The One Question to Ask When Drinking Wine

We talked to Silverado Vineyards GM Russ Weis, co-owned by Walt Disney's daughter.
IMAGE Silverado Vineyards

When it comes to appreciating wine, it sometimes seems like knowing the right vocabulary and verbiage is what it takes to not completely embarrass yourself at a nice wine dinner or tasting. It’s not just sipping on a glass of wine–you need to know how to properly express your taste preferences, be able to pair wines with dishes, and maybe even know a thing or two about vintages and how wines are made.

Talking to Russ Weis, the General Manager of Silverado Vineyards in Napa Valley, it’s clear that nothing could be further from the truth. When it comes to appreciating a nice glass of vino, it’s important to remember that everyone’s palate is different. It’s about how tasting a particular wine makes you feel, not what the fancy description says. In the end, the most important question is simply, do I like it?


Also, this fun fact is nice conversation starter when you pop open up a nice bottle of Merlot: Silverado Vineyards was established by Ron Miller and the late Diane Disney-Miller, Walt Disney’s daughter. The California couple opened the winery in 1981 because they loved Napa and wanted to make wines from the heritage sites of the Silverado estate. Over the years and decades, they built their own legacy, and their eldest granddaughter even designed their new label.

Pairing wines

"There are no wrong answers in wine tasting. The thing to do is keep trying wine. If you want to flex a little brain muscle, you know wine is filled with fruit aromas and flavors, it’s filled sometimes with floral or herbal aromas, and also wood characteristics.

My advice is, you can take my word for it that this tastes like Bing cherries and plums, or you could think about what you would put a plum sauce on, like a duck, and that would really be great."

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Flavor association

"So I think that’s terrific in terms of pairing but also, my plum might be somebody else’s raspberry. Wine is funny that way in a sense that we’re always trying to describe it by comparing it to other things because it’s so complex we don’t actually have words for that. And those ideas are embedded in your own memory and experiences."

Wine and great meals

"I have a little bit simpler idea about wine, which is that great meals often have sorbets in between courses to clear your palate to go on to the next dish. Wine to me is the mini sorbet in between bites. It energizes your palate, it makes you hungry, it makes you ready for the next bite."


"You ask folks who work in wine about vintages, they typically don’t remember really great vintages, because they’re fairly easy. So you only remember the really terrible ones where you have to make a lot of decisions."


Vine appreciation

"The vines are telling you what you need to be working on. You’re more in tune with what Mother Nature is telling you to do throughout the year, so it’s a totally different rhythm than other jobs that are a little more separated from nature’s cycle. And with almost 400 acres of grapes, we’re out there in the vineyards quite a lot and that’s a real joy.

The one poignant thing about winemakers people don’t think about is that a winemaker only gets to practice their craft once a year, so in a whole career you could make 25 to 30 vintages. That’s it. That’s not doing something a lot.

One of the great things about working for the Millers is that they have attracted very loyal people, so many have been with us 25 to 30 years. Continuity on an estate is really important, to have a winery memory about how vintages behaved, how to react to certain situations, is really important."

The only thing better than talking about wine is drinking wine. You can buy the Silverado estate’s Mt. George Merlot, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Vineburg Chardonnay at WineDepot.com.ph

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Christopher Puhm
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