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The “ethics” of a winemaker critic

There’s been recent news that Washington wine critic of Wine Enthusiast, Paul Gregutt, has launched his own label of wine – made by Precept Brands. A wine journalist who I hold in high regard, Blake Gray, has posted up a thought-provoking blog post on the ethics of this move by Gregutt.

A few points that Blake raises are:

  • Is it still a conflict for Paul to review other Washington wines?
  • It’s good that Gregutt won’t review Precept wines anymore. But is that enough?
  • What if Gregutt gives Columbia Winery, now owned by Gallo, an 86 rating on a wine similar to one produced by Precept?

My answer – I don’t really have an issue with any of the above issues, as long as all of his tasting are done in a blind-setting with a way to verify he did in fact, taste blind.

Additionally, where was the criticism over someone like Gary Vaynerchuk? I mean, for “crying out loud” – in most cases, he was reviewing wines that he sold and would link to his own merchant website to buy them?

I tell you why there was little worry among wine drinkers about Gary, it’s because he was genuine – what you saw is what you get with him and there was many times he’d end-up panning a wine he sold.

Ultimately, time will tell how this plays out for Paul. He’s now under a bigger microscope by his peers than ever before – if he can remain objective then his scores will reflect it. If we all of a sudden start seeing higher scores for his Waitsburg Cellars, then we’ll know something has gone afoul.

To top this off, Paul will need to focus on an ability to come across as a genuine person and let his readers be the ultimate judge – again, only time will tell.

If Wine Enthusiast is worried about this in the least, then perhaps it should consider not reviewing any of Paul’s wines.