How to Drink Wine

Sharing the experience is as important as the wine itself

That may seem to be an odd title, but I think it is quite important. I believe the whole point of wine is often missed by those in the industry and consumers. We treat it like it is just another beverage, but we shouldn’t. Wine is much more and can not only enhance a meal and a gathering, but also make both into memorable events.

Naturally due to my profession, I taste and drink wine often (every day), but even I sometimes forget (or don’t have the opportunity) to share the experience with someone, which is what makes it indelible. When I ordered a bottle of wine recently at a top-notch restaurant, the wine’s soul got lost amongst the business talk and the tasting menu—an unfortunate waste of an opportunity and the wine. Don’t get me wrong, the wine was enjoyed, but we moved on quickly to the business at hand and the many dishes of cuisine. In other words, the wine experience was lost to the other content of the evening. Too bad, the wine was a lovely Syrah from Mendoza, Argentina with a beautiful and unique artsy label and a great story. Ernesto Catena is the artist son of the famed winemaking family of the same name in Mendoza, his Siesta Syrah is a great melding of “new world” brash fruit and “old world” spice and earth reminiscent of Syrah from the Rhône Valley.

On another occasion, I brought a few wines to a friend’s house and we were able to let the wines shine. So much so that I was asked about the cost and availability of both wines—Penalolen Cabernet Sauvignon from Maipo Valley in Chile and Lachini Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley in Oregon.

Wine is much more and can not only enhance a meal and a gathering, but also make both into memorable events.

In my most recent example, a group of wines were brought to Starr Boggs in celebration of “Tumbleweed Tuesday” and an intimate corporate thank you dinner with my client Hamptons Wine Shoppe. The owner, Paul, manager ,Tom, and I wandered around our cellars and sales floor to choose fun and interesting wines to bring to dinner. We choose two 1996 Burgundies—Domaine Louis Carillon Puligny-Montrachet with a scary low level of wine in the neck and Domaine Courcel Pommard Rugiens 1er Cru. Then finding a theme, we brought along two Californian versions of the same—1999 Kistler Pinot Noir from the famed Kistler Vineyard and 2006 Baton Chardonnay from Heintz Vineyard in Sonoma. We proceeded to order our food to match the wines and, most importantly, invited the Starr Boggs Manager, Jeannie, Chef, Drew, the waiter and others to join us in tasting the wines. So our experience was enhanced by allowing others to sit and enjoy the wines with us. It helps that the wines all sang throughout the night. Tom was stunned by the liveliness and character of the old Puligny-Montrachet (we all were). We predicted another at least five years strong life for the wine, not bad for thirteen year-old white wine. Then Tom sang the praises of the young Baton Chardonnay and began to favor that over the Puligny, later only to praise once again the old Burgundy. The same sequence continued with the Pinot Noirs, stunning wines that captured the night and will be long remembered by all of us. So the lesson here is to choose your wines carefully then share them to make the wines and evening memorable.

Chris Miller is an Advanced Sommelier, partner in and does wine education and private wine consultation. Visit him online at and follow him on Twitter at