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When the sommelier ignores your wishes...

hrhboo Dec 9, 2006 05:57 PM

Last night I had dinner at a fantastic seafood restaurant. With the help of the sommelier, I chose a beautiful bottle of Sancerre to go with the meal and was thrilled with the selection. By the time we finished the bottle we only had a couple of courses to go and didn't think we could finish a whole second bottle so I asked about half bottles and selections by the glass. Our particular wine was not available by the glass so I asked for something comparable, suggesting a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Gris, many of which were available both by the glass and by the half bottle. I specifically stated that I wanted something dry and crisp, and that I did not enjoy sweet wines.

The sommelier disappeared for a while and came back with a French Chardonnay. He said that there was only enough for one glass in the bottle so would split it between my companion and I "to taste". It was not at all what I had asked for, cloyingly sweet, heavy and almost syrupy. He did not come back to see how we were doing until we had finished the meal, and never asked if we had enjoyed the wine. Surprisingly, when the bill came we were charged $18 for our "taste".

My point is, why completely ignore my suggestions when I had very clearly specified exactly what I wanted? And why charge me for something that I did not ask for and was supposed to be a taste?

Since the rest of the dinner was outstanding I didn't mention the charge (and considering how extravagant the meal was I didn't think $18 made that much of a difference) but I'm still a little irked!

  1. adkim Dec 9, 2006 05:59 PM

    I would be livid.

    1 Reply
    1. re: adkim
      hrhboo Dec 9, 2006 06:05 PM

      The most annoying thing is that I would have happily shelled out 50-odd bucks for a half bottle of something I liked.

    2. l
      Leonardo Dec 9, 2006 06:20 PM

      I wouldn't have paid it, and/or taken it out of the tip.

      1. andreas Dec 9, 2006 07:09 PM

        I wouldn't have paid for it. More than that, I would have asked a waiter to remove the offending wine and ask for the sommelier to return to the table. Pronto.

        1. m
          MikeG Dec 9, 2006 08:48 PM

          "It was not at all what I had asked for, cloyingly sweet, heavy and almost syrupy."

          More importantly, it couldn't possibly have been a regular "Chardonnay" if it was as you describe. It must have been a dessert wine (which could be made from Chard or mostly Chard).

          The "taste" part was obviously misleading, but not necessarily deceitful. Presumably he meant he'd split the glass - probably not SOP - so each of you could have "some", but I think I myself would've asked why he wasn't just opening another bottle if they sell it by the glass in the first place.

          Under the circumstances I wouldn've been pretty peeved about the awful recommendation, but I think I would've been wondering what he meant by "taste" and so wouldn't have been shocked to be charged for one full glass, anyway.

          1 Reply
          1. re: MikeG
            hrhboo Dec 9, 2006 10:03 PM

            Yeah, I don't know a ton about wine, aside from what I like or don't like. I was unsure about what he meant by "taste", which is the main reason I didn't bother mentioning it. But if we were in fact tasting it, it was surprising that he didn't come back to see whether or not we liked it or if we wanted a full glass of something.

          2. k
            krushdnasty Dec 9, 2006 09:12 PM

            Yeh. NO Way I would have paid for that. In this case I would have perhaps even relished the looming confrontation. That was plainly a sneaky, backhanded way to dispense with a customer's wishes, empty an old bottle of its contents and put some extra dollars in his pocket.

            No Way!!!1

            1 Reply
            1. re: krushdnasty
              hrhboo Dec 9, 2006 10:00 PM

              He could've put way more money in his pocket if he'd given me something I liked! Like I said, I would have happily paid much more for a half bottle of something good.

              "perhaps even relished the looming confrontation" hahahaha!! I love it. I hate confrontation in any form but it gladdens me that there are people out there willing to fight the good fight.

            2. w
              wayne keyser Dec 10, 2006 02:12 AM

              The guy used you to get rid of something he had lying around that he couldn't sell any other way - if it were me, it would come out of his tip.

              1. hotoynoodle Dec 10, 2006 03:25 PM

                extremely bad form on his part. it also doesn't remotely sound like french chardonnay. burgundies, while they can be rich, don't have the cloying quality you describe.

                i would have flagged the waiter, and very nicely informed him the sommelier offered us *this*, but we'd definitely prefer something else. and washed my hands of the duplicitous wine steward.

                if i recommend something to a guest and they don't like it, i take it back, and we start over.

                i never understand why paying customers drink/eat stuff they don't like.

                1. h
                  HillJ Dec 10, 2006 03:48 PM

                  We had a similar thing occur on a cruise. It took two days of back and forth to get to the person in charge but the cost to "taste" a sommelier's recommendation was taken off our shipboard credit account.

                  Sneaky practice in my book.

                  1. g
                    Grubbjunkie Dec 10, 2006 05:11 PM

                    He was making a recommendation for something you've never had and called it a taste, but didn't wait for you to taste it? Very unprofessional.

                    1. r
                      Rick Dec 10, 2006 07:27 PM

                      You asked the wine expert for something NOT sweet and he brings you out an $18 glass of sweet wine. I don't see why you didn't tell them to take it off the bill. Had you picked the wine yourself without asking, then fine, your fault if you don't like it. But you told him what you were looking for and he brought you the opposite!

                      Kind of like telling a car salesperson you want to look at the the four door sedans and he walks you over to the trucks!

                      1. DanaB Dec 10, 2006 07:44 PM

                        Agree with the other posters. Most nicer places (and even not so nice places that have a variety of wines by the glass) will pour a "taste" -- i.e. a little dab in the bottom of the glass -- before pouring you a full glass. Given your request, I think that's the method this waiter should have used. You then would have been able to say, "no" and order something more to your liking. The waiter pouring half-glasses for you and your companion and calling them "tastes" is a little confusing, but it does sound like you received more than a standard "taste."

                        In any event, even after the glasses were poured, if you didn't like it you should have said something at the time. Once you'd consumed the wine and received the bill, I don't think there's much you can do but pay the charge.

                        1. SanseiDesigns Dec 12, 2006 06:53 AM

                          I agree with DanaB, and it has been my experience that when a "taste" is presented, it is normally a one ounce pour. The server normally stands by for approval prior to presenting the actual pour to the glass.

                          Whenever I have had a wine presented and I don't care for it, it remains in the glass, untouched. The astute server notices the lack of consumption and normally inquires and corrects his/her recommendation by bringing something I will enjoy, and removing the offending wine.

                          That being said, if a full pour BTG has been presented (even if it is split between two people), you find you don't care for it, but consume the majority of the wine, then it should be paid for.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: SanseiDesigns
                            hrhboo Dec 12, 2006 04:30 PM

                            We didn't drink it. We tasted it and waited for him (or anyone) to come and see if we liked it and whether we wanted a full glass of that or something else. The wine was really not to my liking at all and I wasn't going to drink it, free or not.

                          2. o
                            obob96 Dec 12, 2006 05:57 PM

                            It's sometimes easy to forget that we (customers) drive everything: if the terms of the offering were unclear, if you just the "taste" was not liked, however large, then it's up to us to call the server and say so and move on. Got nothing to lose. On a somewhat related note, I wonder if others have run across the kind of server I had once who, on presenting the wine list, quickly offered to suggest a wine he "really liked." I managed to refrain from replying that I'd prefer to to select a wine I'd like.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: obob96
                              adkim Dec 13, 2006 05:30 PM

                              i would hope a situation should NEVER occur to the point where i woiuld have to get up to ask the server to do their job.

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