willamette Valley wine should be made than the winemakers who have been doing so for many years. I do not take direct offense at this; I am not a winemaker from any region. I do, however, write public reviews of other people’s work and my professional work is subject to public review, so I am perhaps sensitive about a critic/reviewer passing judgment with such boldness.

Thank you Richard! I will fix this. Have not spent much time on here and don’t know how it all works yet! I need all the help I can get!!

I cannot imagine anyone from WA trumpeting your wines. Selfishly speaking I would like to keep it that way :wink:

+1 Good/tasty/Quaffable/food friendly riesling? yah. World Class? like that of a Donnhoff GG or Prum GK? I doubt that (at least not in the next many years).

I’m also delighted to see scores… I wish more wines were scored realistically like this… it’s ridiculous an entire region have 92+ scores…
well written, good read…

I ponied up and got a subscription so I could read it. The copy editing is bad, as Eric suggested, but otherwise I found the topics interesting and I did learn a few things. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but he seemed to be giving a review of Oregon wine making industry a using the '12 vintage and conversations with winemakers as the basis for his conclusions, rather giving a review of the '12 vintage, with his notes on the individual wines as the basis for his general conclusions. I would have liked to see a bit more of a discussion about what he liked and didn’t like about the vintage, with specific reference to those who stood out in certain dimensions (either bad or good). For example, did he find a significant number of wines showing a particular characteristic that he found unpleasant for a certain reason? Yes, there are the individual tasting notes where that comes through, but it’s a lot of reviews to read.

Back to the OP… One observation based on the convo here is that some may be looking at scores and not necessarily calibrated to Neal’s scoring conservatism. For example, he picked up Burgundy (I believe) after Galloni left. He has rated Domaine de la Romanee Conti Echezeaux for 3 years. Just a well known benchmark to provide an illustration. Certainly if you are smitten by name or prestige, the easy thing to do is slap on a big score… But Echezeaux is not their top bottling which is widely known so let’s call it really good… Market price in the $800-1000 range. Anyway, his scores are 90, 92, 92 for the past 3 years. Haven’t tasted these specifically but based on other vintages, I appreciate his view but maybe seen a touch conservative overall. We all know this is a world-class producer with all the pedigree and vineyard history. Hopefully this illustration helps frame some of the scores we see in this report. For those with a vested interest in the PNW, it may be worth going through more of his reviews if you haven’t already. It may help provide more context and level-set further. I agree with the post that it is better to be immersed- clearly. If not feasible, IMO you still have a fair and thoughtful reviewer with good experience. Others’ may give you better numerical results but for pinot, you have a very decent chap.

To those with vested interests who welcome the new thoughts- bravo, much respect, … Love to see the open-mindedness and willingness to learn from others points of view. It brings a very good (and welcomed) vibe.

At BHC we didn’t submit wines to be shipped to another continent for review. I should renew my subscription to TWA again I guess.

I don’t follow WA, and don’t drink Oregon or WA wines, but this post is dead-on point IMHO. I would never expect for WA to send (actually stretch) Neal Martin to review these wines. There is no history. While the write-up quoted at Post 10 is interesting, how can anyone consider it authoritative from someone with no history in the region? Well said, Richard.

Welcome to WB, Erica! I hope you enjoy it here!