How To Have

More and more transactions are happening online, and buying wine is no different.

Every year more and more purchases are made online.

What happens once you pay for your wine?  It has to be shipped to you, and this is where wine is unlike any other online purchase.

Most people don’t think about how the wine gets to them.  In this “Amazon inspired” world we live in, everyone just expects the wine to get to them quickly.

Well, there is a ton of stuff to consider before you ship wine to yourself.

We are not even going to get into all the different states and all their different and unique alcohol shipping regulations.  Let’s just say that part is very complicated.

I’m talking about what you need to consider before you buy wine on a daily wine discount website, your wine club, or any other website or winery that you happen to be visiting for that matter.

Experience Matters

Why should you read this article?

I’ve been buying wine, shipping wine, and traveling with wine for 20 years.  I’ve made all the mistakes and ruined thousands of dollars of priceless wine, and everyday wine.

I worked in the shipping department of Pine Ridge Vineyards/Crimson Wine Group shipping wine all over the country and even internationally.

While I lived on the West Coast, I’d send wine to friends and family in North Carolina and Florida.  I’d also take wine with me on planes when I’d visit NC and FL.

And even though I no longer work in Napa, I still belong to a couple Napa wine clubs and have wine shipped to me 2,800 miles away in North Carolina.

I’m going to tell you exactly what I do to give myself the best odds of the wine.

How to Have Your Wine Delivered.

The first thing that you want to do is make sure you have your wine delivered to a business address.

Read that again because it’s important.

To this day, I have all my wine shipped to my friend’s office that is near my house.  I do not have wine shipped to my home.


In the United States, you have to be 21 years old to drink alcohol.  Because of this, the government requires that a signature from someone 21 years or older is collected by the delivery company (FedEx, UPS, etc.) before they release the package.

That means they cannot leave wine on your doorstep, it must be signed for.

Because it must be signed for, a business location has the advantage of someone always being there during business hours to sign.

I have warned everyone that tries to send wine to their home address that there can and will be any random reason you can not make it to the door when your wine gets sent to you.

You might be taking a dump and can’t get off the toilet in time when you hear your doorbell ring.  You might have run to the store to get some milk.  You might have the T.V. turned up too loud and not hear that someone is ringing your doorbell.

There are a million reasons, and many more I can’t think of, for why you can accidently miss the delivery of your wine.

An unknown fact is that it is also slightly cheaper to have your wine delivered to an office address compared to a home address, although I don’t know if that savings get passed on to the consumer.

That fact might be some not that useful inside baseball info that I learned from years shipping wine.

Advantages of having your wine sent to a business:

-there is always someone there during business hours to sign for it

-the wine is delivered inside a building, and during summer buildings are cool with air conditioning

-it is also slightly cheaper cost to have wine sent to a business address

Bottom Line

Have you wine set to a business that you know near your house.  It’s totally worth it.  It is what I do for all my wine club shipments and for random wine purchase I make online, or if I happen to be visiting a winery and buy wine and have it shipped back to my house.

Temperature Is The Most Important Factor You Don’t Think About When Shipping Wine

I have ruined a shit ton of wine.

I have ruined entire pallets of wine (a pallet holds 32 cases).

I have ruined priceless irreplaceable wine.

I have ruined a lot of wine for the company I worked for, and my own wine as well.

I am not proud of this, and percentage wise it has been a small percentage of wine that I have shipped that has gotten ruined, but I’m telling you this because I know.

I have the wine scars to prove it.

I am never happy when I ruin wine from shipping mistakes, but it happens.

The Number #1 Problem Shipping Wine Is Heat

There are huge chunks of the country that are too hot to ship wine for 6 months of the year.  At least half the country has this problem.

How hot is too hot to ship wine?

80 degrees and above.

85 degrees is really not even that hot, but it’s too hot to ship wine.

Wine starts to spoil at 80 degrees, and it doesn’t take long at that temperature to ruin the wine.

And what people don’t think about, is how hot it is in the back of delivery trucks.  The delivery trucks do not have a/c and they cook.  Not good for wine!

The problem is, wineries and wine websites want to sell wine year round.


But me as the wine consumer, I only want wine shipped to my (actually to my friend’s office) during the cooler months.

I live in North Carolina.  I stop getting wine shipped to me in April.  And then I start back in October.  So from May – September, I do not have wine shipped to me.  It’s too hot.

Now in some parts of the country it can get too cold for a few months out of the year, but this is a way smaller problem.

The problem is most wine consumers have no idea about the temperature, they want their wine asap after purchase.

I’ve had many many orders that I was told to send out, into areas that I knew were too hot, and the wine would come back with corks pushed through.  That’s what happens when wine get’s hot, it pushes through the sides of the cork.

Or the customer got the wine and was pissed that the wine was ruined, because they sent the wine when they were told not to, and it got too hot and ruined the wine, because we did exactly what the customer demanded.

Seen it happen many times.

Heat is your number one enemy when shipping wine.  Which is also another reason why you want to send to a business.  If it’s on the warm, but not to hot to send wine area, then a business is likely to receive the wine on the first attempt.

Often, home deliveries get missed.  FedEx and UPS will usually give 3 attempts at delivery, before they return the package to sender.

But you have to remember that each time the deliver is not successful, that’s a lot more time for the wine to sit in the back of a truck and bake.

The main takeaway when you buy wine is to consider the temperatures of the place that you are having wine sent to.  If you take this extra step, you will save thousands of dollars and lots of heartache.…

How To Let

Friends have asked me how should they let wine breathe if they don’t have a decanter.

And when they ask this I beam with pride because it means they are learning.  This is a good question to ask.

You definitely don’t need a decanter to let wine breathe.

Most of the time, I do not use a decanter.  In fact, I rarely use a decanter just because it is added work.  I like decanters, but I don’t use them all that much.

But I do let wine breathe.  I let nearly every bottle of wine I drink breathe.


It couldn’t be easier.

You open the bottle of wine, then place the cork back in the top of the bottle, but don’t push it too hard the cork is just there to prevent flies from getting to the sugary liquid and to keep the wine in the bottle if someone happens to bump into it.

As soon as the wine interacts with oxygen, the wine has begun breathing.

There are two times when you want to expose wine to a bunch of oxygen:

  1. When the wine is fermenting in the tank or barrel during the winemaking process.
  2. When you open the bottle of wine before drinking.

Does it slow the breathing process down if you stick the cork back in the bottle?  Does the wine breathe faster if the cork is off and the wine is just exposed to the air?

No to both questions.

As soon as the cork is pulled out of the bottle the wine instantly starts reacting with the oxygen.  This process is irreversible.  There is also nothing you can do to speed up the process, and there is nothing you need to do to assist the process of breathing except to wait.

This is the hard part.

To let wine breathe you need to open it and wait.  A lot of times it is easier said than done.

Through my thoroughly unscientific wine studies, I’ve found that you need to wait a least 30 minutes before drinking.

I’ve gotten pretty good at this and pretty used to this rule over the years and I usually open a bottle of wine, then go about my business, then get back to the wine when I am ready to drink.

If you are ready to drink and you open the wine and just wait for it to be ready, well that’s a painfully slow process.

What Type of Wine Needs To Breathe?

I let nearly all wine breathe, the exception to this rule is sparkling wine and Champagne.  Sparking wine is ready to drink as soon as you open it.

New wines or younger wines need to breathe because they can be very tight and harsh.  If you let them breathe they soften with time exposed to air.

Old wines need to breathe because they are old.  No great explanation here.  They need time to dust off the argon and open up.  I feel like most older wines need longer to breathe, maybe an hour, maybe two, and maybe more.

Maybe all day.

I’ve opened an old bottle of wine in the morning, so that it would be ready to drink in the evening.

It all just depends on the wine.

Do Some Wines Need To Breathe Longer Than Others?

Yes, I’d say some wines do need more time to breathe than others, but I don’t have a good idea of which ones.

In general I think old and really old wines need hours to breathe.  I have seen bottles that got opened that I thought were long past due and basically garbage, come around and be enjoyable with a hour or two of breathing to open the flavors up.

I have also noticed that Barbera wines from Italy like Barbera d’Alba seem to need a longer time to breathe.  There was this one barbera d’Alba I used to buy that at first I thought was no good, so I didn’t drink it.

I got home from work the next day and tasted it, and it was awesome!  I couldn’t believe it.  It’s been nearly 10 years since I used to buy that wine regularly so I forgot the name and producer of it, otherwise I’d tell you.

I used to drink a fair amount of Seghesio’s Barbera, which is grown in Sonoma, California, and I remember that it benefitted from hours of breathing.  It did not need as much time as the barbera d’Alba mentioned above though.

I’m not sure.  Maybe it’s just me, but I find that barbera’s benefit from a bit more breathing than the average wine.

How Long Does Special Wine Need To Breathe?

This is a good question and the answer is it depends, but you should always let special wine breathe.

My favorite wines are beautiful Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon’s from Rutherford and Stag Leap District.  When I get my hands on one of these beauties you know I give it at least 30 minutes to an hour to breathe.

It’s always worth it to let a special wine, no matter where it is grown, to be given plenty of time to breathe.

When Wine Tells Stories

When you are drinking a great wine, it does not need to be expensive to be great, it can often tell you a story.

When you let a wine breathe for a while, then you start drinking it with friends or family, and the wine continues to open up, to evolve and change as the bottle empties, I call this the wine telling you a story.

Not all wines do this, but the ones that do, always make you sad when story time ends.…

Should it Be Chilled?

There is a lot of bad information about red wine and serving temperatures out there.

You may have heard the classic and very accurate saying, “Most people serve white wine too cold, and red wine too warm.”

This is true.

Today we are focusing on the second part of the saying about serving red wine too warm.

I learned the proper way to serve red wine from my time living and working in Napa Valley, and from living in North Carolina and Florida.

In Napa, even in the summer, it gets cool at night.  So in the evening when it’s time for a glass of wine, you can serve red wine at room temperature and everything is fine, because “room temperature” outside in the evenings might be 65 degrees or lower.  Even in the middle of summer.

But in places like North Carolina and Florida, which are warm and have high humidity for most of the year, it is way too hot in the summer to serve red wine at room temperature because “room temperature” can easily be 85 degrees or higher, with full humidity, at night.

Because I lived in the most ideal place to drink (and grow!) wine, Napa Valley, and in less than idea places to enjoy wine, the Southeastern United States, I learned the best way to store wine for cellaring and for serving.

Why Wine Serving Temperature Matters

The temperature that you serve wine matters because the ideal temperature is how you get the most aromas and flavors, and enjoyment out of wine.  The ideal temperature is also how winemakers assume you will be drinking the wine, so they take this into account during production.

Most people keep white wine in a refrigerator and serve it straight from the fridge, or a bucket of ice water, so that it’s cold and refreshing.  Well, when it’s served like this, you don’t get a lot of aromas and flavors because they are muted from the cold.

Think about it.

If you are visiting a winery and tasting barrel or tank samples with a winemaker, it maybe in the 55 degree range, but it’s not in the 45 degree or colder range.

The same thing goes with red wine.

When I worked at Pine Ridge Vineyards, the front door of my office opened directly into the chardonnay barrel aging room.  It was cold, but only about 50 degrees or so.  The chardonnay barrel aging room was directly connected to the wine caves that barrel aged all the red wine.

The caves were a constant 55 degrees.  And that was a perfect temperature to taste and enjoy red wine.

Most people will serve red wine at 75 – 80 degrees and think nothing of it.  Well, not only is it not as enjoyable at 75 – 80 degrees, you are also not going to get all the aromas and flavors that the wine posses.

Should You Chill Red Wine?

In certain situations you should definitely chill red wine, and serve it chilled.  This is exactly what I do.  And I do this with regular bottles I buy at the grocery store, and also epic bottles I buy from straight from the wineries.

When do you want to serve red wine chilled?  In North Carolina, it is hot and humid for at least 6 months out of the year.  Red wine at room temperature is just not enjoyable during this time of year.  And the entire point of wine is for it to be enjoyable.

I learned to store my reds in my refrigerator.  Now, I have a wine fridge and a regular fridge and because the wine fridge is always full, I inevitably have to store some red wine in the regular food fridge.

The point is, either will work.  A dedicated wine fridge is good and so is a regular refrigerator.

Should you pull the red wine from the fridge and immediately serve it at that refrigerator temperatures?


What I do is I pull the red out of the fridge and I open the bottle.  Since nearly all wine is better if you let it breath, I just leave the opened bottle, with the cork placed back on top, on the counter to sit.

The bottle of red wine will inevitably sweat as it warms up.  The sweat is water droplets or condensation forming on the outside glass of the bottle.  It may cause the wine label to bunch up as well.  This is fine as it does not impact that wine at all, but the appearance of the bottle.

After about 30 minutes or so I will taste and usually serve the wine.  The exact time does not really matter, but 30 minutes is about the minimum amount of time that it takes a bottle of wine to open up.

If you are new to the idea of serving red wine chilled, taste the wine as soon as you pull it out of the fridge and open it.  Then taste it again after it has been sitting on the counter for 30-45 minutes.

You’ll see that you experience a lot more flavors and aromas after the wine has warmed slightly, but is still colder than room temperature.

Now, depending on where you live and the air temperature that you are serving wine you may want to leave the bottle out on the counter, or you may want to place the bottle of red back in the fridge between pours.

In the middle of summer in North Carolina and Florida, I place the bottle of red back in the fridge between pours.

I developed this idea serving reds chilled on my own.  I knew I was on to something when I would come back to North Carolina and visit my friends and they were serving reds from the refrigerator.

They loved my idea!

That was pretty cool.

Should You Cellar Red Wine in a Fridge?

This is a tricky question.  In general a normal fridge is about 45 degrees or colder.  In general that is a bit colder than you want to cellar red wine for long periods of time.

It all just depends on your situation.

In North Carolina I keep my reds in my wine fridge year round, but it’s designed for this.  When I lived in Napa Valley, I did not have a/c, so in the summer there was no way to keep my apartment cool.

In the summer in Napa I would completely fill my full size refrigerator with wine, the vast majority of which was red.  I had no room for food, I only had a few condiments in the door of the fridge where wine would not fit during the summer.

I did this because I didn’t want my prized reds to spoil in the heat.

In general, for cellaring purposes, you want to keep wine at cooler temperatures than at warmer temps.  So yes you can cellar red wine in your fridge, but just don’t do that for years an years.  Drink the wine after a year or two before it goes bad.

You might also want to read my post about how long you should keep wine before it will go bad.…

How Long?

How long can you store a bottle of wine before it goes bad?

The correct answer?

It depends.

If you leave a winery in Napa Valley in the summertime and it’s a beautiful day and about 95 degrees, and you’re feeling good of tasting several wines in the tasting room, and you make the classic mistake of putting the case of wine you just bought in the trunk of your car, well you’ve got 5-10 minutes before all that wine goes bad.

On a hot summer day, wine can go bad in 5 to 10 minutes.

I’ve seen it happen many times.

This is an extreme case and I’m sure your wondering, in a normal situation, you bought at bottle of wine at the store and now it’s stored safely in your home, how long can you cellar that bottle before it goes bad?

Again it depends, but you probably don’t want to store it that long.

Storing Wine for a Long Time is a Bad Idea

In general, holding on to wine for long periods of time is a bad idea.


Because anything can happen.  The wine can go bad.  There can be a hurricane, fire, or earthquake and you lose all your wine.  I have personally experienced loss of wine via all these natural disasters.

Wine can also get damage while moving.  This includes taking wine with you when you travel for vacation, or if you bought a new home in another town and you move across town.

Wine gets destroyed in moves all the time.  Usually when someone moves homes, there is so much work to do, so much going on, that making sure the wine is moved gently AND in temperatures below 80 degrees Fahrenheit, are really hard to do.

I have moved across the country a few times and I destroyed lots of amazing wine.  It’s depressing.

I’ve also destroyed great bottles of wine while traveling.  When I go on vacation, I want to take some of my awesome wine with me.

Well, if you fly on a plane, you have to check the wine.  If you have a long layover somewhere, the wine might be sitting in a place that is not air conditioned.  The wine may sit outside for too long as luggage waits to be loaded onto a plane.

This is a problem not only in the summer, but also in the winter.  You don’t want to get wine too cold either.

Most travel is done in the summer when it’s hot which is obviously not good for wine.  I have even ruined wine that was packed in a car on a road trip and the car A/C was on the entire time.

I still managed to ruin the wine because the wine was placed on top of my bags in the back of my SUV and the sun coming in from the windows got the wine too hot for too long, even though the A/C was on the entire time.

Improper Long Term Storage

Ok, so let’s say you haven’t ruined your wine because it got too hot or too cold via traveling or moving, etc.

How long can you keep a bottle of wine before it goes bad?

Again it depends, where have you been storing the wine?  Have you placed the wine in the bottom shelf of a kitchen cabinet where it has stayed dark and at a constant temperature?

Or have you stored the wine in your basement where it has stayed dark and it’s cooler than the rest of your house?

Or have you stored your wine in a proper wine fridge or cellar where it has stayed around 50-55 degrees and at a reasonable humidity level?

Basically, if you have not been keeping your wine in a temperature controlled environment, then you want to drink the wine sooner rather than later.

The more time that passes, the more my recommendations matter.

You can probably leave a bottle of wine in dark cabinet at room temperature for a year or two and it will still be good.  But after 5 years?  Your odds of the wine being good have dropped dramatically.

Another problem?  I have been in a lot of folks personal wine cellars, that were not as temperature controlled as they thought it was, and wine they had for 10 years had gone bad, because it was stored at about 65-70 degrees instead of 50-55.

Even when you do everything correctly, wine can still go bad.  And there is something called cork taint which can ruin wine not because of the age, but because of a bad cork.

How big of a problem is this?  Well, the Cork Quality Council says that cork taint affects 3% of ALL corks.  So even if you do everything correctly and perfectly store a bottle of wine for 20 years, it can still be bad because of a defect in manufacturing from cork taint.

Is It Even Worth It To Cellar Wine Long Term?

Well, yes, and it depends.

If you’ve read this far you may think that I am just shitting on storing wine for years and even decades.  Well, I have ruined a lot of the world’s best wines doing the things I have outlined above.

I have also successfully stored wine for years and decades where it was worth it.

Some wines you don’t even need to hold on to for that long.  My buddy Jim Allen of Sequoia Grove made a Napa Valley Syrah from the Stagecoach Vineyard on Atlas Peak, and at about 5 years old, that wine would make a dramatic turn and darn near become magical.  And since the wine was released 3 years from vintage, I only had to keep the wine 2-3 years to get the magic.

It was still good younger as well.

One of the rules of cellaring or aging wine long term is only do it if you have multiple bottles of the same wine.  This is a rule that I, Bruce Paulson created, but it works.

If you buy a case of the same wine (same vintage also).  Then you can hold that wine for a lot longer than if you just bought 1 or 2 bottles.

If you have a case, then you can drink a bottle every 1 or 2 years.  This will give you an idea of how the wine is holding up.

You can tell when a wine doesn’t have much life left in it, or has already peaked.  Then you can decide to drink all the rest of the case within a year, and the wine will still be enjoyable.

If the wine continues to hold up, you can continue to hold the wine and drink a bottle every 1 or 2 years.  This way you can hold onto the wine as long as possible and still enjoy it.

The idea is to drink it while it’s still good.  Drinking old shitty wine that is long past it’s peak sucks.  You just think about “what could have been”.

If you buy 6 bottles of the same wine, same vintage, you can do the process I mentioned above but for half the length of time.

I am a member of a couple wine clubs and I get quarterly wine shipments.  I get 3 bottles every quarter of the same wine.  So I use the technique I mentioned above and I hold onto a bottle of wine for 6 years from the time I get it, which can but up to 9 years from the vintage.

Now, if you actually made it to the end of this article, I will tell you a secret that no one in the North American wine biz will tell you.

Michael Beaulac, my friend, mentor, boss, and head winemaker when I worked for Pine Ridge Vineyards in Napa Valley told me that he drinks ALL Napa and California wines 8 years from vintage.

You read that correctly.  Not 8 years from when he purchased it, or 8 years from the vintage release from the winery, which is usually 3 years after the vintage, but 8 years from the vintage.

Michael has tried all the best wines in California, and made many of them himself, and this is what he does.

I was shocked when he told me this but he’s one of the most knowledgeable wine people I’ve ever met.

Ok, what do you think?

Was this article helpful?  Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know.…

The Best

Want to know what the best wine opener in the world is?

It is a regular wine opener pictured above that nearly every wine drinker has seen BUT there is one important distinction.

Do you know what that is?

It is the double hinge on the part that levers against the top of the wine bottle.  That double hinge makes all the difference.

If you don’t have the double hinge, you can often find yourself running out of room to get the tooth of the lever to hook to the top of the wine bottle.  With a single hinge piece you simply do not have enough leverage.

A single hinge makes it vastly harder.

Can you see the important difference of the double vs. the single hinge?

Not only is it harder to get leverage and grip with a single hinge, it is also easier to accidently break the top of the wine bottle.

I’ve seen it happen several times.

Single hinge wine openers are just stupid, but I will give them credit, they are better than no wine opener.

And a single hinge is definitely better than using a shoe (a shoe is only used in extreme cases where no other wine opener is available).

Not Expensive

Now, you might have thought by the title of this article that the best wine opener in the world would be an expensive contraption like the Rabbit or something complicated like that.  No, the best yet devised is a simple double hinge.

Those Rabbit type bottle openers are just fine, but I have found over time that they nearly always break down and then they are useless to me.  And they are not cheap.

I have never had a double hinge break apart on me, although I am sure that it is possible.  The reality with a double hinge is that you are more likely to lose it or misplace it, never to be found again, than you are to break it.

The Pros Use It

Living and working in Napa Valley and spending a good chunk of time in tasting rooms and going to winery events, I can say for sure that this it the most popular wine opener for the people that work in the industry.

Now yes, sometimes they will still use a single hinge, but it is still this style of wine opener and not some fancy contraption like a Rabbit style opener.  And most of these folks still prefer the double hinge.

I have seen event and tasting room staff open bottles of wine this way at speeds you would not believe.  I can’t even keep up with an experienced event or tasting room employee in wine country.

When you have to open hundreds of bottles of wine for an event or during the day, you get really fast.

They are super impressive.

How to Make the Best Even Better

Something I have never understood is that that little knife used to cut the foil on a wine bottle, is damn near always serrated.  I think I have used some wine openers that have a flat knife edge, but they were on single hinge wine opener.

For some unknown reason double hinge wine openers nearly always come with a serrated foil cutter.

Why does this suck?

Well, I always recommend to try to just pull the foil off a wine bottle in the first place, but sometimes it is secured onto the top and you can’t just pull it off.

And sometimes you have a nice fancy bottle of wine that you are proud of, and you want to pour the wine with the foil on.

I get it.  I occasionally will still do this.  Especially for people that are newer to fine wine drinking, they appreciate the labels more than a seasoned vet like me.

For the times that you want to cut the foil, it sucks to have a serrated edged knife.


Because when you cut the foil with a serrated edge, it rains down a bunch of little bits of foil that are really annoying.  These little bits of foil can even accidently end up in the wine if you are not careful.

(I will try to come back to this post and add a photo of a foil with tiny foil bits if I can remember.)

The serrated edge actually makes it harder to cut the foil.

In fact, I can not think of a single reason why you would want a serrated edge on a wine opener.

How did this madness get started in the first place?  I do not know.

So, if you come across a double hinge wine opener with a flat edge, buy MULTIPLES of them, and then let me know where you bought it, because they are hard to find.

Be Prepared

Now that you know what the best wine opener in the world is, you need to use this information and go buy some.

Did you notice I said some?

I always have at least 1 double hinge for the house, and I keep 1 in my car.

Why 1 always left in the car?

Because I was a Boy Scout when I was a kid and their motto was “Be prepared”.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been out and about, visiting a friend’s house, or on a road trip at a hotel or whatever, and I’ve needed a wine opener.

Well guess what?  If you keep one in the car, problem solved.

Ideally you’ll want to keep 2 double hinged in your house because if you are like me, somehow these things are easily lost.

What do you think?

Do you think the double hinge is the best wine opener in the world?

Or do you have the wrong opinion?

Let me know in the Comments.…

How I Got Introduced

How does a redneck from the South become ingrained in the fine wine business in Napa Valley?

In 2003 I moved out to Lake Tahoe to pursue my dream, to ski big mountains in Lake Tahoe.

I grew up in Florida and North Carolina and at that time Lake Tahoe was the furthest west I had ever traveled. I was happy as a pig in shit living in Lake Tahoe and skiing mountains I had grew up reading about in ski magazines and watching in ski films.

In February 2004, my first winter in Tahoe, my favorite uncle, Uncle Robert came out to visit me and he brought his friend Jim Allen.

Growing up I had heard stories that Uncle Rob owned a winery somewhere out west. It wasn’t that big of a deal because there were a lot of wild stories about Uncle Rob, and him owning a winery sounded about right.

What I didn’t know was that he didn’t fully own a winery, he was the one of the first outside investors in a winery called Sequoia Grove Vineyards in Rutherford, Napa Valley, California. The founder Sequoia Grove was Jim Allen, the friend that Uncle Robert had brought when he visited me in Tahoe.

At the time, I didn’t know shit about wine. I had tasted shitty wine once or twice and I realized if you drank that wine really fast, it didn’t taste as bad.

Well Uncle Rob and Jim came and visited me in Tahoe and I took them skiing, which is kinda funny because Jim was over weight and out of shape at the time. I’m pretty sure that was the last time Jim ever went skiing.

Anyway, that night Jim and Uncle Rob opened a few bottles of Jim’s cabernet sauvignon with me. As I said, I didn’t know shit about wine or Napa Valley at the time, but I knew that Uncle Robert knew the coolest people and had the best adventurers, so if he was inviting me to try some of Jim’s wine, then it was probably a good thing.

Both Jim and my Uncle were some of the most down to earth, cool people ever. They poured me some of Jim’s cab, then just asked me what I thought about it. I remember that it did not taste like the crap wine I had tried a couple times in college.

I said to them, “It tastes smooth.”

And it did.

They did not try to tell me how cool and special Napa Valley was, they didn’t try to tell me how cool the vineyards were, or try to influence my opinion in anyway. They just wanted to know what I thought of the wine.

I immediately like Jim Allen because he was a cool guy, and I thought his wine was pretty decent.

Both Jim and my uncle said I needed to get down to the winery. I had just been in Tahoe for a few months and it was the middle of ski season and I had worked most of my life to be there and I told them that I was not going anywhere until the snow melted.

And I meant it.

Well the end of the ski season came in May and I called Jim and asked for directions to the winery in Napa. This was in 2004 before smartphones, navigation, and Google Maps, so I wrote down the directions on a piece of paper.

I packed up my car and drove to Sierra at Tahoe, the ski resort that reside on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It is the last ski resort leaving Lake Tahoe traveling west to the Central Valley and Bay Area.

I spent the day getting wonderous spring corn snow turns in the sunshine at Sierra at Tahoe, then packed my ski gear in my car and drove down to Jim’s in Napa.

Of course I didn’t know where I was going because that was the farthest west I had ever traveled. And because I skied all day by the time I got down into the Bay Area it was getting dark, so of course I missed turns and wasted a whole bunch of time getting to Jim’s.

In 2004 Jim stilled lived on the property at Sequoia Grove in the 100 year old farmhouse. I eventually stumbled on to iconic Highway 29 driving north through Napa and eventually, after pulling over and making many phone calls for directions, pulled into Sequoia in the dark.

At this point, I still had not seen Napa Valley because it was dark. I had no idea the beauty of the place, but I could feel it in the air that something was special. And when I pulled into the parking lot and up to Jim’s house, I could smell the wine in the barrels and tanks of the winery.

And that began my friendship with Jim Allen the founder and winemaker of Sequoia Grove Vineyards.

Over the years I spent as much time with Jim as I could.  I loved his easy going style, his vast knowledge of wine, and his dedication to Napa Valley and making the best cabernet sauvignon possible.

One of my favorite things to do was to ask a question that I knew would get Jim started, then just shut up and listen as Jim talked story.

Back in Tahoe I quickly realized something about Napa Valley cabernet, yes it was good, but damn it was expensive!  I was earning $8/hr at my job at the time and I bought 1 bottle of Sequoia Grove cab at retail and my eyes almost popped out my head.  I couldn’t afford that stuff!

I told Uncle Rob how I loved Sequoia Grove but couldn’t afford to drink it.  He said, “No shit.”  Then he told me how there is plenty of great wine made all over the world at all types of price points.  He told me to look for malbec’s from Argentina.  He said they’re similar in taste to Napa Cab’s but a fraction of the price.

And that started my obsession with malbecs and great wines at reasonable prices.

That’s how I got introduced to wine, by two old and very cool guys.  They left a huge mark on me.  I greatly respected both Jim and Uncle Rob, and I took that laid back approach when I’d go on to introduce many friends to fine wines over the years.

No pretentiousness, not haughty taughtly high end b.s.  Just great wines and cool stories.

And I continue that tradition to this day.

This post got a bit long.  I got tired of typing.

Let me know if you found this interesting and want to hear more stories.

I went on to work in the wine biz in Napa and had lots of fun adventures, so there are more stories to tell.…

Starting My Blog

What’s up y’all?  Thank you for stopping by Stemilt Creek Winery.

This is my second attempt at building a wine website.  My first one was back in 2009 and I think that was a Blogspot website.

I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew wine and wanted to write about it, so I did.

Now I am back.  This is more of a fun side project for me, so expect things to be built out slowly.

I love wine and have worked in the wine biz for a decade.

I’m just a normal guy and I take a normal guys view to everything from the world’s finest wines to cheap stuff in the grocery store.

It’s important to remember that the best winemakers in the world wear blue jeans.…