Josh Raynolds Passes Away

by Ian D’Agata

Josh Raynolds was an American wine writer with a far-reaching background in wine who essentially made his name while writing for Stephen Tanzer’s prestigious International Wine Cellar, a wine newsletter that during its existence was recognized as the only serious competitor to Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. Raynolds was immensely well-liked and respected in the professional wine community, for his wit, knowledge, shoot from the hip-straight talking style that never wore thin. Most important, he was a good person and a nice guy.

Thank-you to Sasha Russ for the photo

Josh was one of the world’s most knowledgeable and credible wine writers on all matters pertaining to the wines of the Rhône, one who did not “spray around high scores for wines like confetti at a marriage” (to use a truly wonderful phrase coined by Robert Millman) and whose wine reviews you could actually use for your buying intelligence. It was not just insightful and incredibly knowledgeable wine writing, but also one that did not steer you wrong by inundating you with a malodorant river of useless 97+, 98, 99 and 100 scores attributed to what were truly laughable wines. But clearly, his expertise did not stop at the Rhône: anyone who follows wine publications knows that Raynolds was equally adept at penning well-written analyses about any of the world’s wines, such as for example Rosé wines and the best of Beaujolais or of Australia. He never shied away from telling it like it really was, or at least as it was to him (anyone who knew Josh is aware of what “getting dooked” referred to). Many producers in the wine regions I also visited more or less regularly had nothing but great things to say about Josh: Graillot and the Vernays come to mind, but the list is a very, very long one. Even better, few if any ever had anything negative to say, which is in and of itself remarkable. And therein lies the real measure of a wine writer.

I first met Josh about fifteen years ago, while participating in a tasting of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wines in NYC with Stephen Tanzer. I wasn’t writing the article, but as I was puttering through town on my way to somewhere else, I stayed on, not wanting to pass on the opportunity to learn. I found out that I learned about those wines as much from Steve as I did from Josh, an eye-opening experience. What I appreciated most already then was Josh’s unassuming manner of delivering his knowledge, while doing so in a truly witty way. He was undoubtedly blessed with a great, wry, sense of humour. Over the years I also got to know his lovely wife Merrie-Lousie, another wonderfully nice human being. My regret, as it is always in these cases, is not having spent enough time with both of them, though the fact I did not live in the USA the past twenty-plus years excuses me to a degree. But still: I now really wish I had found the time.

A good person. A nice guy.


Ian D'Agata

Editor-in-Chief of Terroir Sense Wine Review
President of Terroir Sense Academy
Vice President of Association Internationale des Terroirs
Chief Scientific Officer of TasteSpirit

Ian D’Agata has been writing and educating about wines for over thirty years. Internationally recognized as an distinguished expert, critic and writer on many wine regions, his two most recent, award winning books Native Wine Grapes of Italy and Italy's Native Wine Grape Terroirs (both published by University of California Press) are widely viewed as the "state of the art" textbooks on the subject. The former book won the Louis Roederer International Wine Awards Book of the Year in 2015 and was ranked as the top wine books of the year for the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times and the New York Times, while the latter was named among the best wine books of the year by Food & Wine Magazine and the NY Times.

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1 comment
  • Touching and insightful. He was such a likeable, even loveable human being. His knowledge of food, beer and music was encyclopedic. Everyone who knew him will miss him for a long time.

Ian D'Agata