Wine enthusiasts are always looking for an experience that’s completely arresting — a wine that stops you in your tracks, makes the room go silent, and just pulls you into the glass.

Sometimes, those wines are expensive — perhaps opened at an extravagant wine dinner where everyone brings a bottle to impress. Other times, they’re ordered at a restaurant when one hands the list back to the sommelier, requests an adventure, and is blown away by the results.

I’m electrified when these experiences happen with wines made by friends. I’m hardly alone in this sentiment.

A few weeks ago, Steve Matthiasson, a top vineyard consultant in Napa Valley and one of Food & Wine Magazine’s 2012 Winemakers of the Year, was asked about the wines that most excite him.

“Wines made by friends are number one,” he declared. “If it’s made by a friend, it tastes better.”

I first met Steve and his wife last February over lunch at their small vineyard in Napa. I sought them out after enjoying their 2010 white blend at a restaurant in San Francisco, and after our lunch together, I became an evangelist for their wines.

The Matthiasson’s entire portfolio is absolutely stunning. But it’d be disingenuous to claim that emotion doesn’t play a role in my appreciation for their wines. The fact is, there’s an emotional component to wine appreciation – and that shouldn’t be ignored.

Emotion is why wines almost always taste better at a winery than they do at home. It’s why enjoying a special bottle with a special someone is more meaningful than enjoying it alone. It’s why a sommelier’s recommendation is almost always a hit, especially if her passion is palpable.

Just as emotion can make a wine taste better, it can also make a wine taste worse.

In late August, one of Italy’s most famous winemakers, Fulvio Bressan, penned a racist tirade on Facebook against his nation’s first black government minister.

Outrage came quickly. Within days, the Italian reviewer at The Wine Advocate, the world’s most influential wine guide, announced that she would omit Bressan’s wines from future tastings.

That decision, while laudable, wasn’t necessarily needed — the racist comments spread far and wide across the world of wine. As wine writer Alder Yarrow wrote, “Bressan’s wines will never taste the same again.” One can safely assume that most consumers agree with Yarrow.

Over Labor Day weekend, one of my closest friends came to visit from Los Angeles with his fiancée. They brought me a bottle of Grenache from Beckmen Vineyards, a small winery located in Santa Barbara County.

The reason? They visited Beckmen on their third date — and enjoyed a bottle of the winery’s Grenache over lunch. Once my friend realized that he had met the girl he was going to marry, he promptly purchased several cases of the wine.

How that Grenache tastes to others is irrelevant. Every time they open a bottle, they’ll remember the butterflies they felt for one another on their third date. And it will always taste delicious.

About The Author

David White

David White is the founder and editor of, which was named "Best Overall Wine Blog" at the 2013 Wine Blog Awards. His columns are housed at Palate Press: The Online Wine Magazine.

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7 Responses

  1. Frank

    Great piece, David. ‘Emotion matters’ – so very true. I still have bottles from my first visit to Napa with my wife back in 2005. Others are not as fond of the wine when we open them with friends, but the memories of that trip and how much we liked visiting with the owner make all the difference.

    And, share the Matthiasson evangelism. 🙂

    • C. S. Vin

      You are right on! Emotion is what creates memory — both good and bad. Serve it blind! The EXPERIENCE will create the memory — good or bad. Make all your wine experiences good ones, if you can. But some will stand out as better than others because the entire experience was memorable in the good sense. Have a great wine experience today!

  2. Darryl

    All sounds good, unless the wine is served blind, then all bets are off along with all preconceived notions and wine maker niceties or crimes(words or otherwise).

  3. Howard G. Goldberg

    I have long felt that emotion is a parent of thought — all thought — even if the emotion
    that gives birth to a thought is so subterranean as not to be easily detectable or detectable
    at all. Similarly, I suspect, emotion is no less a begetter of identifiable feeling. Thus,
    theoretically being connected to, and a progenitor of, all experience, emotion indeed helps dictate how and what one thinks and feels about a wine. This idea makes hash of the notion of free will. (Readers will probably make hash of me for saying that.) — Howard G. Goldberg