The Art of Decanting and a wine that scores a touchdown every time with WineGuyMike™

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This week’s question was submitted by Deb Motl.

Q. Deb Motl asks; I have been wondering about the process of decanting verses just letting a bottle breathe.  Do you only need to decant older bottles of wine or is it beneficial for all red wines in general.  Also, would the new aerators achieve the same results as decanting?

A. Deb thank you for such an interesting question.  Here are my when’s, why’s, and suggestions, let’s hope these make some sense.  I’m also going to take the liberty to talk about some old school traditional decanting that I think you will find interesting too.

So let’s start with when I would use an aerator.

1. When spontaneous guests showed up.

2. When I’m drinking an average bottle of wine that is perhaps something I drink daily, these can always benefit from an aerator.

3. At a restaurant, doesn’t every wine geek travel with their wine aerator?  I know I do, LOL.

4. Aerators are typically fine to use with New World younger wines that are not aged Sur lie.  Lees are the sediment left behind in a bottle that is unfiltered as a result of being aged Sur lie.

When WineGuyMike wouldn’t use an aerator:

1. When I was serving or drinking a good quality wine.

2. When I ordered a good bottle of wine at a restaurant that decanted their wines.

Deb my reasoning is this; I believe that an average quality bottle of wine will benefit from being “whipped” and “oxygenated” by an aerator as it will bring out the best that bottle has to offer.  If unexpected guests show up you may feel the need to be immediately hospitable and open a bottle of wine to share with your guests.  In this case I would use an aerator. 

Many restaurants do not offer to decant your wine for you.  If they are wine focused they will have decanters and will offer to do this for you, after all they should do all they can to satisfy your dining experience.  The reality is that many establishments don’t decant and I would not hesitate to ask your server to use your wine aerator.  Be sure to offer to show them how to use the devise, many servers may be unfamiliar with them and they will appreciate your kindness in demonstrating how to use it.  With this approach they will be fully engaged in your dining experience with you.

Step away from the good to great bottle of wine with your aerator, why you might ask.  I don’t want my fruit bruised.  I mean this sincerely if you have a great bottle of wine you have probably made some special plans around this wine event even if it just you and your partner enjoying a great bottle of wine on a special occasion.  By all means use a decanter and aerate your wine with a decanter.  You will notice that when a wine is poured correctly by letting it pour into and gently grazing the side of the decanter bottle neck so the wine spreads itself onto the walls of the sphere within the body of the decanter.  While pouring the wine into the decanter you will not pour the sediment from the bottle into the decanter.  If you are using an aerator you may potentially blend the sediment into the wine thus potentially altering the juice from a high end bottle of wine.

If you have the opportunity to dine in an upscale restaurant that has a Master Sommelier on staff they have an almost ritualistic approach to decanting a wine properly.  First they will carry the wine from their wine cellar in a specially made basket.  The basket carries the wine at the same angle it was stored at in the wine cellar.  You will notice that the sommelier is very gentle as he brings the wine and places it on the table still lying prone in the basket.

The sommelier will gently wipe the dust from the top of the bottle to remove dust from the wine cellar.  They will now remove the foil cap from the bottle and place it in his or her jacket pocket and then once again gently wipe the exposed cork still in the bottle.  Now the cork removal will begin, but once again very gently and only about 80% of the way and then the sommelier will use his or her hand to gently express the cork.  They do this so the air hits the bottle slowly and does not cause the wine to spray out of the bottle.  Once the cork is removed with the bottle still in the basket in a prone position the sommelier will present the cork to the person who order this wonderful bottle of wine to go with their meals from this fine dining establishment.  

Once the guest has examined the cork visually to make sure the cork has not gone bad from being stored improperly and that the bouquet being expressed from the cork meets their approval the sommelier will now light the candle that has also has been placed at the table.  You will notice that the candle is of equal height of the decanter that is being used.  The sommelier will now very gently lift the bottle of wine from the basket and begin to gently and somewhat slowly pour the bottle of wine into the decanter.  While the wine is being poured the sommelier will have the candle placed under the bottles neck about an inch and a half away but yet close enough to the bottle so that they may see the wine passing from the bottle to the decanter.  This is done so if and when there is sediment in the bottle they will not allow that to pass into the decanter.  The bottle will then be place back onto the table with the sediment still remaining in the bottle and all the incredible wine in the decanter aerating and waiting to be poured into the glasses of those anxious and now completely tantalized palettes.

Deb that is the rest of the decanted story, cheers to you and your great question.

This week’s wine recommendation from WineGuyMike™ comes fromthe Wahluke Slope AVA which was established in 2006.   The Wahluke Slopes boundaries are the Columbia River on the west and south, and the Saddle Mountains to the north, with the Hanford Reach National Monument to the east.  This AVA is entirely within the Columbia Valley appellation and home to more than 20 wineries.  There are 5,652 planted grape acres in this area which represents about 15% of the wine grape acres in Washington State.  The Wahluke Slope has one of the driest, warmest climates in the state and produces Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Chenin Blanc as the main varietals from this area.

 Inspired by last week’s blog post I decided to go shopping for a wine from the Columbia Valley and came home with a Bordeaux blend from the Wahluke Slope AVA in Washington State; 2008 Desert Wind Ruah.  What a great find, this is a nicely balanced red wine blend driven by Merlot with an almost equal amount of Cabernet Sauvignon for a little backbone with a touch of Cabernet Franc squeezed in the middle to blend.

Desert Wind Ruah 2008 from the Wahluke Slope AVA in Washington State

Desert Wind Ruah 2008 from the Wahluke Slope AVA in Washington State

This is a medium bodied wine that is a bit tannic with an ever so slight hint of vanilla, concentrated fruit that opens up all the way to the finish line.  On the kick off this wine hits you right up front with red currant, and then shifts to black cherry.  The tannin picks up right on the fifty yard line and then it’s a strawberry and raspberry hand off that runs all the way to the goal line, but it doesn’t stop there it runs through the tunnel and all the way into the locker room.

 This wine has nice viscosity, a clean, clear, dark red cherry jello coloring that is as pretty to look at as it is to drink.  It is very nice to drink now but I would recommend lying this down for two years and it will really finish in the bottle what the winemaker began.  If you can’t resist like me I would recommend decanting this gem from the Wahluke Slope, this wine does have a sense of place, terrior to you.  Thanks to Desert Wind Winery for producing really nice affordable wines.

The Desert Wind Winery is an amazing destination wine property the you will not want to miss visiting.  Please visit their website to see what I’m talking about.

 Desert Wind Winery

2258 Wine Country Road
Prosser, WA 99350-6732
(509) 786-7277

WineGuyMike’s™ food pairing with the 2008 Desert Wind Ruah

Peppered Roast Beef


5 pounds beef round roast, all visible fat removed
2 tablespoons acceptable vegetable oil
1 teaspoon fresh, coarsely ground black pepper
1 medium onion, sliced
1 medium carrot, sliced
1 large stalk celery, sliced
1/2 cup dry red table wine


 Preheat oven to 350º F.
Rub meat with oil and pepper, and place in an open roasting pan. Insert meat thermometer so tip reaches center of thickest part. Arrange onion, carrot and celery slices around meat. Pour wine over meat and vegetables.
Place in oven and cook uncovered 1 1/2 hours, or until meat thermometer registers desired degree of doneness.
If more liquid is needed, baste with additional wine during the roasting period. Do not use drippings from the roast for basting.
Skim fat from pan juices or remove juices with bulb baster and discard fat. Remove meat from pan and slice thin. Spoon pan juices over meat and serve immediately.

Calories: 267 kcal
Protein: 40 gm
Carbohydrates: 1 gm
Total Fat: 10 gm
Saturated Fat: 3 gm
Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 gm
Monounsaturated Fat: 4 gm
Cholesterol: 106 mg
Sodium: 82 mg
Potassium: 597 mg
Calcium: 12 mg

"from my table to yours"

"from my table to yours"


3 thoughts on “The Art of Decanting and a wine that scores a touchdown every time with WineGuyMike™

  1. Mike,
    Thank you so much for this post. It is so full of information that I will definitely use in the future. I love reading your articles! And I’m going to try the recipe too, sounds so good!

    Keep up the good work!

    • Carla,

      It’s kind comments like yours that keep me writing, I hope I can continue to write things you enjoy reading.

      P.S. if you get a moment try out the links for the show that are posted in the podcast section.

      Your friend,

  2. Mike, I know I could ask this of you in person but others may be interested also. Going to Napa yet again, Yawn, Yawn (what a complainer I am) and have done all the great large wineries. For anyone who hasn’t had the experience, its great fun and yum wines. We would like to explore smaller more boutique winery’s, out of the way,hard to find ect. We’ll be going end of March, beginning of April. Do tell all! Thanx as always, SueB.

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