My wife Karen and I, in addition to enjoying good wine and food, really love listening to live music. We had occasion recently to attend a concert at an old and respected venue. In searching for a spot to grab a pre-show meal, Karen found a “wine bar” within walking distance, so that was our obvious choice.
First the good…
The food was awesome. Small plates, designed for sharing, with a heavy Asian influence. The pricing was reasonable and the menu was almost an embarrassment of riches. We finally settled on the fois gras sampler, calamari, baby octopus, and pot stickers. All delicious. The chef/owner is clearly very talented.
Our server was also terrific. Cheerful, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the menu. And she offered tastes of any wines we were interested in before committing to a glass or a bottle. That’s a nice touch. In addition, I got total cooperation when I felt the red wine we ordered was too warm [as it had been stored at room temperature] and wanted an ice bucket to cool it closer to cellar temperature – in the past, I’ve gotten eye-rolling from supposedly more knowledgeable servers at this request.
The décor was nice as well, with a couple of bars as well as ample table seating. I felt it could be a great place that would be a nice attraction for pre- and post-concert goers, especially since that venue was practically across the street.
Yet, the place was dead. Admittedly, this was very early on a Friday night, but we were the only customers for most of the time we were there. I have no idea how busy they might be at other times, but the lack of customers might have something to do with…
Maybe my standards are too high, but if you are going to call yourself a wine bar then you need to live up to that, especially since there are so many outstanding wine bars worthy of the title around these days, as well as customers savvy enough to know the difference.
The wine list was reasonably extensive, but frankly seemed uninspired. There was little on it that made me want to say: “I want to try that.” [One smart item on the list was Charles Smith’s always delicious Kung Fu Girl Riesling, although I suspect that may have been as much for the name of the wine as for the wine in the bottle.] I can see novice wine drinkers having enough selections to try, but for anyone who wanted to expand their horizons, the list fell short.
But the biggest issue was with the service. And I say this with regret because, as I said above, our server was in fact absolutely delightful. And, as pointed out above, she did respond immediately to my request for an ice bucket, for which I give her props. The issue, though, was obviously lack of training. Here’s how the wine service went.
I asked for and received a taste of an Argentinean Malbec – I was trying to inspire myself with a variety I don’t have very often. It was tasty, so we ordered a bottle. So far so good. Our server brought the bottle [which had been standing upright on an open shelf – hence the ice bucket request] and two glasses, which she placed on the empty table next to us. [Side note – the glasses were just adequate. Again, if you are calling yourself a wine bar, please make the effort of having appropriate glassware.]
She then opened the bottle with the foil cutter, cutting around the top rim of the bottle. It was actually a nice clean cut, but the more proper approach is to cut the foil below that first bulge at the top of the bottle. There is a reason for doing it this way besides appearance – when you pour the wine, you don’t want it coming in contact with the foil for hygienic reasons.
Here is a good video by Ray Isle of Food & Wine magazine showing how to open a bottle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_JX8xUm1II
You may say I am nitpicking on this one, and perhaps I am. But, again, this place calls itself a wine bar.
Our server then poured us each a glass of the wine we had ordered, holding each glass by the bowl and tilting it as she poured, and served our wine to us. She put the bottle in the bucket as requested and left us to enjoy our wine.
I assume if you’ve read this far you know what I am going to rant about next…
No presentation of the bottle for approval? And please don’t pour my wine like it is a beer. Put the glass on the table and pour me a taste. Clearly, these are major training issues.
I think I’m about done with my w[h]ining here. My advice to this place would be either not to call yourself a wine bar [call yourself something that evokes your Asian tapas-style menu] or, if you really want to be a wine bar, then “up your game”. Wine drinkers are sophisticated and have money to spend; cater to them.
I purposely did not “out” the name of this place – maybe they just a bad day [or maybe I did] and I don’t believe it is up to me to damage anyone’s livelihood. I did leave my card though; I’ll let you know if I hear from them.
Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who encourages him and shares his interest. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, he had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. Michael is also Vice President of Eve Bushman Consulting (fka Eve’s Wine 101 Consulting) http://evebushmanconsulting.com/ and President of MCP Financial. Michael can be contacted at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.