Questions - Pure Novice in need of Advice


So quick intro. I’m a 34 year old male in Wichita, KS. I have never gone any further into wine than a glass or two on holidays, and have mostly spent my life on bourbon and scotch for drinking preferences. Recently I stumbled upon a number of bottles in my grandma’s wine cellar and was the only family member with even a hint of interest. So currently I am digging around in my finds. Most are 2003-2004 vintage reda out of California. However from my search I’ve uncovered a number of gems including a bottle of '74 Heitz Cellars - Napa Valley/ Martha’s Vineyard - Cabernet Sauvignon 750mL amongst others. I have a couple of bottles I’m currently doing some research on to find out what they are due to labels falling to dust. Not sure where the two I found like that are from, but it’s fun to dig into so far lol.

Anyways, on to my post. So these finds have excited me, and spured an interest in wine as a hobby in a sense! So first off I guess I’m very interested in where to even start with a novice pallet such as mine. I have no idea where to start honestly and am hoping to use some of my acquired collection to be able to trade into a collection that fits me personally.

So really any advice in regards to starting this journey would be more than appreciated. I feel fairly lost in all the terminology and different locales involved for real.

Thanks in advance. I have seen alot of good in the posts I’ve read this far and am excited to join this community!



IMO the two best ways to help yourself get started are to:

  1. Find the best local wine shop you can and put yourself in their hands. Most shops offer things like 10% off when you buy a case. Tell the shop’s expert that you just want to start your exploration and tell him or her what you’ve already had that you liked and didn’t like and also what you want to spend. Ask them to put together a mixed case of things to try. Then here’s the important part - take notes as you have each wine about whether you liked it or not, but also why. Then when the case runs out, go back for another, with your notes. Repeat.

  2. At the same time, find a good introductory wine book. My knowledge of those is out of date, but back in the day the “Windows on the World Wine Course” by Kevin Zraly was a great way to start.

Of course, keep reading this site in the meantime, too. Supplement the above with any wine classes that might be offered by one of your local stores, or even the local Community College.

What you learn from reading and from tasting will help you start to see patterns in what you like and what you don’t, and you can go from there.

Most importantly, though, find out when Tom Hill will next be in the area, and I will try to arrange a trip to KC at that time, and make the drive to Wichita, so you can drink that '74 Martha’s with some professional guidance! :rofl:

Edit to add - do take care to store Grandma’s wines properly in the meantime. Keep them horizontal, in a cool environment with a relatively steady temp, and in the dark. I would also suggest not drinking them right away, at least the ones that appear to be gems like the Martha’s (as I’m sure your research has told you, that is considered one of the greaestt wines ever made, anywhere in the world). Taking some time to learn wine and develop a bit of a palate will help you appreciate those bottles when you do open them, assuming they show well when opened (at that age, there are no great wines, only great bottles, as we say).

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Take your time. Read, study, ask questions. Build from experience. Try and put together some tasting events with friends, family, other wine enthusiasts. Try and factor wine into your travel or dining experiences. Spend some money on quality storage so you can age some wine in your own cellar. Try different things and hone in on some preferences keeping in mind your palate may change with time.

It took me a good 10 years to work up to a good enough knowledge base, comfort zone, tastes preferences and cellar collection so I could enjoy some aged wine. There is so much out there and the path that each one of us travels can be so varied. My 1st love was Italian wine and my 1st book was Joe Bastianich’s Vino Italiano. Because of Berserker Day, I have been introduced to many tremendous wine owners that represent over 50% of my annual domestic daily drinkers.

Enjoy the journey. It’s not always about the actual wine being drunk.

I can’t deny it, with that smile on my face. It’s not the kill, it’s the thill of the chase.

Join a local wine club or tasting group.
Try everything
Keep notes.
Don’t buy more than one (or two) of anything you haven’t tasted (however good the hype or deal).

All great suggestions above. I would add: don’t spend a lot on a bottle just because the sign in the shop says “rated 97 by so-and-so”. Even if there weren’t severe grade inflation, the rating has nothing to do with your palate preferences which you will discover only if you try a lot of things.

For resources, Zraly’s book is a great introduction. The free stuff online at Wine Folly also helps you get your bearings. A nit I will pick with Madeleine Puckett (it’s a minor gripe) is that she’ll make fairly sweeping statements about how varieties will taste which may be generally true but leave out the hist of exceptions and outright surprises. However, as a way of sorting the world and establishing some basic “you are here” coordinates, she’s pretty helpful.

Oh yeah, and do yourself a favor and buy some Loire Chenin blanc - Huet Vouvray in all styles (sec, Demi, and moelleux)

Welcome to the madness!

Speaking of Chenin Blanc, def try South African, they are killing it, at all price points.


And finally, if you do get into wine and start collecting stuff: don’t buy your storage full of your first love.

Just by browsing this forum you can read probably hundreds of accounts on how yet another wino has accumulated 500 bottles of high-octane Napa Cab and now - 5-10 years into collecting and drinking wine - has tasted enough wine around the world to understand they actually don’t like these blockbuster Cabs. Or how people have filled their cellars full of red wine, then their palates have shifted and suddenly they love white wine, while their red wine consumption plummets.

Instead of having filled up my cellar as quickly as possible, I have instead grown it gradually over the past 15-ish years - and never regretted this approach. My preferences in wine have shifted very little (if at all) since my first years of wine geekery, but I’m much happier with the stuff I’ve recently bought compared to the stuff what I would’ve bought when I knew relatively little about anything, which is why I don’t have much stuff left from my early years. And those that still are there, are good.

In essence: try to drink stuff from all over the world, different styles of wines, different producers, different price points. Don’t get disappointed by the first lousy experience and write some region on just one bottle, nor don’t immediately fall in love with the first extraordinary wine from some producer - these might be exceptions. Be open-minded and curious. Don’t stick with just one style or producer, but drink wide and deep.


A friend from another site sums it up this way:
Pull lots of corks, remember what you drink.

There’s really not much else to it. The rest is commentary.


Actually this is how I started.

And never have stopped doing it.

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Buy good wine glasses.

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Hi, and welcome to wine! You’re in good company. I hope you enjoy the journey! I’ve been a newbie taster for … mmm … 25 years. I’d say don’t hesitate to like what you like, and try lots of things.

First up, remember this date: January 27th. Every year, it’s WineBerserker Day when TONs of small wineries offer killer deals that you can view here on and buy direct from the wineries. Check out the info from last January’s WB14 edition. There are also excellent values in Australian wines right now (since the Chinese market hit them with massive tariffs).

Second, try lots of wine. Many people prefer sweeter whites to start. I hope you’ll consider checking for a local wine tasting group. The hubs and I found one through this site, did our first event last month, and loved it!

Lastly, if all the jokes about your Heitz didn’t convince you - that unicorn will get you red carpet entry to any
wine event in town!

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After 40+ plus years I find myself a wee bit jealous of your future journey. My advice is to keep it interesting and spend the first year exploring. Spend some time with some of the top wine making nations best. Maybe start in California. As advised above find a reputable retailer and explore. Start with Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon the next week and maybe Merlot. See what you like and more importantly don’t like.
Do the same for Italy, find a nebbiolo, a sangiovese and maybe a Sicilian Nero d’avola.
Move onto France, south America and maybe Spain.
That will give you some depth and after it all you should have a few you may want to explore more.
Do the same with some of those countries whites when it’s warmer. Share the wine and share your thoughts, both with your family, friends, here and your now friended retailer. He will help move you along. Don’t over pay until you have a clue. Do keep an open mind. Have fun.

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No connection to KLWM other than as a customer but I saw this “Simplicity Sampler” in the new newsletter and immediately thought of this thread. This would be a great case at a great case for a “novice palate” who is “very interested in where to even start.” And I think it ships free as well. No domestic wines but a nice selection of French and Italian wines of varying styles, including red, white, pink, and bubbly.

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