MUCH OF the time when you walk into a wine event anywhere in Seattle, Arnie Millan is the smartest guy in the room.

Millan, who is the lead buyer for Wine World & Spirits in Wallingford, has been honing his skills and knowledge of wine for 40 years.

It all started on a 1973 backpacking trip through Europe. Millan, who didn’t grow up in a wine-drinking home, was in Paris and decided to buy some cheese, bread and a bottle of red wine. In his mind, he was listening to Beethoven — “there were no iPods back then” — as he had his first wine epiphany.

“I have no idea what the wine was, but it just blew me away.”

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After returning to the United States, he joined tasting groups while attending Northwestern University in Chicago and learning everything he could. That passion has only increased.

In 1994, Millan moved to Seattle, and by 1997 he launched Avenue One, a highly touted restaurant near the Pike Place Market that felt like 1920s Paris. Avenue One closed in 2002, and Millan moved on to Esquin Wine Merchants near Safeco Field, where he often was leaned on for his expertise in global wine. Regularly, he could be heard speaking fluent French to a customer as they discussed Bordeaux, Chablis or Champagne.

After nearly nine years at Esquin, Millan left for Wine World, where he has been for two years. He is the senior buyer with a focus on European wines. His fluency in French and working knowledge of German mean he regularly travels to Europe to research and make purchasing decisions.

Millan also teaches wine courses, which should be considered don’t-miss opportunities to learn from the finest wine mind in Seattle.

While his focus is on Europe, Millan also is an expert on California and Northwest wines, and considers Washington producers to be moving up quickly on the global wine-quality scale.

“We have the right soils and climate to be world class,” he says. “We’re still in a young phase.”

Andy Perdue is a wine author, journalist and international judge. Learn more about wine at