A man hardly needing any introduction, I thought it would be fitting as part of Washington Wine Month to include an interview from one of the most respected Washington wine writers and reviewers. Jeb Dunnuck has become one of the most influential wine reviewers in the world. Jeb talks about his start with the Rhone Report in 2008 that grew a cult following. Several years later he began working for Robert Parker as his following became even greater then. Last year he took the leap of faith and started his own website, jebdunnuck.com which has been very well-received since its inception. Jeb reviews wines from California to Washington to France and I think you will very much enjoy his story in wine. Here is my interview with Jeb Dunnuck, wine writer/reviewer and founder of Jebdunnuck.com
WWB: How did you decide to launch the Rhône Report in 2008? Were you surprised how popular your publication became?
JD: Creating the site in 2008 was really an impulse decision. I had always loved wine and had visited most of the benchmark growing regions, as well as taken a part time job in retail to learn as much as I could, but had no driving professional aspirations and still loved engineering. I had some free time on one of the holiday breaks and decided to create a website. It started out as a simple blog, but I hated the general attitude of most bloggers, so I quickly built a database for tasting notes and moved the site to a quarterly publication. I was happy with how it was received, and I think there’s a place for comprehensive, consumer-based publications, even today.
WWB: How did you start writing for Robert Parker in 2013? How did that process evolve to becoming his senior editor?
JD: I received an email from Robert Parker asking me to write for him. The Rhone Report was doing well and growing, but I was getting tapped out doing Aerospace engineering during the day and writing until 2 am every night on the Rhone Report. I considered sticking with the Rhone Report, but at the end of the day I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with Bob, who I’d always admired and respected.
WWB: In 2017 you took the plunge and stated your own publication, JebDunnuck.com. What have been some of the challenges with starting your own publication and reviewing wines across the globe, from California to Washington to Southern France?
JD: It’s been relatively straightforward. The new site is based on the old Rhone Report database and matches how I work, so it’s quick and easy to publish. I traveled extensively for The Rhone Report and later the Wine Advocate, so there’s been little change in that regard as well. I also have a team that helps with logistics and travel planning, as well as editing and formatting. Nevertheless, I keep everything as efficient and streamlined as possible, and I love the work and am not afraid to work hard. The goal is to deliver timely reports that help subscribers make purchasing decisions, and I gear everything I do around that simple idea.
WWB: How have you seen the Washington wine industry evolve since you started the Rhône Report in 2008?
JD: Unquestionably, the Washington Wine industry has come a long way, and I still remember my first visit, driving into Walla Walla, and wondering if I had made a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in Nebraska! Today, there are more wineries, more talented winemakers, more vineyards, and overall just a better focus on producing quality wine. Washington has made great wine for a long time now, but the largest change is the number of wineries today truly focused on producing world-class wines. Also, the dining scene in Walla Walla is light years better than in the past. Unfortunately, the recognition of all this work and effort isn’t as large as it should be, primarily due to most wineries working direct to consumer and not enough wine ending up on restaurant wine lists and retail shelves.
WWB: What are some of your ‘epiphany’ wines that you’ve tried throughout your lifetime? What are some of your favorite wines in your personal cellar?
JD: I never had an epiphany wine, per se, and I continue to love great wines from throughout the world. Certainly, I’m a Francophile and probably 90% of my personal cellar is French, but there are truly world-class wines coming from numerous regions today. It’s an incredible time to be a wine lover!