Plans for 2012

Well folks, I’m happy to be back after a brief staycation to clear the mind, focus on some other endeavors, and plan for the year ahead. As is my custom, I want to start 2012 by discussing some things to expect on these virtual pages this year, including several significant changes. Planned changes for 2012 include:

1. A rating system revision
2. Coverage of Oregon wines
3. Addition of other writers to this space
4. A revised site design
5. Improved access to the Tasting Note Database
6. Faster turnaround on wine reviews
7. Subscription charges for wine reviews

Each of these changes is explained below.

1. Rating System Revision

As long-time readers will recall, the unconventional rating system I have used for many years is homegrown. However, as I have pointed out previously, it is really nothing but a five-star/five letter system.

To make my rating system more uniform with others out there, I will be changing the display to a traditional five star system effective immediately. Please note this does indicate any change in the way that I am rating wine. Rather it is a change in annotation.

The changes look as follows. Rating definitions are in bold. The subsequent text, as before, is intended to be irreverent.

New System

Old System

Definition (unchanged)

Rough Equivalence in a 100 Point System



An exceptional wine. Buy it now and either tell all your friends about it or keep it very, very secret, depending on your personality and availability.




An excellent wine. Convince a friend to buy some and share it with you.




A good wine. Worth drinking. If it represents a particular value I will list it as Recommended.




A decent wine. Drink it if you must.




Not recommended or a flawed wine. Refuse this wine if served.

< 80

Note, this is essentially identical to the table previously shown for the rating system here.

I will also, as I have in the past, occasionally use half increments. These will replace old ratings as follows:

New System

Old System


**** ½



*** ½



** ½



I will, of course, continue to use parenthetical annotations that show what each of these ratings means.

I considered this year, as I have in the past, changing to a 100-point system. I have used this scale elsewhere, such as for the Seattle Metropolitan magazine Top 100 lists, and I may still do so at some point (I currently rate all wines using both my system and a 100-point scale). However, at present, my intention is to continue using a 5-point system.

Note that I have posted this same information, minus the information below, in a separate post in order to link it to the ‘Rating System’ listing on the banner. This post also includes some additional information, previous posted, about how I rate wine and can be read here.

2. Coverage of Oregon

In 2012, I will begin slowly expanding my coverage into Oregon. I expect this to be a gradual process, pointillistic at first and hopefully becoming more impressionistic over time.

I am doing this partly out of personal interest, but also because I believe Washington and Oregon have very synergistic wine offerings. At present there seems to be an invisible barrier between the two states, with each area focusing largely on its own wines. Personally, I believe considering the wines of the Pacific Northwest more broadly will better serve both Washington and Oregon.

Fear not. I do not intend this to detract or distract from my coverage of Washington.

3. Addition of other writers to this space

Since 2007, almost all of the writing here has been my own. I have had occasional guest posts, such as those from Carrie Simon at Washington Wine 9. In 2012, I intend to use additional writers for topics I don’t have the time, inclination, or expertise to cover. I will, of course, remain the sole wine reviewer.

4. Revised site design

I intend to do a major overhaul of the look and feel of this site at some point later this year with the intention of making content easier to find and improving the overall design.

5. Improved access to the Tasting Note Database

One of my key goals for this year is to improve access to my Tasting Note Database. The intent will be to make it easy for people to search for wine reviews from the web and from mobile devices. If you have suggestions or things you would like to see, feel free to email me at

6. Faster turnaround on wine reviews

For the past year and a half I have carried a huge backlog of reviews, which has meant that, at times, there has been interminably long delay to get reviews published. At worst, I have been unable to publish some reviews of winery visits due to time constraints. This obviously doesn’t serve anybody well.

After spending a significant amount of time in 2011 reducing the backlog, I intend to have a faster turnaround in 2012. This should make it less likely that certain wines are unavailable by the time I get my notes up as well as provide more timely information for all concerned.

7. Subscription charges
for wine reviews

I have long considered charging a subscription fee to access certain parts of the site. Personally, I have wanted to avoid this by making enough money to sustain myself through other endeavors related to wine writing but not specific to this space. While I’ve made progress in this regard, I can only continue to be partially self-funded for so long.

I therefore expect to add subscription charges later this year. The most likely form that this will take is requiring a subscription to access wine reviews on the site. All other information will most likely remain freely available.


Personally, I am extremely excited for 2012 and hope that you are as well. I look forward to having each of you continue to join me as we explore all that this area has to offer.

Please contact me at if you have any questions about any of these changes.

Sean P. Sullivan


  1. Sean,

    Look forward to the changes, additions, and expansion. You thinking about migrating to Wordpress?


  2. Thanks Jameson. I intend to migrate to Wordpress - at long last - when I implement the site redesign. Wish me luck!

  3. The changes sound great. You've always been the most informative and entertaining site, and the effort you put in is appreciated. I'm excited about the inclusion of Oregon, it does have a synergy, and the Northwest's success is important for both states.

  4. I look forward to your changes. You are already doing a great job, and any enhancements will be a plus.

    I think it is a good idea to charge for a full coverage subscription. I have been doing that with my Review of Washington Wines, and about 70% of the subscriptions are paid. The ones that get it for free, only get it month to month, without the archive of previous issues. While there are some internet surfers who think they should get information for "free," there are plenty of people who take wine seriously enough to be willing to pay. Your Washington Wine Report will be well worth paying for.

  5. Sean, you are obviously free to do what you wish, but...

    Why not go ahead and give numerical scores like you do on Seattle Met and be aligned with the rest of the wine review world?

    Also, Washington's 750 and growing wineries seems more than enough scope.

    Looking forward to continie reading and following the best Washington Wine blog. Will gladly pay a fee to keep your tasting notes and links to CT as well.

  6. Another word of unsolicited advice. Keeping the Star rating system will wreak havoc with those familiar with your existing ratings. Two stars ** used to be an exceptional wine, now it is only decent. One star * used to be really good now it is avoid. Readers (such as me) may forget which system is being used, new or old??? Since you are already creating an equivilency chart, just go all the way and use numbers to avoid confusion.

  7. Chris, I had some concern about this as well, but I am hoping that the parenthetical annotations in bold (Exceptional, Excellent, etc) will help avoid confusion.

  8. My first comment may have been eaten by the interwebs. I fully agree a pay site/tasting note system is worth the price of admission.

    If you stick with star systems, at least make sure your old database gets converted and the links to CellarTracker get updated. You probably have thousands of wines currently in CT and in folks cellars, that are rated * or **, but will not look so great if people learn your new scale.

  9. Chis, I'm definitely planning to covert all of the Tasting Note Database, which the CellarTracker notes are based off of, to the new system shortly. I've already been in contact with David LeVine about this so hopefully the change over will go smoothly.

  10. Very ambitious list, Sean, and well-considered too – a natural progression to the work you’ve accomplished to date. Put me down for a paid subscription! You have earned this, and I expect it will meet with excellent support.

  11. Geesh.... it's Eric Levine. Give the man the credit that he is due (and that's A LOT of credit!!!)

    Also, when you move to a pay site, I will never visit your site again.



  12. Also, my sincere apologies to Eric at CellarTracker. At least I gave him a capital V, which he surely deserves!


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