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Meet Jeb Dunnuck, Wine Advocate’s new Central Coast reviewer

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Official word from my source is that The Wine Advocate has hired its new reviewer for the California Central Coast as well as the Rhône Valley.

He’s Jeb Dunnuck. I had never heard of him, which means absolutely nothing. So I pulled out the old Google machine and here’s what I found out.

Jeb is best known for his publication, The Rhône Report ($59 a year), which describes itself as being “dedicated to all things Rhône.” Jeb, whose age I don’t know but he’s good looking (kind of like a young Parker, with a little Russell Crowe for good measure) and could be in his 30s, “grew up on a farm in rural Indiana,” and worked in London for a while, where he became interested in wine. He used to be a software engineer, wrote “the image processing software for two NASA programs” [how cool is that!], and eventually took a job “working evenings” at a liquor store in Denver to further his knowledge of what he calls “ITB” (“the In The Business”) crowd. These days, Jeb writes, “I’ve since stopped working in the wine business, clock my 40 hours writing software and then read, post, drink and think about wine at home. Like anything worth pursuing, wine enjoyment is a journey and not a destination. I currently live in Broomfield, CO with my lovely wife Traci and adorable pooch Abigail.”

That’s good. Dog people make the best wine critics.

I don’t have a subscription to The Rhone Report so I can’t tell you if I like Jeb’s writing, but I think I would. He’s clever with a phrase (La Peira en Damaisela is “the sine qua non of the Languedoc”), not afraid to be a kingmaker (it’s also “the leading estate in all the Languedoc and Roussillon.” If you think it’s easy coming out with a declaration like that, it’s not.), and has obviously been influenced by Parker, both in The Rhone Report’s structure and in Jeb’s rather straightforward, lucid writing style.

He’s active on twitter (1,496 followers), Facebook (1,427 friends, of which 371 are mutual with me), a Democrat (yay!), an atheist (not going there), likes Florence and the Machine, the Colbert Report and Dune, the book. His Facebook friends already are asking him if he’ll continue to write The Rhone Report; as of my writing this post, he has yet to respond. He tweeted earlier this year that the “top producers” in Paso Robles are “Saxum, l’Aventure, Epoch, Booker, Alta Colina, Denner, Terry Hoage, Villa Creek,” which perhaps is an indication of his palate. Big, ripe, fruity, high alcohol wines? That would be in keeping with Parker. In another tweet he had a big shoutout for the Melville 2010 Verna’s Syrah.

Jeb seems like he’s in the mold of Steven Tanzer and Allen “Burghound” Meadows, not a big media guy, but dedicated, professional and passionate–the kind of guy who can start a prestigiously small newsletter and be taken seriously by the collector crowd. That’s no mean feat, when there are scores of bloggers who wish they could do the same thing, but can’t. Robert Parker has chosen wisely, in my humble opinion. I congratulate Jeb on his new job, and am looking forward to meeting him.

  1. Why do make this seem like you have inside info? TWA made this announcement yesterday morning; hours before you tweeted “breaking news.” That out of the way, I think you wrote a nice intro/bio about him him. I’ve tasted with Jeb and he’s a nice guy with a good palate. Though like many critics, I think he is too quick to throw out big scores. I am surprised that you haven’t heard of him; you should really read your colleagues’ work more!

  2. rsherman says:

    I read all the announcements and posts on his Facebook page yesterday. I only heard Washington state mentioned. I hope he keeps up his reviews at the Rhone Report, I appreciate the fact that he is open minded to other Rhone/Rhone styled wines from other regions.

  3. I have enjoyed Jeb’s work since I began writing in 2011. His respected dedication to Rhone style wines led to an enthusiastic following (much like Burghound for Pinot Noir). Given that he will be covering all varieties within Washington and Central Coast (in addition to the Rhone Valley) he will need to broaden his palate but imagine he will be on top of that within one reporting cycle. From what I have read it appears that Rhone Report will be absorbed into TWA. I think he will be an excellent addition to the new publication and should be the last major shift there for a while.

  4. Doug – I don’t know what you mean by “Rhone style wines;” it seems you mean “Rhone varieties,” no? Jeb loves huge wines, and when I think of Rhone style, I think of Cornas, Cote-Rotie, etc — a more rusticly complex set of wines. But of course the Rhone is diverse in style.

    Jeb is very smart, quick to engage, and clearly works extremely hard. I prefer less bombastic wines, but he’s been very consistent, which is gold for a critic.

  5. Evan,

    Thanks for calling me out on lazy phrasing.

  6. I sometimes use the phrase “Rhone-style” not to describe the wines themselves, but to refer to the varieties. In a way, it’s too bad we still have to refer to Europe with such phrases as “Bordeaux blend,” “Rhone-style,” “Rhone varieties” etc. because California has embraced these varieties fully. Maybe in the future we can wean ourselves off this language.

  7. Evan,

    Semms that when you think of “Rhone style” you actually mean “Northern Rhone Style.” Funny how we all bring our own individual baggage when we use certain words.

    Adam Lee
    Siduri & Novy

  8. Adam,

    Exactly my point.

  9. Jon Meuret says:

    I really enjoyed this article. Jeb will be a great benefit in Washington State as well.

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  1. NEWS FETCH – April 4, 2013 | Wine Industry Insight - [...] Meet Jeb Dunnuck, Wine Advocate’s new Central Coast reviewer [...]

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