This is a true story, and I need you to be the judge. At a recent dinner out – locally, reservations under my name and the owner knew when I was coming – I might have made a mistake trusting the wine steward with selecting a Chateauneuf du Pape that would go with the meals we were ordering.
Waitress Clearly Lost
After perusing the wine list, I mentioned to our waitress what we wanted to spend and what we were looking for. I asked her for a recommendation. She said, “Do you want me to get ——?” (He is not referred to as a wine steward or sommelier, I believe he is the manager.) Yes, I knew who she was talking about, as she presumed I did, he’d been at that restaurant for a decade or longer. I was a wee bit surprised that she couldn’t make a suggestion on her own as the restaurant was known for its wine list and I had never needed the wine steward before.
The Wine Steward
Instead of talking to us about what we were looking for, or offering us any options, he came to our table and presented a 1997 CDP vintage that he said was no longer available on the wine list. I should have asked why he suggested that wine and why not any others, but I didn’t.
He opened the wine and poured us both (my husband was with me) a taste. I commented on the brown color, indicating some age. The wine steward said it was an organic wine, and told us about organic wine practices…for some reason he thought this would interest us or explain the wine.
I asked what grapes were in the wine, and he proceeded to list all Rhone varietals; not actually answering my question.
After he left we noted quite a bit of sediment in our glass – again not necessarily indicative of anything but age. Trusting the wine steward we forged ahead. Then I noted an astringency I hoped would blow off and bloom into some nice fruit and tannins.
Sending Back Wine
We swirled the wine, we let it sit for a while, and we tried it alone and with food. Then we began to consider sending it back. I’ve never sent back wine because it didn’t age well. And since this wine wasn’t corked we decided against it. Were we right?
As we paid our bill my husband and I agreed – we hadn’t enjoyed our meal and it would be awhile before we would return. We felt that the wine steward should have offered us a selection and answered the questions we asked – and we should have insisted instead of being too trusting about it.
The wine steward failed us, and it left us wondering, how many others may have shared the same experience? If a restaurant’s wine steward doesn’t make a customer happy, but only tries to convince them that they should be happy, that’s a fail in my book.
Whether the wine steward thought we were clumsy wine people, with little or no knowledge of wine or not, the experience left us feeling, well, hoodwinked. A bottle no longer available on the wine list could have been because it was awesome; in this case it appeared, with all of the circumstances – to have been removed from the wine list.
When I got home and Googled the wine I learned that Wine-Searcher.com reviewed the exact one, and a chart showed that the wine had peaked in 2003. I felt better, justified that I was correct in assume the wine hadn’t aged well. Now all I could consider was perhaps the wine steward hadn’t aged well either.