HOME > Chowhound > Wine >

Sommelier snobbery - why do 4 star restaurants refuse to list white zinfandel?

s
stalkingwine Dec 4, 2009 08:46 AM

Last week, I was at a highly rated restaurant in San Francisco. An elderly woman asked the wine steward if they had white zinfandel.

In a snobbish tone, he said no, they don't have it on the list, but there were French and German whites that he could suggest. He then brought her tastes of a reisling and a chenin blanc, which she refused, and then ordered a mixed drink. Then she said to her husband quietly: "I just want a smooth, simple, fruity glass of wine...that reisling tasted a bit like oil!"

When I got up to go the the restroom later that night, I ran into the wine steward. I asked him about the white zin incident, to which he responded: "No doubt, white zin would sell well here, but I would rather be caught dead than to walk through my dining room and seeing Beringer White Zin all over the place. I don't want to work in that kind of restaurant. To which I said:

"So you want to work in a restaurant where there is a possibility that your guests aren't getting what they want because of YOUR preferences?"

He replied: "It's not just my preferences. It's my reputation. The wine industry is really close. Word will get out if I put white zin on my list. That is seen as a negative when I look for my next job."

To that response, I let out a painful laugh. Because I realized that this "Sommelier Snobbery" is the standard. And that there are probably tons of guests at the nicest restaurants around the world who are doing the same thing.

Aren't restaruants in the hospitality industry, after all?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. m
    Maximilien RE: stalkingwine Dec 4, 2009 11:09 AM

    Me think it's not the problem with the restaurant, but with the sommelier... but from what I understand of the wine, it's not that good a wine even compared to similar priced rosé or white wines.

    He could have offered a sweeter Riesling or Gewurztraminer. or a "real" rosé wine.

    But on the other hand, he did the right thing, bring a taste of two available wines for the client to taste, she did not like them, so be it, it happens.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Maximilien
      s
      stalkingwine RE: Maximilien Dec 4, 2009 03:23 PM

      "Good" is so relative. What's a "real" rosé other than a wine that has some minimal skin contact? Is Tavel more real than white zin? If you say yes, you're being a snob too.

      I can't stand white zin, but I also can't stand debating with the legions who love it as to whether or not it's a better wine than something else. In the U.S. there are more of them than there are of me. :-)

      1. re: stalkingwine
        Chinon00 RE: stalkingwine Dec 8, 2009 11:41 AM

        True "good" is a relative term. The funny thing is that of all "wine drinkers" only White Zinfandel drinkers appear to be incapable of enjoying other wines. Some wine drinkers may prefer red over white and many have a favorite varietal or may have gone on a Pinot or Syrah kick. But very few stick with one wine with such tenacity as the White Zinfandel drinker. My conclusion isn't that it's bad or good but that White Zinfandel is categorically different.

        1. re: Chinon00
          Midlife RE: Chinon00 Dec 14, 2009 01:59 PM

          Very good observation, Chinon00. I have it on very good authority that, when wine marketers do focus groups for input, one of the basic premises has to do with people who state White ZInfandel as their preference. Those people are categorized separately because research shows that they are 'one wine' consumers in a way that no other consumers can be categorized.

          I guess my previous thought, that White Zin is good for the wine biz because it is a staring point toward a broader palate, can still stand.............. but it's a good thing that so many millions of cases of White Zin are sold. At least, it would seem, even a small percentage of that huge number expanding their palates is still a significant group. Or is that just rationalizing?

          1. re: Midlife
            kaysyrahsyrah RE: Midlife Dec 15, 2009 07:37 AM

            Chinon and Midlife - are your opinions based on research you've seen, or just from observations while being in the business?

            This stuff is fascinating.

            1. re: kaysyrahsyrah
              Midlife RE: kaysyrahsyrah Dec 15, 2009 10:09 AM

              Mine comes from a close relative who works in marketing for a large CA winery. I was fascinated to hear the White Zin thing just a few weeks ago.

              1. re: kaysyrahsyrah
                Chinon00 RE: kaysyrahsyrah Dec 15, 2009 10:16 AM

                Mine is from personal observations and from reading books and journals related to wine and beer.

                Thanks,

      2. j
        jaykayen RE: stalkingwine Dec 4, 2009 11:17 AM

        He brought her a riesling and a chenin blanc, which seem to me like possibly fine substitutes.

        Would you go into a highly rated restaurant and expect to be able to order a slab of spareribs? Would I walk into a "gastropub" and expect to be able to get a Miller Lite?

        There's nothing snobby at all about not wanting to work in a place that serves WZ.

        15 Replies
        1. re: jaykayen
          s
          stalkingwine RE: jaykayen Dec 4, 2009 03:10 PM

          I don't expect slabs of ribs everywhere, nor do I expect all sommeliers to stock white zin. But I do expect restaurants to know their customer, and give them what they want.

          French Laundry serves white zinfandel. It's just not on the list...you have to ask...

          1. re: stalkingwine
            Midlife RE: stalkingwine Dec 5, 2009 12:58 PM

            Wow! I know French Laundry is all about the customer, but that's really something. Not that it would totally surprise me, but are you sure?

            Lots of people started their wine odyssey with White Zin or, if you're older, Mateus Rose. Nothing wrong with it, but IS kindof like ordering a Ballpark Frank at Le Bernardin. I think the issue is that restaurants can't, and shouldn't be all things to all people.

            1. re: Midlife
              Bill Hunt RE: Midlife Dec 6, 2009 05:34 PM

              Midlife,

              Once again, you are going back to my "era." For me, it was Mateus and Lancers (both of their offerings), and this was before Sutter Home coined White Zin! Yes, the road must begin somewhere.

              I do agree that the choices are up to the sommelier, with tastings and strong considerations for the fare.

              With so very many wines to choose from, there has to be a limit someplace. Could a White Zin be placed into the cellar? Probably, but at the expense of deleting another wine. Space is finite in a restaurant's wine cellar - just as it is in mine. Include another wine, and I have to make room, at the expense of another.

              I still wonder what was wrong with the Chenin, other than the patron wanted a White Zin, which was not available.

              As you say, every restaurant cannot be everything to everyone - it'll never happen.

              Hunt

              1. re: Bill Hunt
                PolarBear RE: Bill Hunt Dec 6, 2009 05:36 PM

                And don't forget Liebfraumilch!

                1. re: PolarBear
                  mariacarmen RE: PolarBear Mar 1, 2011 10:42 PM

                  i know this is an old thread/post - but Liebfraumilch was my gateway wine!

                2. re: Bill Hunt
                  o
                  orlwine RE: Bill Hunt Dec 7, 2009 07:05 PM

                  On a similar note, when I used to bartend in a trendy restaurant/bar I'd often have guests who asked for "Brand X" Vodka, and would admonish us and the management for not carrying this obviously-superior spirit... Nevermind the 30 other vodkas on the backbar... no restaurant can be all things to all people. If you want white zin, go to Olive Garden.

                  1. re: orlwine
                    Bill Hunt RE: orlwine Dec 10, 2009 05:49 PM

                    Well said. No restaurant can be all things to all possible patrons - translated: cannot have all possible wines. I've been handed leather-bound wine lists of 500+ pages, and have found that MY personal choice to pair with a certain dish was not represented. Still, I found others that worked, regardless of my predisposition.

                    One must go with the "flow."

                    Hunt

                  2. re: Bill Hunt
                    Akitist RE: Bill Hunt Dec 10, 2009 09:37 AM

                    Bringing back the old days. Don't forget Blue Nun.

                    1. re: Akitist
                      Bill Hunt RE: Akitist Dec 10, 2009 05:52 PM

                      Yes, that was a popular one, though early on, I was exposed to some other GR wines, and was never a fan - still, they sold millions of gallons, and might still do so.

                      Years ago, I posted my "wine chronology" on alt.food.wine. I charted my personal ups, and downs, over the decades, with annotations on my "progression." Maybe some of us need to "come clean," and start a thread on "How I Became Interested in Wines."

                      Hunt

                      1. re: Bill Hunt
                        ChefJune RE: Bill Hunt Mar 3, 2010 12:43 PM

                        Hunt, I think almost every American of "our" era started with those wines... and likely "progressed" to Almaden Mountain "Chablis!"

                        1. re: ChefJune
                          Bill Hunt RE: ChefJune May 3, 2010 09:00 PM

                          Or beyond, as is my case. Actually, I came into things a bit earlier, but managed to survive the various Lancers and Mateus iterations. White Zin actually missed me by a bit, but that is because I am old.

                          Hunt

                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                            sunshine842 RE: Bill Hunt Feb 8, 2011 10:31 PM

                            ROFL...you guys have just charted my wine-drinking life. I hadn't thought about Blue Nun or Almaden Mountain Chablis in YEARS....but she and Sutter Home and the Bartles & James boys (I know...shudder) started me down the path to where I am now...so it's all good.

                            I absolutely love my Provencale roses, and drink them almost exclusively when it's dinner-in-the-garden weather, but I probably wouldn't expect to order them at a 4-star restaurant...and a truly 4-star is probably making the better choice to not have WZ on their list.

                            (and yes, Tavels are different than Sutter Home. Vastly so.)

                            1. re: Bill Hunt
                              l
                              Leper RE: Bill Hunt Mar 1, 2011 12:00 PM

                              Bill, I suggest picking up a bottle of Mateus and revisiting your past. One sip and you will be amazed what weird memories come back...

                              1. re: Leper
                                Bill Hunt RE: Leper Mar 1, 2011 06:08 PM

                                I don't know that I am ready. Maybe some memories should stay that way - just memories? [Grin]

                                At least you survived to tell the tale.

                                Thanks,

                                Hunt

                3. re: jaykayen
                  k
                  kewpie RE: jaykayen Dec 15, 2009 12:58 PM

                  very well said,thank you jaykayen

                4. oolah RE: stalkingwine Dec 4, 2009 06:50 PM

                  I don't know -- why do 4-star restaurants refuse to serve frito pie?

                  Just because a restaurant is in the hospitality industry doesn't mean they need to cater to every whim of every person that might walk through the door. If every restaurant just served what the average person wanted to eat and drink, we'd have nothing but Chili's.

                  Besides, if the restaurant is so highly rated, then I'd venture to say that the owners do know quite a bit about their market.

                  37 Replies
                  1. re: oolah
                    w
                    whiner RE: oolah Dec 6, 2009 02:24 AM

                    I was going to say something similar. I don't expect Gary Danko to put fried chicken on the menu just because a few customers might prefer it.

                    This restaurant has a finite amount of space in their cellar. If they put a white Zin on the wine list, they would have to take off a vintage BdB, say.

                    Some Italian restaurants use a 100% Italian list. Would they sell CA Cabs if they were on the list? Sure. But lists reflect the restaurant.

                    1. re: oolah
                      Bill Hunt RE: oolah Dec 6, 2009 05:36 PM

                      One thing that I wonder is, what is a "Four Star Restaurant?" Whose "stars" are these, anyway? They cannot be Michelin's, even though they now award them to US restaurants, as well as those in Europe. Still, they top out with 3, and not 4.

                      Just which restaurant are we talking about here?

                      Hunt

                      1. re: Bill Hunt
                        PolarBear RE: Bill Hunt Dec 6, 2009 05:40 PM

                        The number of celebrities that have visited, perhaps?

                        1. re: Bill Hunt
                          alanbarnes RE: Bill Hunt Dec 14, 2009 04:32 PM

                          Presumably Mobil Guide stars. So in SF we're talking about Aqua, Campton Place, Fleur de Lys, Gary Danko, La Folie, Masa's, Michael Mina, Silks, and Spruce.

                          1. re: alanbarnes
                            Bill Hunt RE: alanbarnes Dec 14, 2009 05:24 PM

                            Alan,

                            Thank you for that clarification. I some times get confused by the various ratings, especially the other ones, that use stars. Guess that I am just too Euro-centric.

                            Appreciated,

                            Hunt

                            1. re: Bill Hunt
                              c
                              Cary RE: Bill Hunt Dec 15, 2009 10:38 AM

                              I and I think most of the public don't think of the Mobile Guide for star ratings for restaurants.

                              "Four star restaurant" is a general term. In NYC, the NY Times gives a 4 (perfect) star rating to very very few restaurants. The SF Chronicle does the same.

                              Mobil goes to five stars, which the staff members at Gary Danko proclaim by wearing (forced) a pin on their lapels.

                              1. re: Cary
                                alanbarnes RE: Cary Dec 15, 2009 11:18 AM

                                The only Mobil 5-star in SF is The Dining Room a the Ritz Carlton. Gary Danko gets 4 stars.

                                1. re: alanbarnes
                                  c
                                  Cary RE: alanbarnes Dec 15, 2009 03:58 PM

                                  You're right of course. I haven't been to Gary Danko since 2006, which was when they did have a Mobil 5 star rating.

                                  1. re: Cary
                                    alanbarnes RE: Cary Dec 15, 2009 04:08 PM

                                    Makes you wonder if they issued new lapel pins, or just quietly did away with the old ones...

                                    1. re: alanbarnes
                                      sunshine842 RE: alanbarnes Feb 8, 2011 10:35 PM

                                      ...some guy in the back room with a Dremel tool....

                                  2. re: alanbarnes
                                    Bill Hunt RE: alanbarnes Jan 1, 2010 07:37 PM

                                    FWIW, Restaurant Gary Danko beat the Dining Room with us, and by a decent degree. I guess it all depends on who is dong the review?

                                    Hunt

                                    1. re: Bill Hunt
                                      alanbarnes RE: Bill Hunt Jan 1, 2010 08:04 PM

                                      Very much so. Mobil ranks Spruce higher than Incanto or Acquerello. The former I can understand - appetizers like "Pig's ears and apples" are not designed to appeal to the masses. But the latter? Unfathomable, when the comparison is to someplace where a major draw is the dubious claim of having the best burger in town.

                                      1. re: alanbarnes
                                        Bill Hunt RE: alanbarnes Jan 3, 2010 05:50 PM

                                        Alan,

                                        I agree. When one relies on a review, they should be able to discern the tastes of the reviewer, or the full criteria of the review. Over time, I feel that I could rely pretty heavily on your review of a particular restaurant. It still might not be "my thing," but it would be unlikely that I would be surprised. We might disagree on some "fine points," but I doubt that we'd do so on the big ones.

                                        Hunt

                                        Hunt

                                        1. re: Bill Hunt
                                          alanbarnes RE: Bill Hunt Jan 3, 2010 06:12 PM

                                          To tie in to another thread that's going on, that's the difference between a discussion, a review, and a star rating. A bunch of well-informed people sussing out the pluses and minuses of a place (be it The French Laundry or the taco truck down the street) is what Chowhound is all about. IMO a discussion format gives the most complete possible picture of a place.

                                          A review is less informative, since it's only one person's opinion, but especially if you know the person's tastes, it's a good place to start. If I rave about the spaghettini with shaved tuna heart and the hay-braised rabbit at Incanto, you can decide for yourself whether it sounds like your glass of Barolo.

                                          But when a committee decides that a restaurant gets three stars (or worse yet, when a bunch of users' star ratings are averaged), the result is fairly meaningless.

                                          1. re: alanbarnes
                                            Bill Hunt RE: alanbarnes Jan 4, 2010 05:09 PM

                                            Alan,

                                            Good points, as usual.

                                            Thanks for sharing,

                                            Hunt

                                  3. re: Cary
                                    Bill Hunt RE: Cary Jan 1, 2010 07:35 PM

                                    Thank you for the clarification. I must just think in different "stars."

                                    Obviously, my frame of reference is flawed, or limited, at best.

                                    Appreciated,

                                    Hunt

                              2. re: Bill Hunt
                                HamburgerToday RE: Bill Hunt Jan 1, 2010 07:41 AM

                                there are two rating systems that seem to prevail in the US - AAA and Mobile (AAA using the diamond rating). official "star rating" comes from Mobile. Both AAA and Mobile have very strict and tight guidelines that tend to be objective so look for the plaques that are given to each restaurant in order to determine the validity of "stars" and "diamonds". there is some confusion as many Newspapers will rate restaurants with "stars" - the problem is that the restaurant reviews tend to be very subjective. But you have to imagine that if a restaurant were to get a 4 or 5 star review from a newspaper that it would make sense to latch on to that rating in order to position themselves better in the market.

                                Some other (less popular) ratings include DiRona, and James Beard which can both be somewhat political. Zagat is a user rated guide and is subjective on a much larger scale - Zagat can be grossly skewed in cities with smaller populations where a restaurant owner and the family can vote for their favorites.

                                Michelin does now rate in the US and while I am not familiar with how a US restaurant can get a Michelin rating it does happen rarely in the US. Michelin is known to have the most difficult rating system in the world.

                                As far as White Zinfandel in a 4 star restaurant - it is perfectly acceptable to have on a wine list - there is an entirely different rating system for wines of the most famous is Wine Spectator. according to Wine Specators Grand Award requirements:
                                "These restaurants typically offer 1,500 selections or more, and feature serious breadth of top producers, outstanding depth in mature vintages, large-format bottles, and superior organization, presentation and wine service." I have ran several kitchens with this distinguished award and all of them have offered white zinfandel on the list. Although White Zin is not a fav of sommelier's many take the world of wine seriously enough to understand the significance of the "varietal" (for lack of a better term). Note that a White Zin is just a Zinfindal that is produced without Grape Skin. A good sommelier will know about some amazing White Zin's that are complex and provide depth, intrigue, and compliments to great food.

                                If a Sommelier scoffs at the validity of one of the most popular wines (at one point several years ago) then he is on the road to not getting any good jobs down the road and is probably a self-proclaimed sommelier who doesn't truly respect the world of wine. And yes, there is an official designation and training program for Sommelier's as well.

                                hope this helps...

                                1. re: HamburgerToday
                                  Midlife RE: HamburgerToday Jan 1, 2010 01:27 PM

                                  Seems as if you have a rather 'focused' point of view on these subjects that reflects a narrow perspective. For me, at least, AAA and Mobil are travel guides and their restaurant reviews are not considered to be major indicators of fine quality food experiences (at any price level). They review a small number of restaurants in each city and not always the best ones by any means.

                                  It is pretty well known in the restaurant industry that the Wine Spectator Award is based on a submitted wine list that is reviewed for only breadth and depth, is paid for by the restaurants that qualify, and is not re-visited for re-qualification. No one from the restaurant actually checks to see if the list is real. At least that's what I've read in more than a few accounts. I have no personal problem with any list including White Zin or not............... but I really think that any serious somm would have difficulty recommending it as a pairing in any better restaurant unless it was simply what the guest likes to drink. That's perfectly fine. It's just not what a somm is there for.

                                  "A good sommelier will know about some amazing White Zin's that are complex and provide depth, intrigue, and compliments to great food." - Please name one. There used to be a number of 'better' White Zins produced but the mass volume and low price of Sutter Home and Beringer have pretty much driven others out of it. For whatever reason................ the White Zin drinker is now categorized, by the wine industry, as being in something of a separate category these days - pretty much die-hard loyal and much less likely to broaden their tastes to other wines. The most common reasoning is that they drink White Zin because they like a sweet taste with alcohol in it. Most wine varieties are too strong or dry or tannic for that palate.

                                  Just my $.02 of course.

                                  1. re: Midlife
                                    invinotheresverde RE: Midlife Jan 1, 2010 05:12 PM

                                    I've never heard of a good white zin, let alone an amazing one.

                                    1. re: invinotheresverde
                                      Midlife RE: invinotheresverde Jan 1, 2010 10:23 PM

                                      From memory and some Googling it appears that Ridge made dry White Zin in the 80's, for one. I found that in a piece where someone interviewed someone who worked there at the time. I erroneously recalled having one, back in the 70's from Robert Pecota, but recently had occasion to speak with Mr. Pecota about it and he said it was a Riesling. But he added that there WERE a few 'better' wineries who tried them before Trinchero exploded with Sutter Home.

                                      1. re: Midlife
                                        invinotheresverde RE: Midlife Jan 2, 2010 08:34 AM

                                        I was only a few years old in the 80s, ergo no Ridge for me.

                                        1. re: Midlife
                                          Bill Hunt RE: Midlife Jan 3, 2010 06:06 PM

                                          Wow, I thought that I had followed Paul Draper pretty closely, lived in the '80s, and do not recall these.

                                          Also, Trinchero is the family name running Sutter Home (origin of White Zinfandel), since 1948, and are credited with the "creation," of what we know as White Zin. However great a move that was, it has taken some decades for others to explore variations on Blush Wnes, more closely aligned with, say a Tavel, than a White Zin

                                          Hunt.

                                          OTOH, White Zin did allow both wineries to stay in business and allow wine sales in the US to expand, plus they allowed many old vines to stay, when the bankers and investment folk were saying to rip 'em out, and plant something else - French Columbard in those days?

                                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                                            z
                                            zin1953 RE: Bill Hunt Feb 1, 2010 07:18 AM

                                            Ridge only made White Zin for 2-3 vintages, IIRC, and that was really the only time that the then-new owners (Otsuka Pharmaceuticals) interfered with Ridge's winemaking . . .

                                            As far as "great" White Zins are concerned, Wiliiam Wheeler and Robert Pecota both made fine examples of White Zin in the 1980s. (Ridge's were never all that good, IMHO.) And Pedroncelli had, for years, a great Zin Rosé. But I haven't had what I would consider to be a "great" White Zin in 20-25 years . . . .

                                            The good news is that rosés are definitely improving.

                                            Cheers,
                                            Jason

                                            1. re: zin1953
                                              Midlife RE: zin1953 Feb 1, 2010 12:09 PM

                                              Jason,

                                              Haven't seen you here much lately................ good to have you around.

                                              As I mentioned a few posts above, I was positive that Pecota had done White Zin back then, so I actually called him a few weeks ago. Just as he did back when I called him (in the 80's) to find out where I could buy what I had experienced at the old Blue Boar in San Francisco, he answered the phone himself. He said it was a Riesling he'd made then. I'd think he'd be the ultimate authority, but I sure thought it was Zin too.

                                              1. re: Midlife
                                                z
                                                zin1953 RE: Midlife Feb 5, 2010 06:26 AM

                                                Pecota certainly did a varietal blush wine of some sort, but I don't remember if it was specifically a White Zin . . . I'll see if I can find out what it was.

                                              2. re: zin1953
                                                Bill Hunt RE: zin1953 Feb 2, 2010 05:34 PM

                                                Interesting. Was Paul Draper at the winemaking helm at that point?

                                                I've never had any of those, but have had some recent Rosés of Zinfandel, that were nice wines, and more than a half-dozen steps above what I see as "White Zin."

                                                Personally, I like more of the domestic Rosés of Grenache, or even Syrah, to many examples of the same with Zinfandel.

                                                Thanks for the info,

                                                Hunt

                                                1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                  z
                                                  zin1953 RE: Bill Hunt Feb 5, 2010 06:30 AM

                                                  Bill, as you know, Paul has been "at the helm" since Dave Bennion. But he's had winemakers working "under" him. So Paul was "in charge" at the time, but I don't know if he was the "hands-on" winemaker of the Whtie Zin. Certainly the notes on the side of the bottle were signed "PD."

                                                  1. re: zin1953
                                                    Bill Hunt RE: zin1953 Mar 2, 2010 06:37 PM

                                                    Thanks for the clarification. I did not have all of the historical info in front of me, until now.

                                                    Appreciated,

                                                    Hunt

                                            2. re: Midlife
                                              d
                                              dinwiddie RE: Midlife May 3, 2010 06:15 AM

                                              Many wineries made white zins in the early 80s because there was not a huge market for Zinfandel like there is now. Old Zin vineyards were being torn out and replaced with housing because the land was just too valuable. When White Zin came along, it was a godsend to the wine business because it enabled many of those vineyards to stay viable. Remember that the market for higher priced, well made, small production single vineyard Zinfandels had not taken off yet.

                                              That said, as many noted earlier White Zin was the "starter wine" for many people. There were articles on how to tell a "good" white zin from an "ordinary" one (the pinker the better, the oranger the more ordinary.) It was a marketing gimick to enable CA wineries to compete with Lancers , Matuse, etc. Of course in those days, Lancers was a "classy" wine compared to things like Boone's Farm etc.

                                              1. re: dinwiddie
                                                Bill Hunt RE: dinwiddie May 3, 2010 09:10 PM

                                                As mentioned elsewhere in this thread, I rather missed the White Zin craze, but do agree that it saved many vines. Some of those turned out to be golden, decades later, so I have to pay homage to the forces behind that. Due to my advanced age, I was in the Lancers group, and recall those days with some fondness. By the time that White Zin had become popular, I had moved on, and soon discovered "red" Zins. I have never looked back!

                                                Still, I owe a lot to the White Zin fans and producers, as many did benefit from that marketing ploy, and in great ways.

                                                Some years ago, I had the pleasure to dine with Michael DeLoch, and he recounted his father (Cecil?) buying some properties, when he retired from the SF fire department. His father was planning on planting some other varietals, but with two vineyards, the owners asked that the ancient Zin vines be spared. Mr. DeLoch, the senior, gave a handshake on that part of the deal, and worried about what he had done, seeing as how other varietals were selling and the bankers were at his throat to plant Merlot. He resisted, and apologized to the family about those two handshake deals. He kept those ancient vines, not knowing what the heck to do with them. He decided to make a Zinfandel wine instead, and soon was selling more of those wines, than most of his "more popular" varietals. Glad that he was a man of his word, though he struggled (and the family struggled later too), with that decision. Great, old vines were saved, and could not be replaced in my lifetime. Many similar stories, at least the end result.

                                                Hunt

                                                1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                  d
                                                  dinwiddie RE: Bill Hunt May 4, 2010 06:19 AM

                                                  I remember years ago holding up a bottle of DeLoch White Zin next to a bottle of Beringer. The difference was night and day. The Beringer was orangish and very pale while the DeLoch was a deep pink and looked like a classic Rose. I have to admit, I bought the DeLoch and probably enjoyed it, but that was a very, very long time ago.

                                                  1. re: dinwiddie
                                                    Chinon00 RE: dinwiddie May 4, 2010 07:18 AM

                                                    I recall DeLoach as being pleasant as well for the simple fact that unlike all the other White Zins I'd had it tasted much more serious.

                                                    1. re: dinwiddie
                                                      Bill Hunt RE: dinwiddie May 4, 2010 07:42 PM

                                                      Though I have had a fair amount of Cecil's wines, I do not recall ever having their White Zin. Considering some of their property, they DID have some good vines.

                                                      Hunt

                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                        d
                                                        dinwiddie RE: Bill Hunt May 6, 2010 05:33 AM

                                                        Actually, the only reason I tried it was I had just read an article on "How to tell a good White Zin" and saw both the DeLoch and Beringer in a store so I held both up to the light side by side. I decided to try the DeLoch and was pleasently surprised. Simple, yes, but pleasent. Not something I'd go out of my way for, even then, but it was definitely a cut above the typical White Zin.

                                                        1. re: dinwiddie
                                                          invinotheresverde RE: dinwiddie May 6, 2010 07:14 AM

                                                          I've seen a few people on this thread mention De Loch. Is that just a misspelling of De Loach or is it a winery I've never heard of.
                                                          Thanks in advance for the clarification.

                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                            Bill Hunt RE: invinotheresverde May 6, 2010 07:04 PM

                                                            I would anticipate so. Cecil and his son, Michael, were in the business, from shortly after Cecil retired from the SF Fire Department (SF?) and moved up state a bit.

                                                            Never had their White Zin, but did have plenty of their regular Zins, and sought out the single vineyard offerings, after I heard the story of their acquisition - very worthwhile offerings!

                                                            Hunt

                                                            1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                              z
                                                              zin1953 RE: invinotheresverde May 6, 2010 07:59 PM

                                                              It is INDEED De Loach.

                                      2. b
                                        Brad Ballinger RE: stalkingwine Dec 6, 2009 10:45 AM

                                        No problem with what the restaurant or sommelier did here. The restaurant's food, wine, ambience, price, etc, are all targeting a specific market or customer profile. That is their choice. Our choice as consumers is to decide whether or not a particular place is for us.

                                        The sommelier acted professionally trying to find a substitute. And gave a plausible reason for not carrying white zin.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Brad Ballinger
                                          t
                                          tastyvegas RE: Brad Ballinger Dec 8, 2009 10:33 AM

                                          IAWTC

                                        2. Bill Hunt RE: stalkingwine Dec 6, 2009 05:27 PM

                                          When preparing a wine list, there are many considerations to be made. Some involve the chef's fare, and also a weighing of the clientele. There are tons of wines, that would fill the bill, where the typical US White Zin would reside. It's up to the sommelier to pick and choose.

                                          Now, most "starred" restaurants, with "serious wine lists," do offer at least one White Zin, or really similar.

                                          I think that the sommelier might have picked some other wines, though the Chenin would have been one of my choices. Many Rieslings DO have a hint of "petrol" in their flavor profile, and this is off-putting to many. Still, an off-dry Chenin should have filled the bill. What did the patron think of that one?

                                          Were I the sommelier, I would have at least one White Zin, "just in case."

                                          Now, I more often see the opposite - concentration on wines like White Zin. We did a "wine cruise," that was billed as a wine country mega-tour. The cruise line did Alaskan cruises during the Summer, and did these in the Autumn. Their wine list had 5 different White Zins, but topped out at about Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve. By the second day, we learned to buy our own wines for dinner with the various chefs and winemakers, and had great fun. My feeling was that they should have off-loaded 4 of the 5 White Zins, and kicked the list up about 6 notches.

                                          There are many things to consider, in a restaurant's wine list.

                                          Hunt

                                          1. Bill Hunt RE: stalkingwine Dec 6, 2009 07:11 PM

                                            So as to not offend the Chowhound Team, let me change my opinion: White Zinfand MUST be on every restaurant's wine list - regardless of the target market.

                                            Hunt

                                            17 Replies
                                            1. re: Bill Hunt
                                              r
                                              RicRios RE: Bill Hunt Dec 7, 2009 06:47 AM

                                              ?

                                              1. re: RicRios
                                                Bill Hunt RE: RicRios Dec 10, 2009 05:56 PM

                                                RicRios,

                                                At least one of my comments in this thread was removed. It took a bit of time, to discover why my post was deleted - it was because I had addressed several points that another poster had made, on why all restaurants must have White Zinfandel on their wine list. Because my reply to quoted lines from that post, that was removed first, that my reply was then removed. From the first couple of correspondences, it appeared that the team did not want a dissenting view, against White Zinfandel. I had misunderstood the reason for my post being removed, but am cool with it now.

                                                Sorry for the confusion. I was just trying to get back into the good graces of the team, and assumed that they supported White Zin, and felt as the earlier poster did. That was incorrect, and was due to my personal misunderstanding of all of the circumstances.

                                                Hunt

                                                1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                  c
                                                  ccconner1 RE: Bill Hunt Feb 8, 2011 08:50 PM

                                                  I am new to the ChowHound, and I rather felt, just stepping out as the "alienation" was thick when I mentioned "White Zin".

                                                  1. re: ccconner1
                                                    Midlife RE: ccconner1 Feb 8, 2011 10:52 PM

                                                    If you like it, drink it and enjoy it!! I;ve been hassled for sticking up for California wine against "Old World" wine. And I'm talking about very exclusive, rather expensive, California wine. Just be aware that there are people who don't consider White Zinfandel to be real wine.................... don't let them spoil your enjoyment.

                                                    1. re: ccconner1
                                                      Akitist RE: ccconner1 Feb 9, 2011 08:25 AM

                                                      The original post was about the disdain expressed by a sommelier at a high end restaurant and how that related to customer service. The lack of love for white Zin that popped up is sort of off topic.

                                                      There's a big ol' world of wine beyond white Zin, but perhaps an older lady isn't feeling adventurous in that direction. She shouldn't have been made to feel uncomfortable by the sommelier in question.

                                                2. re: Bill Hunt
                                                  s
                                                  Steve_K RE: Bill Hunt Dec 7, 2009 11:56 AM

                                                  On the contrary, if I were to walk into a fine-dining establishment and found a White Zinfandel ON the list, I would take my custom elsewhere.
                                                  Fair enough to keep some in stock for those people too narrow minded to try anything else, but to offer it as an option to go with the cuisine... that's just not on in my books.

                                                  1. re: Steve_K
                                                    kaysyrahsyrah RE: Steve_K Dec 7, 2009 05:34 PM

                                                    Seriously Steve? Then you'd walk from French Laundry (which serves white zin...not listed).

                                                    What if the customer tried everything else and decided that everything else isn't as good as white zin. These people exist...I guess you don't know any of them.

                                                    Case in point: I know an extremely wealthy individual with an astute palate who only drinks sweet wine. His house wine is a 'premium' white zin, and when he spluges, it's Dolce and Sauternes from BV or one of the big Napa wineries.

                                                    1. re: kaysyrahsyrah
                                                      w
                                                      whiner RE: kaysyrahsyrah Dec 7, 2009 06:02 PM

                                                      >>Case in point: I know an extremely wealthy individual with an astute palate who only drinks sweet wine. His house wine is a 'premium' white zin, and when he spluges, it's Dolce and **Sauternes from BV or one of the big Napa wineries.**<<

                                                      I value restaurants that make an effort to put forth the best list possible given their price and space limitations. Like Steve, finding a white Zin in place of something that most wine drinkers would say is a better wine, I would see, as a draw back.

                                                      Finding a Sauternes from Napa, howerver... that would be a really neat trick.

                                                      1. re: whiner
                                                        r
                                                        RicRios RE: whiner Dec 7, 2009 07:51 PM

                                                        Gatekeepers: please move this thread to the Surreal board.

                                                        (ROFLMAO)

                                                        1. re: whiner
                                                          ibstatguy RE: whiner Dec 8, 2009 11:11 AM

                                                          ;-)

                                                          1. re: ibstatguy
                                                            p
                                                            Pigloader RE: ibstatguy Dec 8, 2009 06:09 PM

                                                            That is seriously the funniest 5 post stretch I've ever read on Chowhound. Bravo whiner.

                                                            I have to side with the "not getting fried chicken at Gary Danko" lobby.

                                                            1. re: Pigloader
                                                              w
                                                              whiner RE: Pigloader Dec 8, 2009 09:57 PM

                                                              Pigloader, I do my best. ;-)

                                                          2. re: whiner
                                                            o
                                                            orlwine RE: whiner Dec 9, 2009 07:19 PM

                                                            I've had several back-vintages of D'Yquem at Brix in Napa... it was quite a nice trick...

                                                            1. re: orlwine
                                                              p
                                                              Pigloader RE: orlwine Dec 11, 2009 02:33 AM

                                                              umm.. maybe i'm misreading you here, but that's not what whiner was saying. check the prepositions: 'from Napa' and 'in Napa' carry markedly different meanings. if you got the joke, then by all means tell me to shut up.

                                                          3. re: kaysyrahsyrah
                                                            s
                                                            Steve_K RE: kaysyrahsyrah Dec 7, 2009 08:28 PM

                                                            What I said was that if there was a white zin on the list I would leave - not that they should not carried one for people who found nothing more suitable to their meal.
                                                            But, and I don't mean to sound snobby here, but if white zinfandel is what you pick on a wine list then perhaps you are not right for the restaurant, rather than the restaurant not being right for you.- given that this topic is about 4 stars (whatever that is?)

                                                            1. re: kaysyrahsyrah
                                                              invinotheresverde RE: kaysyrahsyrah Dec 8, 2009 10:15 AM

                                                              Just my opinion, of course, but I find it hard to believe that anyone with an astute palate only likes sweet wine.

                                                              1. re: kaysyrahsyrah
                                                                Bill Hunt RE: kaysyrahsyrah Dec 10, 2009 05:59 PM

                                                                I'm sorry, but Dolce is NOT White Zin, premium, or otherwise.

                                                                All sweet dessert wines are not related to White Zin. As a matter-of-fact, I know of none that are.

                                                                I think that there is confusion here.

                                                                Hunt

                                                                BTW - I am a fan of many, many dessert wines, and also a big fan of many other "pink wines," though none is a White Zin.

                                                          4. c
                                                            Cary RE: stalkingwine Dec 7, 2009 02:24 PM

                                                            While the sommelier may have had a snobbish response, I'm fine with how the somm handled the customer and the makeup of the wine list.

                                                            Plenty of high end French restaurants have minimal (or no) Italian wines. Plenty of Italian restaurants have minimal (or no) French wines. Undoubtedly the underrepresented country's wine would sell well in the restaurants, but the owner/wine director is well within his/her limits to restrict the wine list for whatever rational reasons.

                                                            1. njfoodies RE: stalkingwine Dec 8, 2009 04:04 AM

                                                              As much as I don't like or drink white zin, there are customers that it is going to appeal to. And I would have to guess that over the course of a year, there are CERTAIN restaurants with certain clientel whoprofit more from selling glasses of white zin than they do First Growth Bordeaux.

                                                              Bottom line is, if you own a restaurant, or you are a sommelier, carry what you want to carry. If white zin suits the needs of your customers and you want to carry it, do so. If not, then don't...and for the record, no we don't keep white zin in our cellar, however, there have been friends that have brought it over. I can't think of an instance where we have ever had company that asked for a glass of white zin, but if they did, I would instead offer then a nice rose... -mJ

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: njfoodies
                                                                Bill Hunt RE: njfoodies Dec 10, 2009 06:12 PM

                                                                The option on how the wine list should be filled in, is the right and also the task of the restauranteur and also the sommelier. If they found that more of their clientele wanted White Zin, then they would consider it, were profit their main motive. However, they might wish to go elsewhere, and that is their choice.

                                                                I know some restauranteurs, who have FR restaurants, and ONLY FR wines - no domestic (US) wines. The same thing goes for New American restaurants, that have zero FR wines, though many would go perfectly well with the fare. It is the choice of the people involved.

                                                                Now, if either fails, they might reconsider in their next ventureThe option on how the wine list should be filled in, is the right and also the task of the restauranteur and also the sommelier. If they found that more of their clientele wanted White Zin, then they would consider it, were profit their main motive. However, they might wish to go elsewhere, and that is their choice.

                                                                I know some restauranteurs, who have FR restaurants, and ONLY FR wines - no domestic (US) wines. The same thing goes for New American restaurants, that have zero FR wines, though many would go perfectly well with the fare. It is the choice of the people involved.

                                                                Now, if either fails, they might reconsider in their next venture.

                                                                Hunt

                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                  kaysyrahsyrah RE: Bill Hunt Dec 10, 2009 09:56 PM

                                                                  Here in San Francisco, a recent trend has been for really great restaurants with "California" or "New American" cuisine to start listing at least 50% European wines. Examples are Nopa, Bar Crudo, Quince, etc.

                                                                  This ruffles the feathers of the folks who yipe about slow food and carbon footprints, but me? I am in heaven.

                                                                  Not many white zins, though. LOL.

                                                                  1. re: kaysyrahsyrah
                                                                    Bill Hunt RE: kaysyrahsyrah Dec 11, 2009 07:32 PM

                                                                    That is not a bad thing, in my book. I want the best pairings possible, and also hope to experience something new - at least to me.

                                                                    Many has been the time that I wish that there had been a great US Zinfandel on a European restaurant's wine list. This is not because I am a jingoist, but because I think that a few would have gone better with the fare of the restaurant, than the wine line up offered. Matter of fact, I often order a full-bodied Zin at a favorite FR restaurant in PHX. It's not because their FR-centric wine list is weak, but because the chef blends SW with classic FR, and a Zin goes well with so many of the treatments.

                                                                    Now, in SF (and the environs), I do appreciate some of the smaller, more local producer's wines, but that is because many do not make it across the border to AZ. However, I most often start with a FR Chard, and might deviate around the globe for my second and third wines.

                                                                    I have no problem with geo-centric wine lists, so long as the selections work, and are not there as a gratuity to what's deemed "hot" that month.

                                                                    Thanks for the locations. We're in SF about 5x per year, and I love to explore wines, especially ones that are new to me, regardless of the point of origin.

                                                                    Hunt

                                                              2. helenahimm RE: stalkingwine Dec 8, 2009 05:23 AM

                                                                Personal opinion (and i'm just learning on wines =) is that the Sommelier's reaction was completely wrong. I remember I took my granmother once to a very fine restaurant in Panama, she used to be very poor so she would always put catsup on her food so it would taste with "more flavour", (so she said), and at this restaurant she ordered a $45 Filet Mignon and asked for catsup, the waiter smiled and told her they didn't carry any "catsup" in the restaurant, but he offered to bring a tomato sauce if that would make her happier.

                                                                I am not saying that i am expecting a condescendant hug or words from Sommelier or waiters, but if a customer asks for something you may find insulting, just say, "No we are sorry, we don't carry this or we don't serve that"...

                                                                Even Alice Waters had that customer once... (Ruth Reichl's mother) and she handled it nice... this Sommelier could have done it as well... (i mean the reaction towards the customer, offering the other 2 options seemed very good customer service at the end).

                                                                1. Bob W RE: stalkingwine Dec 8, 2009 09:32 AM

                                                                  Solution: Four-star restaurants should stock white zins, but price them at $57 per bottle. That way, they'll fit into such restaurants' wine lists, and if someone really wants white zin, they can have it. And the restaurant will make a huge profit on every bottle. Win-win.

                                                                  1. Midlife RE: stalkingwine Dec 8, 2009 12:49 PM

                                                                    Just a heads up to anyone who might be taking Grandma to The French Laundry. I really thought this might be possible (given their extreme service level), so I checked. According to their head sommelier they DO NOT offer White Zin, even on request. They have had Bandol and Sancerre Rosé by-the-glass, and other sweeter wines on their bottle list. He's not there 100% of the time, but he said he didn't recall any requests for it either.

                                                                    I personally think that White Zin is certainly a legitimate wine choice for someone who enjoys it. I also think that it would be out of context for a high-end restaurant (where dinner is $240 a person) to carry a wine that retails for $8, which is about the top end for White Zin. I don't think they serve Bud Light either.

                                                                    17 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Midlife
                                                                      helenahimm RE: Midlife Dec 8, 2009 02:20 PM

                                                                      I can't afford to take Grandma to French Laundry =P not yet at least. lol

                                                                      1. re: Midlife
                                                                        Chinon00 RE: Midlife Dec 8, 2009 03:11 PM

                                                                        You could have made your point without mentioning price. It's the approach of the restaurant and style of cuisine which should dictate a wine list. There are MANY wines under $18 retail that I'd drink with a meal at any higher end restaurant.

                                                                        1. re: Chinon00
                                                                          r
                                                                          RicRios RE: Chinon00 Dec 8, 2009 03:19 PM

                                                                          Like: chinon.

                                                                          1. re: Chinon00
                                                                            Midlife RE: Chinon00 Dec 8, 2009 06:12 PM

                                                                            I don't disagree, but it seems to make the discussion clearer with a price rather than a subjective conclusion as to the quality of a wine by varietal only. BTW, why is $18 any more of a dividing line than $8? If you could say the same thing about wines under $8 (my number) I'd really appreciate a list of them................... seriously. I drink several wines that are under $8, but I don't know that I'd want to pair them with food at a 'higher end' place.

                                                                            1. re: Midlife
                                                                              Chinon00 RE: Midlife Dec 8, 2009 07:54 PM

                                                                              Go here for wines under $18 that I'd drink anywhere: http://www.wineaccess.com/store/moore...

                                                                              I choose $18 vs. $8 because there is little wine available at and below $8 in general while (in my judgment) $18 is still a reasonable price but provides many more options.

                                                                              Thanks

                                                                              1. re: Chinon00
                                                                                Midlife RE: Chinon00 Dec 8, 2009 10:27 PM

                                                                                I'm trying to decide whether your comment that 'I could have made the point without mentioning price' is a criticism or not. The sommelier didn't take a position on whether White Zin is 'beneath' The French Laundry, but a check of their current wine lists shows the lowest priced bottle to be $45, which translates to about your $18. So I think it's pretty clear (and you seem to agree) that $8 doesn't buy you much in the way of quality winem especially when you're pairing it with food of their quality.

                                                                                I'm not sure where you've gitten your perspective on the US wine market, but regarding the "little available at and below $8"............... Actually the AVERAGE price of a bottle of wine sold in the US is <$6, which means far more than half of it is less than $8.

                                                                                BTW.......... I totally agree that $18 provides many more options.

                                                                                1. re: Midlife
                                                                                  r
                                                                                  rickym13 RE: Midlife Dec 8, 2009 11:17 PM

                                                                                  what is....'premium' white zin ?

                                                                                  1. re: rickym13
                                                                                    Midlife RE: rickym13 Dec 9, 2009 01:05 PM

                                                                                    "what is....'premium' white zin ?"
                                                                                    Your question is posted as a reply to me, but a quick 'find' on this topic shows the quote was posted by kaysyrahsyrah farther up-topic.

                                                                                    I'm not sure there IS a 'premium' white zin these days, unless Beringer when it's $7.99 is the premium. One of our local stores carries one called Double Dog Dare for $1.97 too. But see my post below about what I think is at the heart of this.

                                                                                    1. re: rickym13
                                                                                      Bill Hunt RE: rickym13 Dec 10, 2009 06:25 PM

                                                                                      "premium' white zin ?"

                                                                                      Well, upthread, this was typified as Far Niente's Dolce and Sauternes, which it obviously is not.

                                                                                      I know of no wine that would be considered as "premium White Zinfandel." Still some seem to feel that such a thing exists. I just doubt that either Midlife, or I, would offer that term.

                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                        kaysyrahsyrah RE: Bill Hunt Dec 10, 2009 09:29 PM

                                                                                        Regarding 'premium' white zin --it should NOT be confused with premium dessert wines like Far Niente's Dolce, Sauternes, eiswein, etc.

                                                                                        I just talked to my friend who worked at Beringer a decade ago, and was part of a team that created a 'premium' white zin -- to give white zin drinkers something they could upgrade to (read: start spending $10+). Sadly, the folks who made the final winemaking decisions did not understand the white zin customer. So imagine this concoction: a blend of drier whites but still sweet, with the majority being chardonnay, oaked, pink in color.

                                                                                        There have been other companies who messed around with packaging and different grapes with the intent to create a 'premium white zin' to get existing white zin customers to spend more. But so far, none sell better than the old standard.

                                                                                        1. re: kaysyrahsyrah
                                                                                          Midlife RE: kaysyrahsyrah Dec 10, 2009 10:23 PM

                                                                                          Interesting about the $10+ Beringer. While posting in this topic I kept recalling having paid something like $13 or so for a Beringer White ZIn at some point because it was much 'better' than the Sutter Home. [My Father-in-law drank only White Zin and he found it not sweet enough.] This would have been maybe 10-15 years ago? All I could find now, from Beringer, was at the same lower price point as Sutter Home.

                                                                                          1. re: kaysyrahsyrah
                                                                                            Bill Hunt RE: kaysyrahsyrah Dec 11, 2009 07:38 PM

                                                                                            To me, much of these efforts are too much marketing, and too little winemaking, but that is from a consumer's standpoint.

                                                                                            I love some of the domestic (US) Rosés, though few would be mistaken for White Zins. I applaud their efforts, and appreciate many, regardless of the varietals used.

                                                                                            BTW - going back some years, Beringer did a wonderful dessert wine, the Nightingale, that was excellent. It was named for a previous winemaker, Myron Nightingale, who did similar, in tiny lots. They have resurrected the name, but I've yet to be wowed by the recent efforts.

                                                                                            Still, there was (and is not now) any parallel to White Zinfandel in the Nightingale dessert wine.

                                                                                            Just some thoughts,

                                                                                            Hunt

                                                                                      2. re: Midlife
                                                                                        Chinon00 RE: Midlife Dec 9, 2009 02:21 AM

                                                                                        My point is by mentioning price as a deciding factor an $18 retail White Zinfanfel (versus $8) I guess could be justified by you then on a high end wine list. And I'm saying that regardless of price White Zinfandel could be justified not to belong due of the flavor qualities it brings versus other wines.
                                                                                        In regard to the average bottle of wine being $6 I never go to any wine store looking to spend more than I have to and generally I only see one or two wines that are $5.99 or less.

                                                                                        Thanks

                                                                                        1. re: Chinon00
                                                                                          Midlife RE: Chinon00 Dec 9, 2009 01:34 PM

                                                                                          I really do understand. The price thing was not a well thought out statement. The French Laundry's current wine list tops out at $12,300 for Screaming Eagle, but begins at $45. That translates to a retail shelf price of something like $15 to $18. While you and I seem to agree that $15-$18 provides a much better chance of a quality selection, I would have to think that even French Laundry would go down to $8 if they thought the wine would provide a decent experience for their guests.

                                                                                          So............ YES. I agree that White Zin (at any price) just isn't of the quality that would complement a meal at French Laundry (and, by extension) most higher -end restaurants. Still, a restaurant with a bar or lounge might offer it as a before dinner quaffer?? French Laundry doesn't have a bar or lounge.

                                                                                          As to the <$6 point......... the majority of wines sold in the US are sold at supermarkets and big box stores, not at wine stores. Having owned a wine store I can tell you that you have to sell a whole lot of $6 bottles to pay the rent so, if you have the clientele and the selling ability, you don't go that low unless you really have to to keep the lights on.

                                                                                          1. re: Midlife
                                                                                            Bill Hunt RE: Midlife Dec 10, 2009 06:31 PM

                                                                                            There is also another consideration, and if mentioned, I feel that it might have been lost. A good sommelier is charged with putting together a list of wines that compliment the chef's offerings.

                                                                                            Recently, we were dining at "fine-dining" establishment. One guest, who had just fallen in love with NZ Sauvignon Blancs asked why there were none on the list. The sommelier told her that he had yet to find one, that really went well with the fare from the kitchen. While he admitted to loving some, he had just not encountered any that worked well with the food, while he had several white Bdx, and also a few domestic (US) offerings. It was all about what went well with the food, and NZ SB was just not on his list. Worked for me.

                                                                                            Hunt

                                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                              s
                                                                                              Steve_K RE: Bill Hunt Dec 11, 2009 06:45 PM

                                                                                              I could not agree more with this post Bill.
                                                                                              The kitchen and cellar of a restaurant should not be separate entities, but exist together as one harmonious collaboration. I am always keen to try every new dish that comes out of the kitchen, to try and come up with suitable pairings from the wine list, or to source a new wine which is up to the job.
                                                                                              On the other hand, our head chef has often asked about combinations for tasting menus, or indeed for 'part' of the desert to come from the bar... be that a glass of sweet wine included in the price, or a miniature cocktail created to interlace with the pudding.

                                                                                              I do feel, however, that whatever NZ Sauvignon Blanc might pair with, there is always a better match.

                                                                                              1. re: Steve_K
                                                                                                Bill Hunt RE: Steve_K Dec 11, 2009 07:46 PM

                                                                                                Some years ago, I did a review of Chef John Besh's Restaurant August in New Orleans, LA, USA. We did the chef's tasting menu (15-course IIRC) and the sommelier's pairing. Nothing from the cellar matched with any dish. I kept most of my wines, and it was like the sommelier was two courses off. Had there been a White Zin on that list, I'd have tried it. If it had paired with the dish, it would have been a victory for the sommelier.

                                                                                                For me, wines are part of the dishes that I am consuming. They should work well together. If they do not - I complain.

                                                                                                Hunt

                                                                              2. Azizeh RE: stalkingwine Dec 8, 2009 11:34 PM

                                                                                White Zin is the Mountain Dew of the wine world. I've never had a glass of it, but I know the reputation is that a sophisticated restaurant wouldn't have it on the list. Apparently, "classy" people don't order White Zin.

                                                                                Drink what you want, I say. All the people who try to order White Zin from me will wind up with a glass of Riesling or a dessert wine. That's the closest I can offer. Is that better? It's not like someone who loves White Zin will instantly turn into a Cabernet lover once we tell them no.

                                                                                1. Midlife RE: stalkingwine Dec 9, 2009 01:49 PM

                                                                                  I got to thinking that the disparaging of White ZInfandel described by the OP has sometimes been based on opinions that it is not really a legitimate wine variety, so I did some research.

                                                                                  In Jancis Robinson's Oxford Companion to Wine, she refers to White Zin in terms that, while they admit it's sweetness, do not suggest it is anything other than a blush wine made from Zinfandel grapes. Marion Baldy's University Wine Course (an often used text) mentions is as the leading white California varietal of the 1990s. Even Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World Complete Wine Course lists it, without other comment, as an answer to the question of whether you can make white wine from red grapes. This kindof surprised me, as I had thought there might be references to the manipulation the wine is often accused of.

                                                                                  So................. while I'm sure there are many arrogant sommeliers out there, I would not automatically condemn them for omitting White Zin from their lists due to arrogance alone. I'm sure some of the negative has to do with the mass market of the varietal fighting the desire of the restaurant for a level of exclusivity. And then there's the simpler issue of a low quality, very sweet wine just not pairing well with their food.

                                                                                  Like so many other things in life..................... if you disagree, act accordingly.

                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Midlife
                                                                                    Bill Hunt RE: Midlife Dec 10, 2009 06:38 PM

                                                                                    Actually, I love White Zinfandel. Had it not been for this "experiment" by Sutter Home, many wonderful ancient Zin vines might well have been lost forever. Looking at those vines, I do not see them "blush" [pun squarely intended], knowing that some of their berries might have gone into a White Zin. I benefit from having access to many of those vines.

                                                                                    Now, I more often see the backlash to White Zin, when many eschew all "pink wines," assuming that their palate has progressed well beyond White Zin - man are they missing some great "pink wines." Even amongst some "high falutin" wine folk, pink is still deemed bad, cheap, not worth the effort to taste. I often feature Rosés, just to introduce others to their joys.

                                                                                    Hunt

                                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                      r
                                                                                      rickym13 RE: Bill Hunt Dec 10, 2009 07:20 PM

                                                                                      i agree...tons of great rose`(pink wines) out there such as sqn, kosta browne, linne calodo, etude etc....and tons of rose` champange such as krug, dom, laurent etc....none of them are white zin

                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                        kaysyrahsyrah RE: Bill Hunt Dec 10, 2009 09:44 PM

                                                                                        Hunt - thank you for saying this. I have deep respect for white zin myself, for two reasons. 1) it was my 'gateway wine' in 1991, the first one made me think that there actually was a wine out there that was worth drinking on some occasions. 2) as Hunt says, the white zin experiment by Sutter Home and other firms that soon followed did save the only vines in California that survived prohibition, but were being torn out like mad in the 1970s and 80s when the wineries could not find a market for old vine zinfandel. White zin gave Napa and Sonoma the time it needed to rediscover old vine zin, and the time for customers to believe it was a good thing.

                                                                                    2. m
                                                                                      moandlo RE: stalkingwine Dec 9, 2009 08:12 PM

                                                                                      I would agree about maybe not stocking a white zin but a good rose as an alternative should be offered. There are too many excellent blush wines to just offer two "sweeter", (which really means dry or fruity wines), instead. I believe that restaurants, especially in this economy, need to offer what the customer wants. For example the post on the restaurant that didn't offer catsup. Why? I understand that maybe you don't go to a fine dining establishment and expect fried chicken but condiments are different. I once, and I repeat once, went to a restaurant. I asked for salt and the reply was that didn't have salt because "the chef believes it is perfect the way it is." Needless to say the chef is long gone. The real bottom line is, not all things taste the same to everyone. I can really love a wine that my wife or friends hate...does that mean that I am wrong? (My wife says yes but please disregard)

                                                                                      1. SteveTimko RE: stalkingwine Dec 10, 2009 11:05 AM

                                                                                        Storybook Mountain is an excellent zin producer and they make a rose they call Zin Gris that's tasty and well made.

                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: SteveTimko
                                                                                          Chinon00 RE: SteveTimko Dec 10, 2009 12:01 PM

                                                                                          How well do you think it would be received by those who favor Sutter Home White Zinfandel?

                                                                                          Thanks

                                                                                          1. re: Chinon00
                                                                                            SteveTimko RE: Chinon00 Dec 10, 2009 02:18 PM

                                                                                            It's not syrupy sweet but it does have some fruity flavor. I think it serves both wine geeks and newbies.

                                                                                            1. re: SteveTimko
                                                                                              Midlife RE: SteveTimko Dec 10, 2009 04:13 PM

                                                                                              I'm not familiar with the Storybook wine and it may well be light and fruity enough to be OK for this purpose, but I've tried several roses from heartier grapes like Zinfandel, Cabernet, and Syrah. They're usually made in a dry style, so they may be fruity but (depending on their alcohol level) they are usually not anywhere close to the sweetness of a Beringer or Sutter Home White Zin. Only Foilie a Deux Menage a Trois comes close to that sweetness. Just another thought.

                                                                                            2. re: Chinon00
                                                                                              kaysyrahsyrah RE: Chinon00 Dec 10, 2009 09:38 PM

                                                                                              I am reasonably certain that white zin drinkers will not like Storybrook Zin Gris, because it's patterned after the great roses in France.

                                                                                              What white zin customers are hooked on is a simple, clean (sans bret, tanins, oak, phenolics, any snobby 'complexity') white wine flavor profile that is high in residual sugar -- at the fabulous price of $5 per bottle.

                                                                                              1. re: kaysyrahsyrah
                                                                                                scQue814 RE: kaysyrahsyrah Jan 30, 2010 02:21 AM

                                                                                                High in sugar, low on complexity. So, what you're saying is that White Zin-lovers are hooked on what is generally considered to be "crappy" wine. If a wine can't speak to many different types of clientele... and if a wine can't be matched AMAZINGLY with the restaurant's menu selection... then WHAT'S THE POINT IN CARRYING IT?

                                                                                                There are plenty of Mosel-region Rieslings that will fit both bills, not to mention Moscato, Tokaj--what most would consider to be "dessert wine", but can also work with certain types of food. (Thai, for instance.)

                                                                                                This is why I believe in keeping a rather non-traditional winelist and keeping many of the "less volatile" selections (less prone to oxidation) rotated into the glass-list. (Yes, there will be times when there is no Chardonnay on the list, either!) Granted, I'm speaking from the viewpoint of a 20-bottle list and maybe 7 glass options. But once your clientele has a chance to taste some of the other varietals--some sweet, some not...without having to invest in an entire bottle--they will start to trust you with other menu items as well. And you can then also rotate some other interesting selections onto your lists.

                                                                                                Of course, my primary area of expertise being Asian dining might skew the argument a bit... what with folks admittedly taking a more "vacational" approach when they enter our establishment (which we capitalise on, mind you)... But I really think my case is sound.

                                                                                                As for gracious service. That works really well most of the time. But every once in a while there's someone who just needs to be jabbed. [Why does everyone assume that because you serve liquor you will automatically carry a Jose Cuervo--especially when there are so many other tequilas that are equally good (or better) and cheaper? Personally, I'm a big fan of better and cheaper.] The same goes with managing staff: some respond well to instruction, while others seem to require being reprimanded in front of customers or co-workers in order to get the message of what is expected of them. But let's stay on-topic!

                                                                                                Decent wines under $18? Simi Roseto, Martin & Weyrich Allegro Moscato, Kreusch Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Riesling, Saint M mid-dry Riesling, Rosemont Traminer-Riesling, Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewurztraminer, Pacific Rim Chenin Blanc, Vinosia Essenza di Malvasia (bianca), Folonari Soave (similar to Pinot grigio), Sunrise Chardonnay, Sunrise Cabernet, Casillero del Diablo Carmenere, Cycles Gladiator Merlot...

                                                                                            3. re: SteveTimko
                                                                                              s
                                                                                              SteveG RE: SteveTimko Dec 18, 2009 11:11 AM

                                                                                              I think a wine like the Storybook Mountain would have been the appropriate suggestion by the sommelier. I actually think the sommelier was passive aggressive and rude in this particular case. Here's why:
                                                                                              1) Riesling is a versatile grape, but if it smelled like oil to the customer, the som didn't give her one remotely like white zinfandel; he gave her a challenging petrol-tinged riesling.
                                                                                              2) Chenin blanc is almost always pretty high in acid, and from what I know about white zinfandel, my guess is it is very low in acid. Everyone knows simplistic wine consumers don't like high acid wine even if they claim to avoid sweet wines as a marker of their "sophistication." That's why Caymus is experimenting with dangerously low acid levels in its Special Selection--it allows the fruit to pop out at a young age.

                                                                                              I would think a well-made fruity rose, an unoaked basic chardonnay, or a simple pinot gris would have made the customer happy, and any decent wine list could slide in one or two of the above options without losing face.

                                                                                            4. Vetter RE: stalkingwine Dec 10, 2009 06:26 PM

                                                                                              No place can be all things to all people. It's not wine snobbery to limit a wine list. It's wine snobbery to give someone lip about what they requested. The sommelier could have worked on his attitude, but criminy. White zin on the wine list at a nice restaurant = sinking to the lowest common denominator.

                                                                                              1. a
                                                                                                Asomaniac RE: stalkingwine Dec 10, 2009 10:45 PM

                                                                                                If the sommelier was rude to the customer about their request, then that is clearly wrong. He should simply say they don't have White Zin and offer alternatives. (From your post it seems that he did exactly that - albeit in your view with a 'snobbish' tone; hard to know if that was just your subjective interpretation or if he was being obviously snobbish to the customer.)

                                                                                                However, I really don't see why the restaurant should have to offer White Zin. Any restaurant markets itself to a certain clientele; I don't think a top class restaurant will be aiming for the White Zin lover market. There is nothing wrong with liking a White Zin, obviously - if it tastes good to you, drink it. But why expect being able to find it everywhere? If you are so unadventurous that it is White Zin or nothing, I have no sympathy.

                                                                                                A restaurant is about customers as you say, but it is also about the philosophy of the people who make it what it is - the chefs, the sommeliers who put together the wine list, etc. Wine lists are so radically different from restaurant to restaurant because sommeliers express their own philosophies, and thank God for that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a sommelier feeling that White Zin is not part of his philosophy.

                                                                                                1. m
                                                                                                  mengathon RE: stalkingwine Dec 11, 2009 10:38 PM

                                                                                                  Chef snobbery - why do 4 star restaurants refuse to cook hot dogs and burgers?

                                                                                                  It's the same question really.

                                                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: mengathon
                                                                                                    Midlife RE: mengathon Dec 12, 2009 08:58 AM

                                                                                                    And the same answer, I think. You can't, and shouldn't try, to be all things to all people.

                                                                                                    Thomas Keller has 3 restaurants, within blocks of each other, in Yountville. French Laundry is very high-end tasting menu only; Bouchon is high-end more normal menu, with a bar; Ad Hoc is sortof 'home cooking', if you lived at Keller's house, menu (single offering each day). Of the three, Bouchon 'might' serve a Kobe burger or a Reindeer hot dog (use your imagination here); Ad Hoc might do the same; French Laundry, I don't think so.

                                                                                                    There is a place for great diners, a place for haute cuisine, and places for those in between. Integration is fine, but I think a hot dog interfere with the atmosphere set by "Saboyan of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar".

                                                                                                    Just my opinion of course. I'm sure there's some chef out there doing exactly what I said he or she shouldn't. That's the great thing about restaurants these days.

                                                                                                    1. re: Midlife
                                                                                                      Bill Hunt RE: Midlife Dec 12, 2009 06:57 PM

                                                                                                      "I'm sure there's some chef out there doing exactly what I said he or she shouldn't. That's the great thing about restaurants these days."

                                                                                                      You make a good point, as usual. In PHX, we have one top-rated chef, who has based his menu on "food that his mother made," regardless of what those dishes were. We have another, who brings "down home" to the menu about 4:11 times, by my count. Each does these dishes at a very high degree of expertise, and sometimes the dish's names do not bely their ingredients, or their level of culinary skill.

                                                                                                      Still, I cannot help but believe that we're missing Mengathon's point and are addressing something that should be clear. Still, I do not think that either of us is incorrect in our views, but that we are just missing something very important.

                                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                        Midlife RE: Bill Hunt Dec 12, 2009 10:34 PM

                                                                                                        I don't know, Bill. There may be something more to it, but I took mengathon's post to say that 'starred' Chef's don't offer hot dogs and burgers because they feel it's beneath them........ in the same way that I think the OP feels those same restaurants won't serve White Zin because they think it's beneath them.

                                                                                                        It may well be. But whether that's something to criticize depends on how you interpret being 'beneath them'. There's snobbery and then there's a valid sense of what goes with what. I'll repeat............ you really can't be all things to all people...... not if you want real credibility. Just my $.02.

                                                                                                    2. re: mengathon
                                                                                                      Bill Hunt RE: mengathon Dec 12, 2009 06:41 PM

                                                                                                      Maybe your tongue is firmly in your cheek and I am missing the point. If so - sorry.

                                                                                                      There are so many burger and dog joints, at all ends of the spectrum, that I cannot imagine that you cannot find something. Let's start with McDonalds and work up to the Haute Dog and "gourmet burger" joints everywhere. What else do you want? It's all around you. Why would you expect a chef in a starred (still do not get the 4-star thing?) restaurant to do something that so many others are doing? Should Guy Savoy do PB & J sandwiches, because some people like them? Sorry, but I think not. If he did, I'm sure that many here would jump up and lock arms at a US$35 PB & J sandwich, regardless of what went into it.

                                                                                                      Now, if there was missed irony in the post, please excuse my reply. Based on so many of your previous posts, I feel that there must be, and I'm just missing the point. Again, if so, mea culpa, mea culpa.

                                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                        m
                                                                                                        mengathon RE: Bill Hunt Dec 14, 2009 04:58 PM

                                                                                                        Very astute observations, as usual, from both you and Midlife.

                                                                                                        My original point, if I had one, was not one that knocked burgers or hot dogs (I personally love both), nor one that calls out chefs who don't prepare them in their establishments snobbish because it's beneath them. I think I simply meant to point out that the original question itself, "why do 4 star restaurants refuse to list white zinfandel," is almost never posed to a kitchen or the chef in parallel terms.

                                                                                                        I am pretty sure that most chefs enjoy a good burger and hot dog. I am even more sure that most sommeliers and wine directors enjoy a good pilsner. I know of sommeliers who refuse to drink wine on their days off. And I don't think it has anything to do with snobbery; it is simply a choice the executives of a restaurant make. As midlife eloquently said, one cannot be everything to everyone. It is simply a choice.

                                                                                                        Chefs generally are not snobs. And generally, neither are sommeliers. My poorly framed rhetorical question was more meant to point out that each need to make choices, and to infer snobbery on the wine side is somewhat unfair if one does not take chefs to task.

                                                                                                        1. re: mengathon
                                                                                                          Bill Hunt RE: mengathon Dec 14, 2009 05:43 PM

                                                                                                          Thank you for the clarification. On my second reading, that was about my take on the reply.

                                                                                                          I understand why menus and wine lists must be limited. I'm a big fan of mac-n-cheese with crispiness on top, but do not expect to see it that often. I'd never walk into anything but a "down home" restaurant and plan on ordering it - like the burgers or the dogs. Same for the wine lists - can't have it all, and someone needs to determine what goes with the food best. That should be job #1.

                                                                                                          Appreciate the comment,

                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                      2. re: mengathon
                                                                                                        kaysyrahsyrah RE: mengathon Dec 13, 2009 11:39 AM

                                                                                                        Absinthe in San Francisco has "Hot Dog" on its menu. It's homemade, and its awesome.

                                                                                                      3. Strawman RE: stalkingwine Dec 13, 2009 05:59 AM

                                                                                                        Reminds me of the time I went to a nice Brittish pub. Great selection of imported beers primarily from the isle. Customer was pissed that they didn't have Coors Light. Customer began acting like a bag of douche. Customer didn't appreciate everyone laughing at him either.

                                                                                                        Some people are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

                                                                                                        That said, I have little use for a sommelier personally. I've met some good ones, and also some that are merely hucksters trying to push whatever wine they got on discount.

                                                                                                        1. whs RE: stalkingwine Dec 13, 2009 07:16 AM

                                                                                                          Eric Asimov weighs in on white zinfandel:
                                                                                                          http://thepour.blogs.nytimes.com/2006...

                                                                                                          1. maria lorraine RE: stalkingwine Dec 13, 2009 08:10 PM

                                                                                                            You've mischaracterized this situation as snobbery. It wasn't.

                                                                                                            Instead, what you saw was a carefully selected, strategized wine list that didn't list a specific wine a customer wanted.

                                                                                                            There certainly is wine snobbery about, and actions thought to be wine snobbery when they are instead discernment. There's a difference.

                                                                                                            I only fault the sommelier for not being a bit more gracious and accommodating -- listening more to the elderly woman and tuning in to what she wanted, then offering a few (more) sample tastes based on that. When you pinned the sommelier, he responded defensively. Those are the only errors I see.

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                              s
                                                                                                              SteveG RE: maria lorraine Dec 18, 2009 11:14 AM

                                                                                                              Do you think a riesling that smells of oil (petrol) is an appropriate recommendation for someone who asks for something like white zinfandel? Or a most likely acidic chenin blanc? I'm hard-pressed to believe those two options were the closest things to the customer's stated preference on the entire list, but then again I've never had white zinfandel so I don't know exactly what it tastes like.

                                                                                                            2. c
                                                                                                              cstr RE: stalkingwine Dec 14, 2009 03:13 PM

                                                                                                              Personally, I think WZ is a set up from kool-aide. However, the customer should get what they like, what if the chef was a vegetarian and I wanted to order a steak. Am I out of luck?

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: cstr
                                                                                                                Bill Hunt RE: cstr Dec 14, 2009 03:56 PM

                                                                                                                The only problem with these analogies is that few restaurants can offer all wines, or even varietals. Should all restaurants stock Xarello, just in case I walk in and want a bottle (still, or sparkling)? I doubt that I could find it in 5 restaurants in the US, if at all.

                                                                                                                As for the vegetarian restaurant, I think you'd be hard-pressed to get a steak at any - at least none that I have visited.

                                                                                                                Now, I will have to say that some restaurants will go out of their way to satisfy a client, especially a good one. Years ago, we took M-I-L to a fine French restaurant in Denver. We dined there very often. M-I-L really, really wanted chicken and there was none on the menu that night. The server asked a few questions, and M-I-L decided that fried chicken would suit her. When our mains came out, there was fried chicken on her plate! The server had gone across the street to a chicken shack and purchased a plate of fried chicken. They re-plated it in the kitchen, and put some of their trimmings. Let's just say that he got a major tip for that action - otherwise I'd have heard about my poor choice of restaurants. Expected? Not even close. Great service? Absolutely. That was why we dined there so often and did some great wines, however I do not ever recall seeing any White Zin on their 200+ page wine list. Maybe I just missed it?

                                                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                                              2. alanbarnes RE: stalkingwine Dec 15, 2009 09:28 AM

                                                                                                                Having followed this thread for the last ten days, I've noticed a lot of good discussion on wine programs and their goals and limitations, but only minimal discussion of the OP's repeated use of "snobbish" and "snobbery." If declining to put Beringer White Zin on a wine list makes the sommelier a snob, then I'm all for snobbery. But what about the OP's claim that he was condescending to a customer?

                                                                                                                For many people, a meal at a high-end restaurant is a very special (maybe even once-in-a lifetime) occasion. As such, it can be a little intimidating. And it's the staff's job to make those customers comfortable and ensure they enjoy the experience. Behaving in any other way is inexcusable.

                                                                                                                Of course I'm not taking the OP's version of the facts as gospel truth. Cornering the sommelier in the loo, confronting him about the absence of white zin from the list, and laughing in his face at the explanation is not the behavior of a dispassionate, objective observer.

                                                                                                                But that's not to say that there aren't obnoxious servers out there. Years ago, I hosted a business dinner where the waiter visibly sneered at a young woman who asked for "a glass of Chablis" as her pre-dinner drink. It was evident that this woman knew nothing about wine, but that was no reason for the server to rub her nose in it.

                                                                                                                When it was my turn to order, being the asshole that I am, I said that I would really like Chablis, too, and asked if the restaurant had it by the bottle. Again, a sniff and an offer of some mediocre mass-market Chardonnay. I sniffed back "no, I don't think so," and asked what they might have in the way of a Montrachet or Pouilly-Fuisse. A look of confusion spread across the waiter's face and he went to find the sommelier, who was quite helpful. And my guest learned that she enjoys white Burgundies.

                                                                                                                Which only goes to illustrate the importance of hospitality. It does not require that the establishment cater to the customer's every whim. It doesn't require a white-tablecloth restaurant to offer White Zin or Doritos (although they might pair well). Hospitality requires friendliness, graciousness, and reasonable accommodation. Is that so hard?

                                                                                                                PS - to those of you in the biz - if the diner asks for white zin, suggest a pink wine, fercryinoutloud. I know Chenin Blanc may have a closer flavor profile, but the color of the wine is a diner's first cue, and if it looks like what she's used to drinking, she may be more open to the flavor of, say, an off-dry Rose from Bordeaux.

                                                                                                                11 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                                                  linguafood RE: alanbarnes Dec 15, 2009 10:23 AM

                                                                                                                  Excellent, as usual.

                                                                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                                                    invinotheresverde RE: alanbarnes Dec 15, 2009 10:30 AM

                                                                                                                    I agree with your whole post until:

                                                                                                                    "PS - to those of you in the biz - if the diner asks for white zin, suggest a pink wine, fercryinoutloud. I know Chenin Blanc may have a closer flavor profile, but the color of the wine is a diner's first cue, and if it looks like what she's used to drinking, she may be more open to the flavor of, say, an off-dry Rose from Bordeaux."

                                                                                                                    I think most white zin drinkers like simple, sweet, fruity wine. I feel that most Rosés would be too dry and too intensely flavored for the wz crew. I always offer a basic, easy drinking, fairly sweet Riesling (a la Chateau Ste. Michelle or Dr. Loosen) and it works like a charm.

                                                                                                                    I don't think the pink color is as important as the flavor profile, at least in my experience.

                                                                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                                                                      alanbarnes RE: invinotheresverde Dec 15, 2009 11:32 AM

                                                                                                                      My experience is from the consumer side, and is far less extensive than yours. And I agree that flavor **should** be the primary concern. But I spend less time with connoisseurs and more time with philistines than the average wine professional. So for me, it is not unusual to encounter someone who chooses wine based solely on its color.

                                                                                                                      I'm not suggesting that you offer a Rose **instead of** a Riesling, I'm just saying that if you're going to bring out a couple of samples, you may want to consider making one of them something that looks like what the person is used to drinking. Who knows, you may even create a consumer of good Roses.

                                                                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                                                        Midlife RE: alanbarnes Dec 15, 2009 01:04 PM

                                                                                                                        I would never suggest that a restaurant not TRY to find something the White Zin drinker would like, but up-post I made the comment that I have it on very good authority that White Zin drinkers are loyal in an usually strong way. I wish I knew more specifics about WHY marketers conclude this, but I have to think it's mostly flavor profile. The winery I am familiar with makes lots of wine in the same price range as Beringer and Sutter Home WZ, so I don't think it's price. [To save you a trip up-post, the comment was that the professional wine focus group studies my source is familiar with handle White Zin 'preferers' as a separate category in the in the low price range.]

                                                                                                                        1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                                                          Striver RE: alanbarnes Dec 17, 2009 05:47 AM

                                                                                                                          You could also take one of those Rieslings and add a dash or two of grenadine. :)

                                                                                                                          1. re: Striver
                                                                                                                            invinotheresverde RE: Striver Dec 17, 2009 07:34 AM

                                                                                                                            What do you think happens when people want a "sweet red"? ;)

                                                                                                                            1. re: Striver
                                                                                                                              p
                                                                                                                              ptboat67 RE: Striver Mar 1, 2010 08:15 AM

                                                                                                                              I've been appalled to have seen this done.

                                                                                                                          2. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                                                                            scQue814 RE: invinotheresverde Jan 30, 2010 03:26 AM

                                                                                                                            It is an interesting theory, but I can't say that I agree.

                                                                                                                            Simi Roseto is, decidedly, a Rose/Blush. But it's complexity and light tartness seems to confuse White-Zin-seekers--despite its IMO prominent notes of strawberry and lemon blossom. On the other hand, I've had great success suggesting German rieslings and moscatos.

                                                                                                                            I even try to explain (with my limited knowledge--I am not a sommelier) where the grape is grown and that most, say, Rieslings from said region will have certain characteristics (notes of pear, apple, certain type of acidity). The customer may or may not understand what I'm telling them. But if they absorb it subconsciously, it will benefit them later on. And usually, within a few months, I can suggest another wine for them to try and--provided I can offer it by the glass--they are usually open-minded enough by then to give it a go.

                                                                                                                            And if that experience is good, perhaps they'll start buying bottles when the selection they were hoping for is not on the glass list.

                                                                                                                            It's a slow process, but eventually you can show your clientele that there are hidden gems on your wine list... if only they'll trust you enough to take your suggestions. =)

                                                                                                                            1. re: scQue814
                                                                                                                              invinotheresverde RE: scQue814 Jan 30, 2010 06:21 AM

                                                                                                                              We're both saying virtually the same thing (that wz drinkers tend not to enjoy other pink wines and do better with rieslings, for example). How are you not agreeing?

                                                                                                                              Also, I AM a sommelier. ;)

                                                                                                                          3. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                                                            withabandon RE: alanbarnes Dec 27, 2009 06:31 PM

                                                                                                                            Just having caught up. I applaud Alanbarnes' post. It replies to the op in a considerate and considered way. ( I also liked all the commentary above on Mateus and Blue Nun etc. Did anyone say Boone's Farm?)
                                                                                                                            I especially like this:
                                                                                                                            " Which only goes to illustrate the importance of hospitality. It does not require that the establishment cater to the customer's every whim. It doesn't require a white-tablecloth restaurant to offer White Zin or Doritos (although they might pair well). Hospitality requires friendliness, graciousness, and reasonable accommodation. Is that so hard?"

                                                                                                                            Answer-- yes apparently graciousness has become a rarity, and it shouldn't be.

                                                                                                                            1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                                                              p
                                                                                                                              ptboat67 RE: alanbarnes Mar 1, 2010 08:15 AM

                                                                                                                              He should have just brought you a perfectly lovely Chablis. It wouldn't have tasted like the 70s/80s California jug stuff, but it would have been delicious.

                                                                                                                            2. z
                                                                                                                              zin1953 RE: stalkingwine Dec 15, 2009 12:12 PM

                                                                                                                              There are several reasons why I actually DID carry a White Zin on my wine list back in the 1980s, and would NOT do so today.

                                                                                                                              But more importantly than that it clearly depends upon the TYPE of restaurant. I have seen White Zinfandel on many wine lists in San Francisco and throughout California, but I have rarely, if ever, seen it on the list of a "highly rated restaurant." Gary Danko's? No. A deli or pizzeria, sure. And therein lies one of the problems: image.

                                                                                                                              The image today of White Zinfandel is "cheap." This has nothing whatsoever to do with the price tag, but rather the image of White Zin, period. It's not "classy," and if I were the wine buyer for a "highly rated restaurant in San Francisco," I wouldn't carry it either: "cheap" wines make your whole list look cheap; an inexpensive wine will just be a bargain.

                                                                                                                              That doesn't mean I would not have something similar on my list and by the glass. I definitely would carry something like a Spanish or French rosé -- one made from Garnacha/Grenache, perhaps from Navarra or the Canary Islands, the Rhône or the Languedoc -- or a *dry* but supple California rosé. I would have poured a taste for the customer in question described in the original post and, hopefully, that would fit the bill.

                                                                                                                              Back in the 1980s, there WERE some very good wineries in California producing some excellent quality dry or off-dry White Zins -- William Wheeler and DeLoach, to name but two, and both carried Sonoma appellations. Even Ridge Vineyards got into the act for a short time. Today, most White Zin carries a California appellation and is too sweet, too simple, and -- yes -- too "cheap" to find a place on a top-notch restaurant. (Again, not true of rosé; not true of all blush/blanc de noirs wines.)

                                                                                                                              Even in an upscale wine bar with 20+ wines by the glass, I would no longer do a White Zin in today's market. But I would ALWAYS have a rosé . . . .

                                                                                                                              1. Chinon00 RE: stalkingwine Dec 16, 2009 07:59 AM

                                                                                                                                This post reminds me of why I so despise the whole "drink what you like" and "there are no rules" approach to wine appreciation. That thinking only reinforces stubborness to expanding your knowledge and enjoyment of wine.

                                                                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: Chinon00
                                                                                                                                  Midlife RE: Chinon00 Dec 16, 2009 10:37 AM

                                                                                                                                  I would say that approach, on its own, isn't 'wine appreciation', it's 'self-appreciation'. But, when I was doing tastings in our shop, I would never use those phrases totally on their own. They would always be integrated into a statement that gave the taster some room to avoid feelings of inadequacy or frustration, while encouraging them to experiment with broader exposure and more classic pairings.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Chinon00
                                                                                                                                    kaysyrahsyrah RE: Chinon00 Dec 16, 2009 03:33 PM

                                                                                                                                    I think 'drink what you like' is a great statement to make to newcomers who have just started their passionate affair with wine. And for those masses of consumers, tossing Vignon (the flavor balancer, umami thing) on problematic food is a good thing to do as well, because it's easier to do than learn Flavor Balancing.

                                                                                                                                    But to many of us on the list who can consistently achieve the 1+1=3 goal of a great wine pairing, then that statement is passe.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: kaysyrahsyrah
                                                                                                                                      Akitist RE: kaysyrahsyrah Dec 18, 2009 07:48 AM

                                                                                                                                      C'mon, Kay. You still drink what you like; it's just that what you like has been upgraded.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: Chinon00
                                                                                                                                      scQue814 RE: Chinon00 Jan 30, 2010 04:04 AM

                                                                                                                                      The example of saké comes to mind here. There are two distinct philosophies when it comes to the beverage:

                                                                                                                                      1.) Follow the toji's recommendations and drink their saké at the temperature suggested on the bottle or website;
                                                                                                                                      2.) Experiment with temperatures and drink it the way you like.

                                                                                                                                      Both are completely valid arguments and have merit. But there are times when experimentation is less advisable. One of those times is in the restaurant setting.

                                                                                                                                      You can probably imagine how many folks think they hate saké because they've only tasted the cheapest, roughest stuff--which their friends purchased in some dive sushi bar. (The folks who insist you serve it "extra-hot" are a dead giveaway.)

                                                                                                                                      Saké can be served at any temperature, sure. But there are sakés whose nuances really shine at particular temperatures. And every saké is different, even by matters of degrees!

                                                                                                                                      This first became apparent to me when a friend invited me over and asked me to bring some saké to share. One of us had to cancel and the bottle sat in the trunk of my car for a couple days. It was mid-October and the trunk of my car was probably about 60-degrees-F.

                                                                                                                                      Three days later we finally met up after work and opened the bottle. It was Murai Family Sugidama and--AT THAT TEMPERATURE--it was nothing short of sublime! I then realised that I'd been drinking my chilled sakés far too cold. And I started paying much closer attention to the temperature at which I was serving them in our restaurant... sometimes going so far as to blend a serving from a chilled bottle and a room-temp bottle to achieve the optimal temperature.

                                                                                                                                      Why is all this relevant?

                                                                                                                                      "Drink as you like" is a great philosophy when trying things at home with friends. But when you dine at an establishmen, you expect--beyond the customer service--that the food and beverage will "sparkle". And so, in our restaurant, we will only serve our sakés at the temperatures recommended by the toji (saké-masters) themselves. (Certainly, they must know a thing or two about their own masterpieces, right?)

                                                                                                                                      Still, one former server called me everything short of a Saké-Nazi.

                                                                                                                                      But my experience with the clientele has shown me that, on average, if I can get them to try a more polished saké (and serve it at the appropriate temperature), I can win them over to a whole new world of food and beverage pairing. Perhaps the sakés they end up preferring are not in the price-range they would ideally like, but at least they've expanded their horizons. (Offering flights has done wonders to demonstrate this, btw.)

                                                                                                                                      So, drink what you like when you're at home. But when you go out to a restaurant, don't be afraid to let the staff make suggestions. They just might know a thing or two about the things they're serving... and (surprisingly) want you to leave happy and come back again!

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Chinon00
                                                                                                                                        z
                                                                                                                                        zin1953 RE: Chinon00 Feb 1, 2010 07:24 AM

                                                                                                                                        Oh, nonsense!

                                                                                                                                        There is a HUGE difference between the REAL world and the internet. On the internet, no one hears you when you -- as sommelier/waiter/server/whatever -- make a suggestion to your customer. In the real world, you are free to make all the suggestions you want and they will be heard! (Whether they are accepted is another story, of course.)

                                                                                                                                        In the real world, *if* (and it's a really big IF) a customer of mine asked about "a White Zin," as in "How come you don't have one?" or "What do you have that's similar?" he/she would receive a short but informative response and several recommendations -- including a small taste of whatever rosé being suggested (presuming we're talking by-the-glass, here).

                                                                                                                                        On the internet, you can't hear my suggestions nor taste my free sample . . . .

                                                                                                                                        1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                                                          Bill Hunt RE: zin1953 Feb 2, 2010 05:38 PM

                                                                                                                                          Jason,

                                                                                                                                          Insert a big <GRIN> here.

                                                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                                                      2. carswell RE: stalkingwine Dec 16, 2009 04:28 PM

                                                                                                                                        So you walk into an inexpensive restaurant with a wine list -- a Saint-Hubert "BBQ" chicken joint here in Quebec, an Olive Garden in the States or a neighbourhood bistro just about anywhere -- and ask for a bottle of La Tâche or Tignanello or Screaming Eagle. When the waiter says sorry and suggests something from the list -- a Beaujolais, an affordable Chianti, a Chilean Cab -- you refuse and order a mixed drink Even if you aren't instantly labelled an insufferable snob, you'll be viewed as having unrealistic expectations. How is your elderly white Zin lover any different?

                                                                                                                                        If a four-star restaurant omits a category of wine from its list, it's probably because the owner, chef and sommelier or some combination thereof have decided it wouldn't work with the food they're serving, wouldn't appeal to the kinds of patrons their aiming to attract. Imagine that, an insipid, semi-sweet blush wine not going with four-star cuisine!

                                                                                                                                        If you've got a problem with that, you're free to take your business elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                        More power to 'em, I say.

                                                                                                                                        18 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: carswell
                                                                                                                                          Bill Hunt RE: carswell Jan 1, 2010 07:42 PM

                                                                                                                                          Very nice analogy, and unfortunately missed by too many in this thread.

                                                                                                                                          Thanks for sharing,

                                                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                                                          1. re: carswell
                                                                                                                                            Chinon00 RE: carswell Jan 2, 2010 12:43 AM

                                                                                                                                            " Even if you aren't instantly labelled an insufferable snob, you'll be viewed as having unrealistic expectations. How is your elderly white Zin lover any different?"

                                                                                                                                            Playing devil's advocate for a moment it certainly would be unrealistic to expect an uncommon varietal or bottle to be available at a Friday's where they might have 10 to 20 choices. On the other hand at a restaurant with a wine list with possibly hundreds of bottles to choose from (as I'm assuming this or any "four star" restaurant might have) it might not be. I'm not saying that WZ belongs on any particular list but probability plays a roll.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Chinon00
                                                                                                                                              linguafood RE: Chinon00 Jan 2, 2010 11:06 AM

                                                                                                                                              A California roll is my guess.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Chinon00
                                                                                                                                                Bill Hunt RE: Chinon00 Jan 3, 2010 06:11 PM

                                                                                                                                                I would guess that this would be the sommelier's choice to make. Not sure that probability figures in too much. Now, if one took ALL 4-star restaurants into the equation, then it might. If one looked at each, as individuals, I cannot see where it would. Most well-thought out wines lists do not rely on chance, or at least they should not.

                                                                                                                                                I could see the sommelier sitting in a room with the chef and owner, "hey, I've got the names of 1,000 wines in my hat. We have room for only 500 of them. I'll throw the cards with the names in the air, and we'll take all the ones that land writing up." Yeah, right.

                                                                                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Chinon00
                                                                                                                                                  z
                                                                                                                                                  zin1953 RE: Chinon00 Feb 1, 2010 07:31 AM

                                                                                                                                                  A great wine list, first and foremost, carries wines especially selected to accompany the chef's cuisine. It also keeps the clientele in mind.

                                                                                                                                                  A boring wine list carries "all the usual suspects," that is "name brands" only -- wines you can find anywhere and everywhere -- with only a passing concern to the cuisine. (In other words, the priorities are reversed.)

                                                                                                                                                  A bad wine list carries only "the usual suspects," and the wines are quite often selected by the supplier(s) rather than the restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                  Keeping in mind the clientele, I'd be much more inclined to have a White Zin on my corporately approved Olive Garden list than I would at Gary Danko's, the French Laundry, etc., etc.

                                                                                                                                                  YMMV.

                                                                                                                                                  Cheers,
                                                                                                                                                  Jason

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                                                                    Chinon00 RE: zin1953 May 3, 2010 04:17 PM

                                                                                                                                                    Well I'll put it this way I think that it's reasonable for an inexperienced wine consumer to incorrectly expect to see a White Zin in a large wine list; because it's large. So the analogy of an experienced wine consumer expecting a Pomerol at TGIF isn't an accurate one.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Chinon00
                                                                                                                                                      Midlife RE: Chinon00 May 3, 2010 04:42 PM

                                                                                                                                                      Sorry to have to disagree. With maybe 100,000 to 200,000 or so wines available in the marketplace and in restaurant cellars (and that's possibly a low guess), I would have to come down on the side that says White Zin's appearance on even a large list (300 to 1,000 - I've seen cellars as big 10,000) has MUCH, MUCH more to do with the restaurant and it's perspective than with list size. I don't think it's a mathematical thing at all unless you're talking purely in the theoretical sense.............. but this isn't a theoretical question.

                                                                                                                                                      Pomerol at TGIF? No way................. but anyone who knew it wouldn't expect it there at all.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Midlife
                                                                                                                                                        Chinon00 RE: Midlife May 3, 2010 05:56 PM

                                                                                                                                                        I'm not saying that the liklihood of White Zin on a list SHOULD increase with the size of the list. I'm saying that maybe a newbie would think that and that that INCORRECT line of thinking (by a newbie) wouldn't surprise me.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Chinon00
                                                                                                                                                          Midlife RE: Chinon00 May 3, 2010 06:44 PM

                                                                                                                                                          OK. I understand your line of thinking on that. I suppose I am not really in a position to know what someone else would 'expect' based on the size of a wine list. One thing I do know is that many White Zin drinkers haven't the slightest inkling that White Zin is in any different category from Pomerol, or any other wine. So................ I'm sure you're right.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Midlife
                                                                                                                                                            kaysyrahsyrah RE: Midlife May 13, 2010 12:45 PM

                                                                                                                                                            you could be entirely wrong about a white zin drinker not having the slightest inkling. There is a small group of the total population who have such sensitive tastes that they can only drink wine under 10% and sweet besides. some of these people are encyclopedias of knowledge, but their palates won't budge to Pomerol or any other wine category.

                                                                                                                                                            And we don't really know many of these people because they aren't 'out.' They are usually shame ridden and so disnefranchised by the wine industry that they say they don't like wine...because saying they like sweet low acohol wine isn't sophisticated.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: kaysyrahsyrah
                                                                                                                                                              Midlife RE: kaysyrahsyrah May 13, 2010 04:04 PM

                                                                                                                                                              kay.....

                                                                                                                                                              What I was getting at was that I know (from talking to many of them, as well as having several years of wine industry experience) that MANY [as in not all] white zin drinkers have no idea that the trade considers white zin to be in a different category from most other wines.

                                                                                                                                                              I'm usually the first to tell any wine drinker that they should drink whatever they like, but that doesn't negate the fact that lightweight, sugar-heavy, low-priced wines really are almost always in a different category when it comes to inclusion on restaurant wine lists. I also tell them that they shouldn't give a 'whatever' about that.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: kaysyrahsyrah
                                                                                                                                                                invinotheresverde RE: kaysyrahsyrah May 13, 2010 07:05 PM

                                                                                                                                                                I mean, yeah, I guess, maybe. Maybe 1% of all white zin drinkers could be described like that. Most of them just have simple taste and like things sweet. Voila.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                                                                                                                  Chinon00 RE: invinotheresverde May 14, 2010 02:24 AM

                                                                                                                                                                  I agree completely. I can't imagine that any significant number of people who've "discovered wine" could be described this way. That's like a beer geek who only drinks Bud Light.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Chinon00
                                                                                                                                                          z
                                                                                                                                                          zin1953 RE: Chinon00 May 6, 2010 06:59 AM

                                                                                                                                                          The size of the wine list is irrelevant . . . IMHO . . . the ***restaurant*** is the important thing.

                                                                                                                                                          Olive Garden / TGIF / Sizzler on the one hand. Gary Danko's, French Laundry, Cyrus on the other: 1) where would you *expect* to see a White Zin, and 2) where would you expect the DRINKER of White Zin to dine?

                                                                                                                                                          For many establishments, stocking White Zin on their wine list is a sound (and profitable) business decision; for many others, it's a waste of both financial resources, as well as wine . . . unless you want them to keep three, five, or ten your old White Zinfandel on their wine list.

                                                                                                                                                          Cheers,
                                                                                                                                                          Jason

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                                                                            Bill Hunt RE: zin1953 May 6, 2010 07:08 PM

                                                                                                                                                            Maybe we need to do an '85 retrospective White Zin tasting? Or, maybe not...

                                                                                                                                                            Now Jason, given your examples, I obviously have my guesses, hermetically sealed in a mayonnaise jar, but I want to hear the definitive answer. You would never have mentioned the above restaurants, unless you were going to floor us plebs.

                                                                                                                                                            Just curious,

                                                                                                                                                            Hunt

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                                                              z
                                                                                                                                                              zin1953 RE: Bill Hunt Jun 7, 2010 03:49 PM

                                                                                                                                                              Oh, my bad -- I just realized that I never answered your question . . . thank the heavens that jar was hermetically sealed!

                                                                                                                                                              I am never surprised to see a White Zin on an Olive Garden, TGIFridays, Sizzler type of chain establishment. And whereas I would be quite surprised to see a Sutter Home, Beringer or even a Buehler White Zin on a list at Gary Danko's, The French Laundry, or Cyrus -- I would also be quite surprised if they did not have several dry rosés on their lists.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                                                                                Bill Hunt RE: zin1953 Jun 7, 2010 09:01 PM

                                                                                                                                                                Jason,

                                                                                                                                                                Insert big grin here. I am with you. One should consider the restaurant, and not be upset, if some do (as you outline), and some do not (also outlined). It is about the management's perception of the clientele and their tastes.

                                                                                                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: zin1953
                                                                                                                                                              kaysyrahsyrah RE: zin1953 May 13, 2010 12:48 PM

                                                                                                                                                              Oooh, I can see it now: A vertical dinner on white zin. Giddy up!

                                                                                                                                                              I know Hunt would come. How bout you Jason?

                                                                                                                                                    2. d
                                                                                                                                                      dinwiddie RE: stalkingwine Dec 30, 2009 03:58 PM

                                                                                                                                                      Actually, I cringe every time I see White Zin on a wine list. If that is the type of wine that they are willing to serve, then I have found that the list tends to be mundane and usually overpriced cheap wine. In a 4 star (or even a 3 star) restaurant, I expect a well thought out wine list that goes well with the food. If you want white zin, eat at a chain.

                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: dinwiddie
                                                                                                                                                        m
                                                                                                                                                        MRMoggie RE: dinwiddie Dec 30, 2009 05:09 PM

                                                                                                                                                        A colleague in a prior life had been the sommelier of a plush/pricey/touristy restaurant that had a wine listing literally stretching from White Zin to magnums of Krug (Champagne, not Napa Cab) and Salon.

                                                                                                                                                        One night he served a very well dressed party of eight or so, honestly anticipating to pour Champagne for the group to begin. After perusing the thick wine list, the host ordered two bottles of White Zin for the table. As the crestfallen sommelier mumbled "Of course, sir," the guest asked, "Do you know why I like White Zin?" The sommelier said, no, he didn't.

                                                                                                                                                        "Because it doesn't taste like wine," came the reply.

                                                                                                                                                      2. andytee RE: stalkingwine Dec 30, 2009 07:57 PM

                                                                                                                                                        This thread is nuts.

                                                                                                                                                        I don't expect a great selection of high end wines at a burger joint and don't expect white zinfandel or yellowtail or the like at gary danko. To my reading the sommeiler handled the situation impeccably, trying to offer something else the customer might like.

                                                                                                                                                        The most obvious analogy for me is corn syrup based fountain drinks. Have you ever ordered a Coke at Chez Panisse? No doubt they would sell them if they offered them. Does this mean they should? No.

                                                                                                                                                        22 Replies
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: andytee
                                                                                                                                                          p
                                                                                                                                                          ptboat67 RE: andytee Mar 1, 2010 08:10 AM

                                                                                                                                                          You make a great point. Why is the original poster not upset with the restaurant for not offering coolaide as a beverage, or sweet tea? A highly rated restaurant is full of professionals who have given many years of time and energy, as well as money, toward their expertise. When one dines in a restaurant of that calibre, these professionals are there to take them on an experience that shows off the talents of the the chef as well as the front of the house. A Sommelier is an expert who has chosen a list that can represent a great deal of wines to both match the food and please an array of palates and budgets. If one goes into a restaurant, like this, and expects his or her plate removed before others are finished, to get chicken nuggets, or a really badly made commercial palate killing wine like WZ, then he or she is wasting his or her money and insulting the professionals who are perfectly willing to assist him or her within the confines of what the restaurant represents. The Sommelier was absolutely correct in the way he handled the situation. He could have been a smart Alec and offered her Chateau D'Yquem as something sweet enough for her. Then, at least, she could get some depth of flavor.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: ptboat67
                                                                                                                                                            Midlife RE: ptboat67 Mar 1, 2010 02:56 PM

                                                                                                                                                            I think I've really had enough of this topic but I'd like to respond just this once more.

                                                                                                                                                            The issue I think you're missing is that the wine steward refused to carry White Zin due to it's lack of status and for the negative personal repercussions it could have for him in his trade. There are many, many people who can afford to dine at very fine restaurants who think White Zin is as valid a wine selection as anything else on a wine list. I happen to understand the steward's position but would have hoped he'd explained more along the lines of the wine's inability to pair properly with the food.

                                                                                                                                                            As much as I am in the camp that feels that White Zin is not a wine with any stature at all, I would hope that someone in the hospitality business would find a way to explain it's absence without making the guest feel uncomfortable. He/she should simply say we do not offer White Zinfandel because we do not feel it properly complements our food service. Then suggest some lower priced, off-dry to sweet wines that do...... if they're available.

                                                                                                                                                            I suppose this is all open to subjective difference of opinion but in my mind one could make a real case that Boone's Farm and Arbor Mist are not real wines, while it would be much more difficult to make that case against White Zinfandel. One thing is certain....... the vast majority of the people who drink White Zinfandel believe it is real wine.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Midlife
                                                                                                                                                              andytee RE: Midlife Mar 2, 2010 08:17 AM

                                                                                                                                                              I dunno - going back to the original account, we find:

                                                                                                                                                              "In a snobbish tone, he said no, they don't have it on the list, but there were French and German whites that he could suggest. He then brought her tastes of a reisling and a chenin blanc, which she refused, and then ordered a mixed drink."

                                                                                                                                                              Aside from the "In a snobbish tone" part, which is third-party conjecture and really just one person's impression, isn't that pretty much exactly what you think he should have done?

                                                                                                                                                              When confronted by the original poster, who was not the person who tried to order the white zin, perhaps the sommelier was overly candid but he was not rude - and it's very different for him to say this to someone who asked why there wasn't any white zin than to someone who tried to order white zin.

                                                                                                                                                              Sure, there's something interesting to talk about here, but to my reading the poster has a bit of a chip on their shoulder about it, and whatever the response, there is probably a number of very good reasons not to have white zin on a wine list.

                                                                                                                                                              Further, I'm making an assumption here, but it sounds pretty clear that we are talking about wine by the glass here. Most places will only offer 8-10 white wines by the glass - so there are probably only so many taste the sommeiler could offer, and only so many slots to choose a wine for.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: andytee
                                                                                                                                                                Midlife RE: andytee Mar 2, 2010 11:30 AM

                                                                                                                                                                Not sure if you intended to respond to my specific post, as reply placement often gets confusing here. If you did.............

                                                                                                                                                                My comments were aimed mostly at the exchange between the OP and the wine steward. I agree with you that offering a couple of tastes was the right thing to do. Actually, more than what might be expected. The tone, if understood correctly, could have negated all that 'right', however. We weren't there so we can't know.

                                                                                                                                                                Most of my post was commenting on the explanation for not offering white zin. I agree that there could be several reasons, but was suggesting one that would be free from any unintended nuances. I think the OP was likely objecting in defense of the elderly woman's feelings as much as her desire for that specific wine to be available. There is, without doubt, a definite disagreement out there as to the 'validity' of White Zinfandel as worthy wine. In truth, I really don't think that the majority of White Zin fans know or care about that 'controversy'. As I said in my last sentence: One thing is certain....... the vast majority of the people who drink White Zinfandel believe it is real wine.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Midlife
                                                                                                                                                                  Striver RE: Midlife Mar 2, 2010 12:11 PM

                                                                                                                                                                  Y'know, I reread the OP and was struck by this part:

                                                                                                                                                                  "When I got up to go the the restroom later that night, I ran into the wine steward. I asked him about the white zin incident, to which he responded: "No doubt, white zin would sell well here, but I would rather be caught dead than to walk through my dining room and seeing Beringer White Zin all over the place. I don't want to work in that kind of restaurant. "

                                                                                                                                                                  Well, if that would be the outcome of offering White Zin as a wbtg selection, then he DOES work in "that kind of restaurant". :)

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: andytee
                                                                                                                                                                  b
                                                                                                                                                                  bclevy RE: andytee Mar 2, 2010 11:30 AM

                                                                                                                                                                  I agree. The lady trying to order white zin was no different from someone
                                                                                                                                                                  asking for a hamburger in a 3-star French restaurant in France.
                                                                                                                                                                  Amazingly, I was witness to such an inappropriate request in a one star
                                                                                                                                                                  restaurant. The chef actually complied with this order (even though it was
                                                                                                                                                                  not on the menu, obviously), but I could overhear the dining staff
                                                                                                                                                                  laughing all the way to the kitchen (and the bank, since I am sure
                                                                                                                                                                  this hamburger did not come cheap).

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: bclevy
                                                                                                                                                                    Midlife RE: bclevy Mar 2, 2010 12:56 PM

                                                                                                                                                                    I think I need to give up on this topic. It's getting too frustrating. Starting to feel like that party game 'telephone'.

                                                                                                                                                                    This, to me anyway, isn't a discussion about whether it's right or wrong for a better restaurant to offer White Zinfandel......... but one about what response is appropriate for such a request and why.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Midlife
                                                                                                                                                                      Bill Hunt RE: Midlife Mar 2, 2010 06:51 PM

                                                                                                                                                                      Midlife,

                                                                                                                                                                      Please do not give up yet. While there have been some excellent comments and observations here, your replies have been a "breath of fresh air."

                                                                                                                                                                      Now, I am not likely to look for White Zin at a "starred" restaurant, but there are some, who might.

                                                                                                                                                                      Keep the faith,

                                                                                                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                                                                        Midlife RE: Bill Hunt Mar 2, 2010 10:28 PM

                                                                                                                                                                        Thanks Bill. I'm not always sure I completely follow the thought line through some of these topics, but when it seems to zig when it should zag (or.... well, I think you get it) I have trouble just watching the traffic. Sometimes reminds me of downtown Taipei. Anyone who's been there will know what I mean. Ever see a taxi in lane 1 jump a light turning green and cut across five lanes of cars to his right to make a right turn? Very mind-altering.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Midlife
                                                                                                                                                                        maria lorraine RE: Midlife Mar 3, 2010 10:35 AM

                                                                                                                                                                        Appreciate your efforts, Midlife. In thread discussions like this one, it can be difficult (and even stressful), to sort out the disparate opinions, agendas, inaccuracies, outrage and outrage by proxy. Dealing with blow-back takes even more synapse time. Not for the faint of heart or mind.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                                                                          r
                                                                                                                                                                          RicRios RE: maria lorraine Mar 3, 2010 12:04 PM

                                                                                                                                                                          "Dealing with blow-back takes even more synapse time."

                                                                                                                                                                          Wow! That's a pearl.
                                                                                                                                                                          Should I cite you, maria?

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: RicRios
                                                                                                                                                                            andytee RE: RicRios Mar 3, 2010 02:29 PM

                                                                                                                                                                            I think part of what is confusing here is that there are several issues being discussed - should White Zin be on a list, how should it be handled when requested, and was it appropriate for the sommelier to offer the explanation he did to a third party (original posted, who, to me, seems to have just overheard the woman who wanted White Zin) when asked.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: andytee
                                                                                                                                                                              Midlife RE: andytee Mar 3, 2010 03:37 PM

                                                                                                                                                                              When a post in one discussion line seems to be placed in response to one in a different line, it gets very difficult sometimes. I usually thrive on chaos.................. today, not so much. I read, and re-read, trying to see where the response is related to what I said, even knowing that sometimes posters just put their response in the wrong place, or think adding it as the last one is what should be done. Maybe just a long sigh would help.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Midlife
                                                                                                                                                                                alanbarnes RE: Midlife Mar 3, 2010 04:26 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                Or a glass of the wine of your choice. Even if it's White Zinfandel.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                                                                                                                  Midlife RE: alanbarnes Mar 3, 2010 05:36 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                  :o)

                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Midlife
                                                                                                                                                                                  withabandon RE: Midlife May 29, 2010 11:30 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                  I agree-- lots of tangents. I've been silently following this thread ( or should I say these threads) since the OP posted. To me good wine is wonderful; good food is fantastic; and when the two are well paired, it's pure poetry. Even more so with congenial company. ( just couldn't resist the fun of all that alliteration!) What is most frustrating to me in this thread is that it seems apparent that numerous responders confuse knowing about food with knowing about wine. Or even liking wine. There seems to be a demeaning of those who do not know about, appreciate, or particularly enjoy a varied palate of wines. There seems to be the implication that such people would have no knowledge, appreciation, or enjoyment of fine food. I humbly submit that one does not have to know anything about wine to know about and enjoy good food. One could argue that such souls are missing out on a more compete gustatory experience, but I think it is unkind to demean them, by suggesting that they don't belong in a fine restaurant and do not have a discerning palate. ( i.e. recall the woman could taste the "oil" in the riesling.) Was the wine steward rude? Hard to say without having been there. I'm hard pressed to believe that someone who laughs in the face of another person is the best arbiter of who is using a "snobbish tone". It appears that the wine steward was certainly concerned about safeguarding his career. I don't think he should be laughed at for wanting to do that. After all his function is to pair wine with food, so that each is enhanced. That's what the restaurant has hired him to do. Clearly there is a demand on the part of the restaurant's clientele for his services or they wouldn't keep him on. It seems to me, he endeavored to respond professionally to the woman, and perhaps find a wine she'd like ( albeit without running out to the local grocery for a bottle of WZ). I have to say, ( in a calm, soft tone) I wonder, really, who are the snobs here?

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: bclevy
                                                                                                                                                                          westsidegal RE: bclevy May 6, 2010 09:36 PM

                                                                                                                                                                          bclevy:
                                                                                                                                                                          my father used to order hamburger steaks all the time at very high end restaurants.
                                                                                                                                                                          he was always accommodated.
                                                                                                                                                                          the reason he did this was that he had sustained an injury to his jaw when fighting in WWII that made it impossible for him to properly chew the delicious well aged beef that was offered in those restaurants.
                                                                                                                                                                          he was more than happy to pay the money in order to at least experience the flavor of that beef.

                                                                                                                                                                          so, i would submit to you that the hamburger analogy is far from perfect . .

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: bclevy
                                                                                                                                                                            d
                                                                                                                                                                            dinwiddie RE: bclevy Jun 8, 2010 05:37 AM

                                                                                                                                                                            Reminds me of the time I saw a waiter from a very posh restaurant in NY at a hot dog vendor on the street. His response when I asked, "the young lady wanted a hot dog." When I asked what they were going to charge her parents for it, he just grinned.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: dinwiddie
                                                                                                                                                                              Bill Hunt RE: dinwiddie Jun 9, 2010 07:08 PM

                                                                                                                                                                              Been there, done that. Took M-I-L to a wonderful wine diner at our favorite FR restaurant in Denver. So far, so good. Unfortunately, they had no chicken on their menu that night, and M-I-L only eats chicken. Who knew? The sommelier went across the street for Jim Dandy fried chicken, and never added a $ to the bill. Now, 3 for the wine dinner was not cheap (M-I-L does not drink wine), but I expected a surcharge. The tip reflected the act, and I remembered to NOT invite M-I-L to FR wine diners! [Grin]

                                                                                                                                                                              Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                                                                                r
                                                                                                                                                                                RicRios RE: Bill Hunt Jun 10, 2010 10:45 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                Bill, you're lucky.
                                                                                                                                                                                Just think of a run-of-the-mill polygamist.
                                                                                                                                                                                4 wives, 4 M-I-Ls.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: RicRios
                                                                                                                                                                                  Bill Hunt RE: RicRios Jun 11, 2010 08:53 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                  Yes, I AM lucky, especially in that respect. When we gather with old friends, if one counts one-spouse, then wife and I have been married the longest. Others do beat us, when all the marriages are counted. we are a bit behind.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Taking M-I-L to New Orleans for a major family event. I have instructed the kitchen staff of the hotel to put in extra chicken! [Insert Grin, but it's also true.]

                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: andytee
                                                                                                                                                                            p
                                                                                                                                                                            ptboat67 RE: andytee Jun 18, 2010 08:47 AM

                                                                                                                                                                            I agree. There are a lot of people who feel out of their element in a fine dining situation and will project these feelings on to the staff.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. a
                                                                                                                                                                      Afrodesia RE: stalkingwine Mar 15, 2010 09:51 AM

                                                                                                                                                                      People drink white zin for one of 2 reasons;

                                                                                                                                                                      1. They like sweet wine as they are just 'getting into wine'
                                                                                                                                                                      2. That's just what they drink

                                                                                                                                                                      #2 meaning they like a sense of comfort & really are not open to anything else. #1 type would sometimes be open to another selection with a high residual sugar content, usually white (not generally pink in a '4-star' joint as most pinks are actually pretty dry.)

                                                                                                                                                                      I am all about the hospitality-spirit but I don't include white zin on my lists. Its just not representative of what wine means to me which is hand-crafted, hands-on, expressive & always changing. I'd rather take the path of showing a patron a new experience. If they are open to it, I can always find something for them. If they are not, I apologize from my heart & try to please them in another fashion.

                                                                                                                                                                      Interesting though tat this woman sensed 'oil' in the reisling..many have that quality. Maybe she should consider a career as a sommelier? ; )

                                                                                                                                                                      13 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Afrodesia
                                                                                                                                                                        s
                                                                                                                                                                        SteveG RE: Afrodesia Mar 15, 2010 11:03 AM

                                                                                                                                                                        Yeah, the oil note in the Riesling is why I come down on the side of the sommelier being rude. There are plenty of simple, sweet wines out there, no need to give a challenging petrol-tinged riesling or a chenin blanc, which in most cases are way more acidic and dry than white zin.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: SteveG
                                                                                                                                                                          westsidegal RE: SteveG May 6, 2010 09:42 PM

                                                                                                                                                                          steve:
                                                                                                                                                                          what type of wine that is served by-the-glass would you recommend?
                                                                                                                                                                          in my normal watering hole, the closest wbtg that they offer to wz would be caymus conundrum, which, imho, isn't close at all.
                                                                                                                                                                          the dessert wines that are offered btg in many high end restaurants are so high priced that the price could well offend a wz drinker who presumably is used to a much lower-priced wine.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: westsidegal
                                                                                                                                                                            Midlife RE: westsidegal May 6, 2010 10:47 PM

                                                                                                                                                                            My 2¢.............. In my experience, one 'pink' wine I'd put in the same range as White Zin is Folie au Deux's Menage a Trois Rosé. It's possibly the sweetest rosé I've tried. In whites, if acceptable, I'd suggest something like a Liebfraumilch or maybe the old Blue Nun. These two are pretty much sweet Reislings. They're all pretty reasonably priced too.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Midlife
                                                                                                                                                                              kaysyrahsyrah RE: Midlife May 13, 2010 12:51 PM

                                                                                                                                                                              I just tried the Deux a Menage last weekend in Napa. Cause I went to Sutter Home just for fun and started mingling with the tour bus people to see what they were up to. One of them said the best wine they ever dried was 'this upscale white zin from Folie a Deux..."

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: kaysyrahsyrah
                                                                                                                                                                                Bill Hunt RE: kaysyrahsyrah May 13, 2010 07:45 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                You know, that is the wonderful thing about the world of wine - many folk have different tastes. Each can enjoy what they like. Expecting it everywhere is the issue.

                                                                                                                                                                                Going back some years, we had to stay at a casino hotel, due to familial commitments. As the dining was mostly on-site, we did the full boat of their 6 restaurants. At the first 5, Kendall Jackson' s Vintner's Reserve was the top white wine on the list. I whispered bad words to my wife, as we dined at each. Well, with restaurant 6, I ONLY WISHED for Kendall Jackson as their upper-end white. I ate my earlier words. Still, most diners around us were enjoying whatever the "best white" was there. I do not begrudge them, but would have loved to see some imagination in the wine lists.

                                                                                                                                                                                Fifteen years ago, we did a "wine cruise" in Napa/Sonoma, and the vessel normally did duty in Alaska. Still, this was a "wine cruise," but they had 6 different White Zins on the wine list, and no "serious wines" at all, 'cause on the Alaska cruises, the crowd preferred a half-dozen White Zins. On the next night's dining, I had brought a case of "other" wines for our two tables, and so it went.

                                                                                                                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: kaysyrahsyrah
                                                                                                                                                                                  Midlife RE: kaysyrahsyrah May 13, 2010 08:04 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                  See. That's the whole point. Whatever is OK for you..... is OK.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: westsidegal
                                                                                                                                                                                invinotheresverde RE: westsidegal May 7, 2010 09:13 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                Most better restaurants have at least one btg Riesling with high RS. I'd suggest that.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                                                                                                                                  bubba_frisco_dave RE: invinotheresverde Jul 9, 2010 09:21 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                  I wonder the reaction of the board members to the idea of serving a high RS Riesling colored with a drop of a fruit-forward, dark Syrah? This would give the desired color tint without materially affecting the nose or taste. What say you all (other than **HERESY!!**)? Remember, the goal is we are trying to please the customer with the best possible offering in line with what is in the cellar....

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: bubba_frisco_dave
                                                                                                                                                                                    r
                                                                                                                                                                                    RicRios RE: bubba_frisco_dave Jul 9, 2010 10:31 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                    Now that you mention it, pole dancing sommeliers would be another interesting twist.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: bubba_frisco_dave
                                                                                                                                                                                      z
                                                                                                                                                                                      zin1953 RE: bubba_frisco_dave Jul 9, 2010 01:04 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                      I would never have a high .rs Syrah on my list . . .

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                                                                                                                                      alanbarnes RE: invinotheresverde Jul 9, 2010 11:26 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                      Inspired by b_f_d's heretical suggestion, how about making a kir with that riesling?

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                                                                                                                        invinotheresverde RE: alanbarnes Jul 10, 2010 07:29 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                        I may, or may not, have added granadine to a cheap glass of pinot noir once when a guest insisted we find him a sweet red btg...

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                                                                                                                                          kaysyrahsyrah RE: invinotheresverde Aug 30, 2010 10:59 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                          LOL. And good for you. I'm sure the customer was totally pysched!

                                                                                                                                                                              3. h
                                                                                                                                                                                henmonster RE: stalkingwine Sep 9, 2010 12:10 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                why don't they list "arbor mist" for that matter?

                                                                                                                                                                                i will eat mcdonald's. i will eat dirty water dogs and love them. i will drink diet pepsi like it was nectar of the gods. i will drink miller high life and ask for five more. i will drink a five dollar red blend from california... but i refuse to drink white zin or any of its cousins (white merlot, etc.).

                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: henmonster
                                                                                                                                                                                  z
                                                                                                                                                                                  zin1953 RE: henmonster Sep 12, 2010 12:43 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                  As much as I hate to prolong this thread, I have to ask "why?" I have no objection to "4 star" restaurants NOT carrying a White Zin -- it is a sommelier's/wine buyer's job to select wines to match the chef's menu. But saying you "refuse" to drink **anything** simply on principle is to deny yourself some very enjoyable wines.

                                                                                                                                                                                2. c
                                                                                                                                                                                  CharlieTheCook RE: stalkingwine Feb 11, 2011 10:48 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                  Well, damned if Rieslings don't sometime taste like fusel oil. And, Miami Vice, 1980s connotations aside, white zinfandel tastes pretty bleepin' good and is the perfect choice for certain dishes or as an aperitif.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Off with the sommelier's head.

                                                                                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: CharlieTheCook
                                                                                                                                                                                    invinotheresverde RE: CharlieTheCook Feb 11, 2011 11:45 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                    I can't quite tell if you're being sarcastic.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                                                                                                                                      scQue814 RE: invinotheresverde Feb 12, 2011 01:13 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                      Sounds like he's drunk on something cheap and loaded with congeners.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: scQue814
                                                                                                                                                                                        invinotheresverde RE: scQue814 Feb 12, 2011 06:09 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                        Ha!

                                                                                                                                                                                  Show Hidden Posts