Make us your home page

Sommelier takes the time to find the right wine

Don Decker, general manager of Wine Styles, says of wine: “It’s all about how it tastes on your palate.”


Don Decker, general manager of Wine Styles, says of wine: “It’s all about how it tastes on your palate.”

Don Decker likes nothing better than to open a bottle of wine with a stranger.

As a sommelier and general manager of the Wine Styles store in Belleair Bluffs, his goal is to help customers find the wine that best suits their taste buds.

At Wine Styles, wines are displayed not by region or varietal but by style, as in light, medium and full bodied.

"It's all about how it tastes on your palate," Decker said. "If you find a particular style you like, then it doesn't matter where it's from, you're going to like it."

The wines are arranged in alcoves against the walls. Above the alcoves, signs tell customers how the wines will taste: nectar, bubbly, bold, mellow, fruity, crisp, silky, rich.

Wine Styles specializes in small production boutique wines from around the world that many people have never seen or heard of before.

"Winemaking is an art, it's a blending art," Decker said. "These winemakers are farmers that love what they do and it shows in their wine. They talk to the grapes and they're there for the pruning, fertilizing, harvesting and blending."

Decker recalled the day one of the winemakers visited the store.

"A farmer of 13 acres for six generations in his family in Alsace, France, walked into my store smiling from ear to ear," he said. "Jean Luc Meyer was so amazed that his wine made it to America and this beautiful store. I was never so moved. It's amazing to me that I can have a world-class wine here that this man makes for only a few hundred cases."

Decker, a native of Binghamton, N.Y., has been in the food and wine business for more than 30 years, working in restaurants in Orlando and St. Petersburg, where he lives. Gerry Minton, who has the franchise for Wine Styles in the Orlando-Tampa market, put Decker in charge of turning the 2,500-square-foot space in Largo into an Old World style wine store.

"At the time I took over, I was going through sommelier school and needed an outlet for tasting wine on a daily basis,'' Decker said. "As a sommelier, you have to taste wine every day to build your palate and understand wines throughout the world. I taste from five to eight different wines every day. I taste each wine before I bring it to the store."

Next week, he finishes the final phase of his sommelier studies, just one level below master sommelier. But he's not going for master certification. "It's too intense," he said. There are fewer than 160 master sommeliers in the world.

Are the prices of these small production wines more expensive than larger producers?

The big draw here is that the majority of the wines are under $25. Prices range from $10 for a 2005 Bordeaux to $179 for a Heitz cabernet made in 2000. The quality and the price point is awesome.

What do you like best about the wine business and this business in particular?

I love educating people about wine. The whole theory behind Wine Styles is teaching people about wines; that before they walk out the door they will have a better understanding about wines. When customers buy a wine they haven't tasted, I open a bottle and let them try it. I enjoy proving this is great quality and you don't have to spend a lot of money.

Christina Cosdon can be reached at

[email protected] or (727) 445-4154.

>>if you go

Wine Styles

Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday. Call (727) 518-9463.

Sommelier takes the time to find the right wine 05/24/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 28, 2008 10:47am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Wing of Channelside Bay Plaza being demolished to make way for Water Street Tampa


    TAMPA — The developers of Channelside Bay Plaza originally wanted the name to include "Garrison." That would have fit, in a way, because the complex turned out to be fort-like, inwardly focused and unwelcoming.

    Demolition of the southwest wing of Channelside Bay Plaza is underway, with a big chunk of the building expected to come down today.
  2. City Council candidates weigh in on noise ordinances, pier reconstruction


    ST. PETERSBURG — Residents of Bayfront Tower Condos peppered City Council candidates Tuesday night with questions about noise ordinances, road repairs and the multi-million-dollar plan to rebuild the pier.

  3. Black entrepreneur says city stiffing him on project after he endorsed Rick Baker


    ST. PETERSBURG — A prominent African-American resident says his endorsement of mayoral candidate Rick Baker has led city officials to freeze him out of a major construction project along the historic "Deuces" stretch of 22nd Street S.

  4. Sen. Nelson urges FEMA to examine high number of denied flood claims


    Sen. Bill Nelson urged FEMA on Tuesday to ensure fairness, proper oversight and transparency in processing Hurricane Irma aid following a report by the Palm Beach Post that 90 percent of Irma claims under the National Flood Insurance Program had been denied.

    Sen. Bill Nelson is calling for FEMA to ensure the flood claims process post-Hurricane Irma is fair and ethical following reports that 90 percent of claims under the National Flood Insurance Program were denied. | [Times file photo]
  5. Amazon expands in Tampa with Pop-Up shop in International Plaza


    TAMPA — A new retailer known largely for its online presence has popped up at International Plaza and Bay Street.

    Shoppers walk past the new Amazon kiosk Tuesday at the International Plaza in Tampa. The kiosk, which opened last month, offers shoppers an opportunity to touch and play with some of the products that Amazon offers.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]