The Essential Secret to Enjoying Wine


Setting aside all the gloom and doom permeating wine writing these days, let’s get back to basics – maximizing the enjoyment of whatever bottle you are about to open.

I’ll assume for now that you’ve got the basic tools of the trade organized to your satisfaction:  a corkscrew that won’t shred or break the cork; clean stemware of an appropriate size and shape; a place to sip that first glass that is free of cooking scents, chemicals or perfumes. Check… check… and check.

What is the most overlooked and yet arguably the most important tool? Time. Spending unhurried time without distraction is without a doubt the hardest thing for any wine taster to manage. And it’s quite understandable why this is so. Wine is above all a social beverage. Almost always it is enjoyed with others – at a party, over dinner, in celebration of a special occasion or at some big, loud, boisterous tasting event.

I’m not suggesting that anything is wrong with any of the above, just that you won’t get much of a chance to really dive into whatever wine is being poured. There’s constant chatter, lots of wine, often appetizing snacks and sometimes loud music. Especially at large events it’s tempting to flit from table to table like the birds exploring the various feeders I have scattered around my garden. You wave your glass at the person pouring (who is likely serving a lineup), snatch a few seconds of conversation and make way for the next person. Grab a sniff, give it a swirl, take a taste and move on.

I’ve done this hundreds of times, and yes, it’s fun, and you can taste a lot of wines and come away with a few favorites. But have you really tasted any of them? Even at a small party the lure of conversation, food and other distractions constantly breaks up any chance for focused concentration on the wine.

So I’m suggesting that once in awhile, and especially if you have opened a wine that seems extra special, you give it ample time and focus. You can spot such a wine immediately. It will beguile you with its aromas. If you take a taste it will fill your mouth with flavor. If you take a few seconds after you swallow you’ll notice that the flavors linger. All good.

Now give it as much time and attention as is required to utterly exhaust the flavors. One of the greatest tastings I ever attended was guided by famed sommelier Kevin Zraly. He was speaking to a small group of wine writers, and as we worked through a small number of exceptional Napa Valley Cabernets Zraly insisted that we spend a full minute on each sip of each wine. So after swirling and sniffing and getting as far as actually tasting, we were forced to spend 60 seconds simply concentrating on flavor. That may not seem like much, but once you try it you’ll find that 1) it’s a long time and 2) it’s still not enough time for a truly excellent wine to give you the full experience.

When we grab that next taste of the same wine too quickly we attenuate the finish. I liken it to missing the end of a favorite song in order to jump ahead to the next one. So on a micro level, at least once in awhile, the one-minute exercise is going to help you expand your full appreciation of any worthy wine.

On a macro level there is an equal problem – finishing the entire bottle before it’s had a chance to open up and show its best. Young wines are often closed, maybe bottle shocked. Old wines may need a bit of time to wake up for prolonged slumber. Cellared wines may be too cold when first opened. You just never know. Taste  and wait. Taste again and calculate. But if you just plow ahead that excellent bottle may be gone before it’s at its best. This is why when I review wines I spend hours, sometimes days, returning to them over and over to see how they evolve. And since most are quite young and recently bottled, they will change, often dramatically and quite often for the better – if they are given ample time.

What’s the downside? You might wait a bit too long. An older wine might suddenly fade. A young wine might lose some freshness. No guarantees other than you are much more likely to get the full experience and learn something along the way, wherever that extra time and attention takes the wine.

I’ve observed that even among very experienced tasters, both friends and professionals, there’s very little patience shown. I’ve seen far too many outstanding bottles drained before the wine has had ample time to breathe. Artificial aeration is no substitute for gentle oxidation – but that’s another topic. For now I hope you will find the right opportunity to add that most essential tool to your tasting kit – time.

Catching Up


(Please note that the website does not yet list these wines for sale so contact the winery for details.

Maysara 2023 Autees Pinot Blanc – This is all but unchallenged as Oregon’s finest Pinot Blanc. Sourced from the biodynamic estate Momtazi vineyard, this rich, ripe, lushly fruity wine bursts open as soon as it hits the palate. The flavors cascade with delicious highlights of Meyer lemon, pineapple, peach and papaya. There’s even a hint of white pepper as it trails away with a tartness that invites the next sip. Exceptional value. 434 cases; 12.5%; $20 (McMinnville) 94/100

Maysara 2016 Jamsheed Pinot Noir – Punchy fruit flavors of red berries, pomegranate and Bing cherry, excellent balance and a fine value. 2016 was a great vintage in the Willamette and this wine is in prime drinking condition. 5276 cases; 13.9%; $32 (McMinnville) 91/100

Redolent Wine Company

Redolent 2022 Dion Vineyard Chardonnay – Done in a light, elegant style, this opens with apple blossom aromas and brings fresh fruit flavors of apple flesh and skin, lemon rind, tangerine and starfruit. It doesn’t quit as it glides into a lingering finish, adding very nice hints of vanilla and nutmeg. 140 cases; 12.5%; $35 (Chehalem Mountains) 91/100

Redolent 2022 ‘This Must Be The Place’ Pinot Noir – This was sourced once again from the Pelos Sandberg vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills, though the label reads simply Willamette Valley. The vineyard delivers light, cool climate flavors of strawberries, cranberries and raspberries, with a touch of fresh herbs. There is an earthy underpinning that anchors the finish. 72 cases; 12.5%; $40 (Willamette Valley) 90/100

Redolent 2022 Carlton Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir – This vineyard, first planted in 1999, is reaching maturity and shows it in terms of depth and texture. It’s aromatic with spice, compost and plenty of crushed berries and black cherries. Those flavors continue with citrus zest adding a touch of bitter flavor. Good mid-palate concentration carries into the finish. I’d give this a good airing; it’s a cellar worthy wine that could go a decade or more. 193 cases; 13.2%; $40 (Yamhill-Carlton) 91/100

Sokol Blosser

Sokol Blosser 2022 GSM – This founding Willamette Valley winery jumped into making Washington wine after an unprecedented freeze early in the spring of ‘22. Ultimately the vintage turned out to be successful in Oregon, but anticipating the worst Sokol Blosser contracted for Washington grapes and made this unique, perhaps one-time offering, mostly sourced from a Horse Heaven Hills vineyard. It’s almost equally apportioned among Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre; spicy with a fruit potpourri core. Mixed citrus, apples, berries and plums comingle. The 30% new oak barrels amp up the spice; tannins are firm and toasty. Give this a couple more years of bottle age for prime drinking. 1064 cases; 14%; $38 (Columbia Valley) 91/100

Paul Gregutt
Paul Gregutt
Paul Gregutt has been covering the wines and wineries of the Pacific Northwest since the mid-1980s. From 2002 to 2012 he wrote a weekly wine column for the Seattle Times and authored two critically-acclaimed editions of ‘Washington Wines & Wineries – The Essential Guide’ (UC Berkeley Press). He served as the Northwest editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine from 1998 until 2022. Early on he was an original staff member of both the Seattle Weekly and KZAM-FM. He lives with his wife Karen and his rescue dog Cookie in Waitsburg (pop. 1204), a farm community about 20 miles NE of Walla Walla. When not tasting and writing about wine he writes songs, plays guitar and sings in his band the DavePaul5 ( Follow his writing at PaulG on Wine,, and in the Waitsburg Times.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments Policy

Please be respectful. No personal attacks. Your comment should add something to the topic discussion or it will not be published. All comments are reviewed before being published. Comments are the opinions of their contributors and not those of Post alley or its editors.