Oregon wine writer Cole Danehower dies

By on August 23, 2015
Cole Danehower

Longtime wine journalist Cole Danehower, a judge at the Great Northwest Wine Competition, also served as the correspondent for Washington, Oregon and Idaho to Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book, the annual wine guide written by the famed British author. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

PORTLAND, Ore. – Cole Danehower, one of the most prolific and thoughtful wine writers in the Pacific Northwest, died Friday, Aug. 21 after a brief battle with cancer. He was 61.

Danehower grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, graduating from Claremont McKenna College in 1976 and studying for a master’s degree at San Jose State University from 1993 to 1995.

From 1988 to 1994, he worked for Tandem Computers in Cupertino, Calif., handling corporate communications, then went on to work at Adaptec in Milpitas, Calif., until 1998.

During these years, Danehower fell in love with wine, thanks to regular visits to the Napa Valley and other regions of California. In 1998, he moved north to begin a career as a wine writer, launching Oregon Wine Report.

“When I moved to rural Oregon from California, I brought with me a typical American wine bias: California was the only real wine country in North America, and anywhere else that made its own local wine was … quaint,” Danehower wrote in the introduction to his book Essential Wines and Wineries of the Pacific Northwest.

But the wines of the Pacific Northwest ultimately became his passion. He even met his wife, Andrea, over a bottle of Oregon wine.

Cole Danehower wins James Beard Award

Cole Danehower wrote "Essential Wines and Wineries of the Pacific Northwest" in 2010.

Cole Danehower wrote Essential Wines and Wineries of the Pacific Northwest in 2010.

Oregon Wine Report was a newsletter that oozed Danehower’s passion for all things Oregon wine, particularly its Pinot Noirs. In 2004, Danehower was honored for his work, winning the James Beard Journalism Award for the most outstanding food and wine newsletter in North America.

In 2005, Danehower took over part ownership of Northwest Palate, a Portland-based magazine that focused on wine, food and travel in the Pacific Northwest. Northwest Palate was started by Cameron Nagel in 1982, and Danehower became co-owner, handling the duties of editor and publisher and writing all content related to wine. Northwest Palate published until the end of 2012.

In 2010, Danehower published Essential Wines and Wineries of the Pacific Northwest, a beautifully written and illustrated book that revealed his depth of knowledge of the wine regions of Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho.

Danehower’s influence spanned consulting, judging

Cole Danehower moderates the technical panel at third annual Oregon Chardonnay Symposium on March 14, 2014 at Stoller Family Estate in Dayton.

Cole Danehower moderates the technical panel at the third annual Oregon Chardonnay Symposium on March 14, 2014 at Stoller Family Estate in Dayton. (Photo by Andréa Johnson Photography/Courtesy of Trellis Growth Partners)

In January 2013, Danehower launched EssentialNorthwestWines.com, a site that gave him an outlet for  his wine writings. He used the new platform to publish reviews and feature stories about Northwest wines, with a particular focus on Oregon.

Also that month, he started Pour The Passion, a consulting business that focused on Northwest wine communications and marketing. Among his clients was the Oregon Wine Board.

Throughout the years, Danehower enjoyed participating in wine competitions. He judged the Dallas Morning News Wine Competition (later TexSom International Wine Awards) in Texas for many years. He also annually participated in Sunset Magazine’s international wine competition. In addition, he judged at the Great Northwest Wine Competition, the Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition, the Idaho Wine Competition, the Portland Indie Wine Festival, the Oregon State Wine Competition, the Greatest of the Grape and the Oregon Wine Awards.

In addition to his own publications, Danehower’s work appeared in Wines & Vines, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian, the Eugene Register Guard and on Avalonwine.com.

He also contributed to British wine author Hugh Johnson’s annual Pocket Wine Book, most recently covering the U.S. side of the Pacific Northwest for the 2015 edition.

After judging the Sunset Magazine competition in late April this year, Danehower was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer and quickly began treatments at the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.

A celebration of Cole’s life will be held in October. See Facebook for details. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation, in Cole’s name, to Morrison Child & Family Services.

About Andy Perdue

Andy Perdue is founding partner of Great Northwest Wine LLC and a longtime wine columnist. He is a third-generation journalist who has worked at newspapers since the mid-1980s and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Eric Degerman and served as its editor-in-chief for 15 years. He is the author of "The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook" (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books.


  1. Ron Bitner says:

    Shocking news. The Northwest Wine industry lost a great friend.

  2. Jan McCartan says:

    Cole was a terrific writer and helluva nice guy.

  3. […] since Johnson launched it in 1977, but sadly, this edition marks the final contributions of the late Cole Danehower to the Pocket Wine Book. The respected author and wine journalist from Oregon, who served several […]

  4. […] tribute to Danehower, 61, who died Aug. 21 after a brief battle with cancer, came Wednesday during the Oregon Wine Symposium’s industry awards […]

  5. […] across the country, a program created by Watershed Communications in Portland and spearheaded by the late Cole Danehower. It cost each participating winery […]

  6. […] one of the Pacific Northwest’s most respected wine writers, died Aug. 21, 2015 at the age of 61 after a brief battle with cancer. The 2016 edition, which extended the James Beard Award winner’s […]

  7. […] first Best Case program representing the Gem State was organized by the late Cole Danehower on a contract with Watershed and Moya Dolsby, executive director of the Idaho Wine […]

  8. […] recently and it produced the best Oregon Pinot Noir of the Cascadia, earning it the honor as the Cole Danehower Memorial Award. Its other reasonably priced gold-medal winner – the 2015 Chalice Estate […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.