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IS IT PROPER FOR A WAITER TO "TASTE YOUR WINE.?"

Baron Apr 14, 2011 05:33 PM

IS IT PROPER FOR A WAITER TO "TASTE YOUR WINE.?" i recently dined at a new, high end restaurant run by Tyler Florence in Mill Vallley, Ca called El Paseo ( a chop house).. Aside from the fact that they totally screwed up my veal chop (another issue), we ordered a wine recommended by our waiter, a Cal cab 2006, about $70. He asked to be allowed to taste our wine before serving it. Which he did. I also noticed that he was doing the same for some other tables. Is this customary? As for the veal chop, they kept us waiting a good 30 mins for the main dishes and then, my chop came EXTRA RARE , even though I made it clear that I wanted it a good Medium. I sent it back and passed on my main course as I did not want to interfere with the meals of my quests. The steak was decent, the pork-chop came dry and fatty, the steak was good.

  1. Quine Apr 14, 2011 05:34 PM

    I think not!

    1. s
      Sherri Apr 14, 2011 05:37 PM

      You've just penned my favorite pun of all time!
      "I did not want to interfere with the meals of my quests"

      1. wineguy7 Apr 14, 2011 06:06 PM

        It's more common in restaurants that want to be sure the wine you are consuming isn't flawed.
        Check out this article in the NY Times regarding this issue:
        http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/07/din...

        29 Replies
        1. re: wineguy7
          Quine Apr 14, 2011 06:19 PM

          A waiter????? Really you think a waiter who is not even a Sommelier, has the chops to taste and know a specific wine is as it should be before you even taste it?

          I do offer up this link:
          http://www.1winedude.com/index.php/20...

          1. re: Quine
            h
            hilltowner Apr 14, 2011 06:45 PM

            And how, exactly, do you know that the waiter is not qualified to test the wine? Because he is "just" a waiter? Perhaps he may not be qualified to test all wines in general, (but again, we don't know. Maybe he IS a Sommeier but hasn't been able to find work in that field), but presumably, he is familiar with the restaurants wine list. Do you really think that waiters are, by nature, less qualified than you?

            1. re: hilltowner
              Quine Apr 14, 2011 07:06 PM

              No, but also don't assume they are better at liking my wine than I.

              It wasn't a put down on waiters but more of a rant that Sommeiers are being "down-sized" by places that won't hire one but will ask a waiter to have or get same expertise for less wage.

              As for down-sizing, many places aren't even letting servers taste the menu, never the less the specials they are supposed to sell, so I am doubtful they are educating them on the wine list.

              Again, a rant on profit making taking place over paying and educating those that are serving to get those profits.

              1. re: Quine
                Delucacheesemonger Apr 14, 2011 07:45 PM

                They are not tasting to see if is likeable, they are tasting to see if off, corked, oxidized or other.

                1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                  Quine Apr 14, 2011 07:55 PM

                  Well, unless I am really wrong all those are pretty obvious by sight and smell.
                  So no one agrees that profit making is over taking hiring and training and paying well for such? Servers taste your wine (an OP did not mention the cork et al routine, done or not).
                  BYOB

                  1. re: Quine
                    Delucacheesemonger Apr 14, 2011 08:47 PM

                    l do not understand your issue with the staff tasting. Went to a Michelin*** a few nights ago. They brought the bottle, opened it and the staff, sort of a sommelier assistant as wine not Cheval Blanc, brought a teeny glass with him and poured himself about half an ounce to check its condition. It was deemed acceptable and thus l drank. Perhaps ridiculous and unnecessary , but a nice tradition.

                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                      Quine Apr 15, 2011 05:59 AM

                      See now, no issue with that silly little tradition but it was not what the OP described,
                      Is the what I would expect from a Michelin 3 Star. Again no what the OP describes.

                    2. re: Quine
                      Bill Hunt Apr 18, 2011 08:12 PM

                      Still think that you are joisting at windmills here.

                      Flaws in wines happen. Were I the server, I would ask to taste the wine too. If there are flaws, I would pick them up, exchange the bottle, and save my table from having to return that bottle. To me, as the patron, that is much easier, and more restaurants should employ the same procedure. I hate having to call the sommelier, or server out, when I encounter flawed wines - especially if they cop an attitude, or make excuses.

                      Hunt

                    3. re: Delucacheesemonger
                      Quine Apr 14, 2011 07:59 PM

                      And I would not expect the person who served my cheese to ask to taste it to make sure it was OK either nor my steak etc.. But I SURE do shop where I can ask about the cheese I wish to buy or recommendations!

                      1. re: Quine
                        Delucacheesemonger Apr 14, 2011 08:49 PM

                        Were my cheese of varying quality and condition, and came in a sealed package, l would have no problem with their checking the condition before serving as well.

                        1. re: Quine
                          Bill Hunt Apr 18, 2011 08:14 PM

                          Actually, a competent fromagier will have tasted each sample, before loading up the cart. That is part of the job. You just do not see it, as the cheese has been loaded, and the wine is in a discrete bottle.

                          Your analogy does not wash with me. Maybe we can try another one?

                          Hunt

                        2. re: Delucacheesemonger
                          k
                          kjc514 Jun 10, 2011 07:34 AM

                          I would prefer to be the one to taste it and decide if it is bad. I couldn't imagine what i would say if my server would ask to taste if first. if I thought it was bad and was sending it back, THAN he could taste it if he wanted to.

                          1. re: kjc514
                            alanbarnes Jun 10, 2011 09:35 AM

                            I'm just the opposite. If I say a wine is bad, then it's bad; it's not the server's job to second-guess me. (And yes, I've had this happen. One yahoo tried to tell me that a deeply-flawed pinot was "supposed to taste that way." I understand that a little Brettanomyces is acceptable and even desirable, but this tasted like the glass had been rinsed in a manure lagoon.)

                            But if a fault is subtle, and if the server has sampled several / many bottles of the same wine from the same vintage, s/he might be able to reject a wine that isn't obviously flawed but isn't as good as it should be. What's not to like about that?

                        3. re: Quine
                          mamachef Apr 15, 2011 06:44 AM

                          Quine, regarding only your third paragraph: many houses that I've worked in have, indeed let staff taste and critique the wines being offered, but it was done at training meetings which were generally facilitated by management but given by the wine salesman/distributor. Therefore the beverage was free and so management had no issue with it, but the food? Not so much. : )

                          1. re: mamachef
                            Quine Apr 15, 2011 03:33 PM

                            Yea on the food level, houses I have worked in who let staff taste and be educated on daily special had a much high sales rate than those who's staff could only give blank stares when asked how something tasted or for a recommendation (food wise)
                            And I have seen in some houses I worked at, where the free wine sales training was refused as the house would have to pay the hour's wages and well, they just didn;t care to do so.
                            Of course the longer ago it was the more tasting and traing happen but now a days, it is, punch in get on the floor when you get a chance, write own what the specials are.

                            1. re: Quine
                              o
                              ospreycove Apr 15, 2011 03:56 PM

                              Q Depends on the ownership and how passionate the operators are in creating a superior product. Product=food,ambiance, and knowledgeable service. I, off the top of my head, can think of several of my fav independent places that have a superior product, by above definition.

                              Beach Bistro, Anna Maria Island

                              Michael's on East, Sarasota

                              Bologna Cafe, Sarasota

                              Andrea's Sarasota

                              1. re: ospreycove
                                Quine Apr 15, 2011 04:04 PM

                                I agree with your definition and also know of places, those I visit often myself. But for every one I visit, I must drive by a dozen that don't even come close to anything with a passion but for profit.

                                Sad, really.

                                1. re: Quine
                                  o
                                  ospreycove Apr 16, 2011 08:07 AM

                                  Q, true, it is getting very difficult for the independent owner to operate with all the gov. regulations and difficulty of getting financing. The Corporate units can sustain more years of not breaking even than the single location operator. That is one of the reasons I try and support independent owners in all areas of retail products/services.

                                  1. re: Quine
                                    s
                                    soupkitten Apr 17, 2011 08:34 PM

                                    maybe it's my imagination, but there sure have been many recent threads on chowhound about folks adamantly *not* wanting servers with more traditional, knowledge focused training. folks seem to prefer silent and invisible servers, and complain when servers are trained to describe dishes, specials, soup of the day. . . i think service is declining in many places because people want servers to stfu and go away. . . then, ironically, the same customers are complaining because their servers seem inexperienced, or their table isn't getting attention from a server, or the server has no idea how to describe a dish or preparation, and they don't know whether it features the customer's allergen du jour. . .

                                    1. re: soupkitten
                                      linguafood Apr 18, 2011 08:20 AM

                                      those poor servers. they just. can't. win.

                                      how do they live?

                                      1. re: soupkitten
                                        Quine Apr 18, 2011 12:35 PM

                                        "maybe it's my imagination, but there sure have been many recent threads on chowhound about folks adamantly *not* wanting servers with more traditional, knowledge focused training. folks seem to prefer silent and invisible servers,"

                                        Yes it is your imagination. There are threads where folks indicate they WANT well and traditionally trained knowledgeable servers. Those who do the job, do it well and without much intrusion and chattiness.
                                        Doing the job well, means knowing what the specials are, able to describe as well as recommend from knowledge if asked as well a getting the order correct including what cannot be eaten by whom.. This is different from trying to "sell" them, being the hello my name is and sitting next to you sorta thing.
                                        I think service is going out of style because folks assume, as you did, well trained and trained to "sell" are the same thing in a server. And they are not.

                                        But that is a different thread.

                                        1. re: Quine
                                          s
                                          soupkitten Apr 18, 2011 07:05 PM

                                          i'd be really happy if it were my imagination, as i'm in 100% agreement with you about the elements of good service and server training.

                                          i don't think that a server who can't verbally describe a dish in conversation has any business waiting tables-- not even at earle's burger shack, and for me that's a major management FAIL. these same servers won't be able to adequately deal with customer's needs/special requests if they haven't been trained to notice the food prep of what the restaurant serves, & ingredients, cooking method, etc. of course good server training takes a little more time/effort on the restaurant's end, and more and more i see the results of skimping on the foh training. it makes me sad.

                                          i just think that they are out there, at least on some chowhound threads, these folks who want the "drive thru" experience at a good restaurant, and others, like me, who *want* the server to be able to tell me what farm the eggs come from, or whether the soup has a broth base or cream base, etc. anyways, i agree with you-- and i guess we'll see each other on that other thread.

                                      2. re: Quine
                                        Bill Hunt Apr 18, 2011 08:19 PM

                                        That is life. For those places, their lives should be short.

                                        That has zero bearing on the OP's question.

                                        With a passion for excellence, a taste of the wine, before it's served is a very nice, and highly useful touch. More restaurants should exhibit that level of caring.

                                        Hunt

                                    2. re: Quine
                                      Bill Hunt Apr 18, 2011 08:17 PM

                                      The policies of some other restaurants should not have any impact on this thread.

                                      A good GM/Chef will educate the entire staff, and not only on the cuisine, but the cuisine of the day, plus wine pairings for that food. If servers do not know about wines, that is a lesson for later in the week.

                                      That training is important, and should never be skipped, especially if a restaurant prides itself.

                                      Hunt

                                  2. re: Quine
                                    Bill Hunt Apr 18, 2011 08:09 PM

                                    Personally, I do not see how those "rants" apply to the OP's question.

                                    Enjoy,

                                    Hunt

                                2. re: Quine
                                  wineguy7 Apr 15, 2011 07:52 AM

                                  Many people don't have the ability, experience or knowledge to recognize flaws in wine.

                                  1. re: wineguy7
                                    Bill Hunt Apr 18, 2011 08:36 PM

                                    Absolutely. In the OP's case, regardless of their level of competence, the server was saving them the possible issue of a flawed wine. Were I the server, that would be my intention.

                                    Some years ago, we went to a tasting room in the Central Coast, just as they opened. The owner/winemaker was pouring, and two other couples had already been poured the Reserve Chardonnay. They were sipping and talking. As soon as he began to pour my glass, I asked him to come over, and whispered that the Reserve Chard was corked. He sniffed, and turned pale. He quickly opened another bottle, grabbed the glasses from the other couples, apologized, and replaced with a good bottle. The evening staff had opened that bottle, and he trusted them to have checked it out. They had already poured a few glasses of a corked wine. He was very happy that I had caught the problem early that morning, and added 6 bottles to the half-case that I purchased. The other couples had no clue that the wine was pretty badly flawed. I am sure, however, that they would not have bought any of that wine, either at the winery's tasting room, or at retail back home. Some people cannot tell TCA, if it hits them in the face, while others can smell it blocks away. When the concentration is minimal, a smell alone might not be adequate. Tasting the wine, however, will likely reveal that the acid level is elevated, and that the fruit has been scalped. We had such a bottle the other night. Smell did not bely TCA (wife is almost as sensitive, as am I), but one taste, and the acid was high, and all fruit was gone - TCA.

                                    Hunt

                                  2. re: Quine
                                    invinotheresverde Apr 15, 2011 08:12 AM

                                    I worked as a waiter the entire time I was training for my sommelier cert. Lots of waiters know wine.

                                    1. re: Quine
                                      Bill Hunt Apr 18, 2011 08:07 PM

                                      If they have training, either OTJ, or elsewhere, yes. I am not a sommelier, but can spot flaws in wine easily and quickly. I have nailed TCA contaminated glasses, when the server passed behind me, with wines for another table.

                                      Now, if the server knows zilch about wines, then all bets are off.

                                      Hunt

                                  3. Kajikit Apr 15, 2011 03:00 AM

                                    It's supposed to be part of their job to make sure that the wine isn't corked before they give it to you, so that you don't ruin your meal with a bad bottle. I remember it well from dining out with my parents (I don't drink myself). A good waiter will open the bottle, check/sniff the cork, and pour a sip of the wine into a tasting glass to detect any gross flaws in the bottle... then they'll offer you the same courtesy and if you both agree the wine is good they'll pour it for you. (if either of you disagrees they'll fetch a replacement bottle.) Since my parents were into wine, I also remember that one time when they DID get a corked bottle, they had a fairly lengthy chat with the waiter, and we all got to smell/taste the bad wine too.

                                    Why are you concerned that it was 'just' a waiter doing the checking? Maybe they figured that since they want to be upmarket, that ALL their floor staff should have the ability to assist their customers in that way? Maybe the guy has an interest in good wine and some actual knowledge/skill in the area.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Kajikit
                                      h
                                      HoosierFoodie Apr 15, 2011 06:52 AM

                                      I haven't seen a wine tasted in a long time. I think the old school somm with a tastevin around their neck is gone. A corked wine is easily judged by smell. I don't particularly have a problem with a somm tasting the wine, really we're talking about a sip. More than that is not normal or acceptable. When I take a wine to a restaurant I always offer the server or staff a healthy taste.

                                      1. re: HoosierFoodie
                                        mamachef Apr 15, 2011 07:03 AM

                                        I find that very decent of you, HoosierFoodie. When Mr. and I "bring in," we generally also leave a glass for the waiter.
                                        While the somm of days of yore may be on the wane, I did enjoy European-style service that included the somm doing a pre-service (and IMO correct) wine check, not long ago. However, I haven't experienced it as the norm anytime recently.

                                    2. mamachef Apr 15, 2011 07:07 AM

                                      It's a little unusual that the waiter undertook the responsibility, but he did ask permission which I have to assume you granted. It may be a house policy in this age of declining sales; a true possibility that they've trained their staff to fill in for the sommelier that they can no longer afford to employ. You surely could've refused his request and just done the American-style tasting: the party hosting tastes the wine and either accepts or rejects it.
                                      It does get worse, though: many years ago, my family ate at a local, extremely busy seafood restaurant, and the waiter brought my parents' wine to the table ALREADY OPENED. My dad inquired about it, and the waiter told him that since they, the waiters, were sooooo very very busy, the bartenders just went ahead and did it beforehand. I can still see the look on dad's face as he said, "Balls," and handed the bottle back. And I can still see the look on the poor waiter's face, too. : )

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: mamachef
                                        o
                                        ospreycove Apr 15, 2011 10:31 AM

                                        Mamachef. The more I think about this, the more it makes sense; to prevent the novice, or non- oenophile, from grandstanding in front of his fellow "diners" and sending the wine back. By having a staff member first ask if he/she is permitted to taste the wine, and then acknowledging that the subject bottle is as it should be short stops a lot of useless discussion and posturing.

                                      2. r
                                        redfish62 Apr 15, 2011 07:11 AM

                                        In some nations "taste your wine" is a euphemism for "have sex with your wife."

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: redfish62
                                          Bill Hunt Apr 18, 2011 08:59 PM

                                          Which countries are those?

                                          Hunt

                                        2. alanbarnes Apr 15, 2011 08:43 AM

                                          While a heavy dose of TCA is easy enough to detect from halfway across the room, some bottles are only slightly tainted. Also, the tasting isn't just supposed to detect cork taint, it's also intended to prevent the diner from being served a wine that's cooked or oxidized or otherwise flawed.

                                          A person who's familiar a particular wine and what it's supposed to taste like will be able to detect minor flaws more readily than someone who's unfamiliar with the vintage / producer / style / etc. So a server or sommelier may be in a better position than the diner to stop a bad bottle from making it to the table.

                                          Obviously, this isn't the norm in the US these days, but I wouldn't have a problem with it.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: alanbarnes
                                            invinotheresverde Apr 15, 2011 10:10 AM

                                            +1

                                            1. re: alanbarnes
                                              Bill Hunt Apr 18, 2011 09:02 PM

                                              Well, we experienced it at three restaurants in DC last week, so it is not a forgotten procedure. The week before, in London, it was done for every bottle, in every restaurant.

                                              Though I am perfectly capable of determining my wines, I appreciated the intent, and the time required. It allowed me to spend more time with my guests.

                                              Hunt

                                              1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                s
                                                sedimental Apr 18, 2011 09:45 PM

                                                So, at every restaurant- your WAITER came to your table, opened up your wine, poured themselves a taste- told you it was fine..........then poured for the rest of you?

                                                I need to get out more. I think I am behind the times.

                                                1. re: sedimental
                                                  Bill Hunt Apr 19, 2011 06:18 PM

                                                  If my server asked to taste the wine, that he/she had just opened, I would have no issues. I would then ask them, "well, how is it?"

                                                  As mentioned, that would give me a moment more with my guests.

                                                  That the server/restaurant even cared would be a positive. Too often, I see more of a "take it, or leave it" attitude, and appreciate that much less.

                                                  Though in the UK, we just poured 13 bottles for a dinner. Our sommelier tasted each bottle (no tastevin, but a clean stem for each), and then presented each for me - again, in a clean stem, even if it was the also the previous wine. I appreciated that.

                                                  Hunt

                                            2. i
                                              Isolda Apr 15, 2011 10:20 AM

                                              I've never seen this done, but if the server was tasting everybody's wine, it would be mighty interesting to see how well he was doing his job at the end of his shift!

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Isolda
                                                Veggo Apr 15, 2011 04:22 PM

                                                Funny you mention that - I did a stint as a busboy at a fancy french resto while I was in college in Philly, and I have yet to thank those who surprisingly left behind a nice portion of a killer expensive wine. I had the swill maneuver down pat as I entered the worker- bee area, and enjoyed some pretty good grape juice! Sophomoric Mateus to Margaux was a fun quantum leap for this guy.

                                                1. re: Veggo
                                                  Bill Hunt Apr 18, 2011 09:03 PM

                                                  But what did you do with that just lit Cuban... ?

                                                  Hunt

                                                2. re: Isolda
                                                  Baron Apr 16, 2011 02:21 PM

                                                  According to my wife, he didn't swallow. I didn't learn of the "taste" until later. When he first brought the un-opened bottle, he whispered something to my son-in-law. I later learned of his secret request. Just new to me, but no complaints. It was a 2006 Mount Eden Cab. ($79) I'm still P.O'd about that veal chop. Otherwise, the staff was top notch. I think the place just opened.

                                                3. Junie D Apr 15, 2011 10:32 AM

                                                  I can't comment on "proper" but I appreciate anyone who would attempt NOT to serve me bad wine. At my favorite restaurant the wait and bar staff always at least sniff the open bottle before serving. What I think is more odd is when restaurants that put so much thought, talent and creativity into making their food perfect, then expect the diner to discover the flawed wine.

                                                  1. s
                                                    sedimental Apr 15, 2011 06:50 PM

                                                    I have never had that happen. I would be surprised -and probably too surprised to say no. I don't think it's standard so I would wonder about that as a policy. Unless you are ordering a very old wine, the chance of it being off (in any way) is soooo small. I can't see the point. Seems strange to me.

                                                    35 Replies
                                                    1. re: sedimental
                                                      alanbarnes Apr 15, 2011 09:21 PM

                                                      >>"Unless you are ordering a very old wine, the chance of it being off (in any way) is soooo small."<<

                                                      According to some estimates, about 5% of bottles suffer from cork taint. That doesn't strike me as an insignificant risk. I'd be willing to bet that plenty of diners drink wines that are less than they should be and never know.

                                                      1. re: alanbarnes
                                                        invinotheresverde Apr 15, 2011 10:05 PM

                                                        And that's just cork taint. I'd say about >15% of wine I'm served in a restaurant is flawed in some way, especially if you take serving temperature into consideration.

                                                        1. re: alanbarnes
                                                          s
                                                          sedimental Apr 16, 2011 09:44 AM

                                                          Estimates are actually between 2 and 5 percent for *all* cork taint (not just TCA). Again...sooooo small. The chance that the average consumer would get one of those bottles in a restaurant is tiny.The chance that the consumer would even be able to taste it is even smaller. Generally, unless you are ordering an aged wine......you are sniffing and swirling just for show.

                                                          If more 15 percent of the wine in a restaurant is flawed, then something is wrong in the restaurant.

                                                          1. re: sedimental
                                                            alanbarnes Apr 16, 2011 10:37 AM

                                                            First off, while there are many flaws that can be found in wine, cork taint is caused by TCA. Period.

                                                            The cork industry insists that rates of taint are very low - around one percent - but eight percent of the bottles at a 2004 Wine Show in Sydney, Australia were corked, as were seven percent of the 2800 bottles tested by Wine Spectator in 2005.

                                                            Those latter numbers are more consistent with my personal experiences. I've only gotten a huge dose of TCA once, but am served mildly corked wine a few times a year. And we're not just talking about older vintages here; the most recent tainted bottle I encountered was a current-release Napa Valley rose.

                                                            People have different levels of sensitivity to TCA; if you can't taste it, maybe you really are "sniffing and swirling just for show." But I pick it up pretty readily, and even if it doesn't dominate a wine's nose it tends to kill other flavors and aromas. So even a bottle that isn't obviously tainted can be less than ideal.

                                                            It's educational to sample a flawed wine and then taste the same wine without the flaw. (My wife just thought the rose we were served wasn't very good; her opinion changed dramatically when the bottle was replaced.) But a nice dinner isn't necessarily the best time or place for that education. If a server or a sommelier can stop a tainted bottle before it gets to my glass, I for one will be grateful.

                                                            ETA: The fifteen percent number of "flawed" bottles invino mentioned included wines served at the incorrect temperature. Using that definition, I'd say that fifteen percent is on the low side. But it's nothing that a few minutes in an ice bucket (or warming on the table) can't fix.

                                                            1. re: alanbarnes
                                                              s
                                                              sedimental Apr 16, 2011 01:40 PM

                                                              I am not going to argue. I have collected wine for 30 years. I have never had an actual corked bottle served me at a restaurant -although I have had bottles that were not properly stored.

                                                              To serious collectors, if corked bottles were so common- we would never spend thousands on them (buy, sell, trade) from other collectors. That being said, there are some vineyards that have problems-but they are known and prices are reduced because of it.

                                                              At most, if you said that 5 out of 100 bottles at a restaurant were actually "corked", of those say 1/2 would be out of the average persons price range (because aged wines have a higher likelihood for many reasons)-so what are the chances that you just happen to pick one of those 2 bottles in *that* restaurant *that* night for dinner? Enough to have the waiter taste it first? Pleeeese. If the bottle is not at a decent temperature to YOUR liking- then having the waiter taste it first is irrelevant.

                                                              1. re: sedimental
                                                                alanbarnes Apr 16, 2011 01:58 PM

                                                                Assuming that you've been drinking wine in restaurants for as long as you've been collecting it, there's no way you could **not** have been served a corked bottle by now. You just didn't detect it.

                                                                Some people pick up on TCA at 2 parts per trillion; others don't notice it until the concentration is more than ten times that much. Presumably you fall toward the latter end of the spectrum. But just because you can't taste the stuff doesn't mean it's not there.

                                                                1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                  m
                                                                  Missmoo Apr 18, 2011 08:31 AM

                                                                  I work in a restaurant where I have had the occasional collector drink an entire bottle of horrible wine (they have offered tastes) that they brought from their home. I have also had people leave parts of a bottle that we could then tell was corked. It is true that people cannot always tell that there is something wrong with their wine. One guy I told the wine was gone and he said "we'll let it open open up." He then called me over and admitted I was right and ordered another bottle. I am, however; just a waitress.

                                                                  1. re: Missmoo
                                                                    s
                                                                    sedimental Apr 18, 2011 09:12 AM

                                                                    Well, there you have it. Conclusive proof that we should be having the wait staff taste all our wine first.

                                                                    I might even have them taste of bit of my steak too because sometimes I think the kitchen doesn't know what medium rare is.

                                                                    1. re: sedimental
                                                                      invinotheresverde Apr 18, 2011 09:26 AM

                                                                      Snarky! ;)

                                                                      As a somm, I found about 15 flawed bottles a week. I was probably opening around 300 or so, on average. That seems to be in line with what alan and I thought. My wines were all served at the correct temp, though. ;)

                                                                      I think a lot of people just don't pick up flaws in their wine easily and think that's how it's "supposed" to taste. Once I open a new bottle for the guests, they're usually shocked how off that a wine they initially thought was fine ended up being.

                                                                      1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                        s
                                                                        sedimental Apr 18, 2011 09:53 AM

                                                                        Maybe a bit snarkey, but the topic of this conversation is wait staff tasting your wine. My opinion is that there is no legit reason for them to do it and I still have not heard a legit reason. Experts have varied opinions on the percentage of flawed wine...and what the flaw is or if it is a flaw they like (a bit of brett for example). There are many variables.

                                                                        Certainly the idea that the customer can't tell if it is "bad or not" is a goofy reason IMHO. Having a somm taste a wine that you have never tried before -is different. I would probably appreciate that, but that is not the topic.

                                                                        In the example above- with the wait staff telling the collector that the wine was bad- then the collector wanting to "wait till it opens up" - then having it truly be bad- is that sometimes a wait time will make a difference - and it is really hard to pour a very expensive *already paid for* bottle down the drain if there is the slightest chance it can be saved! Especially if you have had experience with the wine and know to try to wait it out. I hardly think that it shows that (in general) the wait staff are more educated than the collector. I am sure there are times when a wait staff *is* more knowledgeable than the customer, but I still say it would feel weird to me to have a wait staff ask for a taste.

                                                                        1. re: sedimental
                                                                          invinotheresverde Apr 18, 2011 10:24 AM

                                                                          The first time I had a waiter taste my wine for me was at the now defunct Fleur de Lys in Vegas. It was comical, since the dude obviously knew nothing about wine. If he had, I would've had no beef with him doing so (though at that price point, there really should've been a somm on the floor, but I digress).

                                                                          I agree that it totally blows to dump expensive wine and that a bit of air may make a difference sometimes.

                                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                            s
                                                                            sedimental Apr 18, 2011 10:32 AM

                                                                            Somms are a different matter- and "a few trainings of a waiter does not a sommelier make". Seriously, if you re-read the OP...it would have been better for the wait staff to have tasted the food before serving :)

                                                                            1. re: sedimental
                                                                              alanbarnes Apr 18, 2011 11:44 AM

                                                                              Are you seriously claiming that upon receipt of a sommelier certificate a person suddenly emerges from the inky darkness of complete wine ignorance into the bright light of oeno-omniscience? Or that **every** customer knows more about **every** wine than **every** server?

                                                                              No one here is claiming that it is always required for the server to ask to taste a wine before it's served. And certainly no one is claiming that the patron is obligated to grant such a request.

                                                                              But if a server is knowledgeable about wine in general, or especially if that server is familiar with the particular bottle the customer has ordered, I see absolutely nothing improper about a request to taste the wine before presenting it. S/he's just being helpful and trying to maximize the dining experience. That's a server's job.

                                                                              Many (not all, mind you) servers are more familiar with the wines they're pouring than many (again, not all) of the patrons they serve. Such a server might use that familiarity to detect a flawed bottle and prevent it from being served. How is that anything other than a legitimate reason for the server to request permission to taste the wine?

                                                                              1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                s
                                                                                sedimental Apr 18, 2011 11:58 AM

                                                                                "Are you seriously claiming that upon receipt of a sommelier certificate a person suddenly emerges from the inky darkness of complete wine ignorance into the bright light of oeno-omniscience? Or that **every** customer knows more about **every** wine than **every** server?"

                                                                                Nope. I never said any of that. I am not sure why you would make that up. I actually never came close to saying it.

                                                                                "I see absolutely nothing improper about a request to taste the wine before presenting it."

                                                                                Okay. That would be your opinion, you can have one. Mine is different from yours. By the looks of the responses in this thread- many others are of the same opinion as myself, so I guess I am not too unique in it.

                                                                                "How is that anything other than a legitimate reason for the server to run interference?"

                                                                                I don't need or want a server to "run interference" for me. I see it as completely unnecessary. I don't really want them to taste my food first either. That was kind of a joke.

                                                                                1. re: sedimental
                                                                                  alanbarnes Apr 18, 2011 12:46 PM

                                                                                  >>"I don't need or want a server to "run interference" for me. I see it as completely unnecessary. "<<

                                                                                  See, I have no problem with that. You don't want a server to taste your wine. You see it as completely unnecessary. So if a server politely asks you "would you like me to taste this?," you can politely decline. (Although if you've been drinking wine for thirty years and seriously believe that you've never had a corked bottle, perhaps you really should consider enlisting the help of someone who **can** weed out the flawed stuff.)

                                                                                  Despite the caption of this thread, the real question isn't whether the server should be permitted to taste your wine or whether s/he should presume taste anyone's wine without permission. It's whether the request for that permission was inappropriate in the first place. And despite lots of knee-jerk reactions from people who've responded here, no one has articulated a reason that it is.

                                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                    s
                                                                                    sedimental Apr 18, 2011 08:26 PM

                                                                                    I don't know if it is inappropriate or not, if it is the restaurants policy to have the wait staff offer to taste the wine- then so be it! Some customers will appreciate it- some won't. I would find it weird and unnecessary and completely see why the OP questions it. I have not changed my mind about finding it weird, despite all your insistence that I should not find it weird.

                                                                                    As far as insulting me about not being able to pick up flaws in wine, I will overlook that comment and move on. Cheers!

                                                                                    1. re: sedimental
                                                                                      alanbarnes Apr 18, 2011 11:15 PM

                                                                                      Insulting you? Seriously?

                                                                                      Sensitivity to TCA is genetic. Some folks taste it, others don't. The fact that you don't pick it up is no more "insulting" than noting that you have brown (blue, green, hazel, etc.) eyes or can(t) smell asparagus piss.

                                                                                      But as somebody who's very sensitive, it's my opinion that tainted wines tend to be deficient in other areas as well. Even absent the "wet dog" smell others don't notice, tainted wines just aren't as good. They're too sour and the fruit disappears too early.

                                                                                      My opinion is reinforced by my experiences. Earlier I gave an example of a wine where my wife couldn't detect any TCA in a bottle we were served, but found the replacement bottle infinitely better. She couldn't taste cork taint, but the fruit was brighter, the acid was more balanced - for her it was a very good wine instead of a mediocre one. The difference was subtle, but it was entirely attributable to cork taint.

                                                                                      Why would you ever refuse to to let someone who can actually taste the difference allow you - at no additional charge - to replace an inferior wine with a better one?

                                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                        s
                                                                                        sedimental Apr 19, 2011 02:43 PM

                                                                                        I pick up flaws in wine as well as anyone else (anyone else without superpowers, that is). This topic is about feelings related to the server asking to taste your wine at the table. Nothing more.

                                                                                        Typically, when the conversation starts down the path of "my palate is more sensitive than your palate" and gets OT and circular .....the chowteam steps in, so why go there? Just have a different opinion and let it go.... have a sip of untainted wine...because statistically...it will be untainted. LOL
                                                                                        (that was a joke)

                                                                                        Good luck.

                                                                          2. re: sedimental
                                                                            Bill Hunt Apr 18, 2011 09:27 PM

                                                                            Oh, I think that the reason has been stated multiple times - to save the patron from drinking a flawed bottle of wine. I do not think that it could be any more clear, than that.

                                                                            As for the ability to tell an "off" wine, it seems that you are not capable, and should definitely rely on the wait-staff to do so for you. Suddenly, your restaurant wines will be much, much better. No more mustiness. No more higher than intended acid. No more scalped fruit. It should be a new world of wine, just waiting for you.

                                                                            As far a "waiting for the wine to open up," there are many elements that can be off-putting at first, but because of those elements' volatility, will "blow off" in time. Think Bret in some Rhônes here. To some, that might be considered a flaw, while not to others.

                                                                            Good luck,

                                                                            Hunt

                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                              s
                                                                              sedimental Apr 18, 2011 10:32 PM

                                                                              I have no problem with musty wines or acid? Where on earth did you read that? I promise that I am not suffering endlessly with bad wine because I always manage to get that whopping 5 percent of corked wine and don't know it!

                                                                              1. re: sedimental
                                                                                Bill Hunt Apr 19, 2011 06:23 PM

                                                                                Where did I read what? I was citing some of the ancillary aspects of wines affected by TCA - musty aroma, and taste, higher than normal acid and scalped fruit. I did not read those attributes, but know them from my experience.

                                                                                Maybe I am just missing something.

                                                                                As for the topic at hand, if the staff saves me the task of finding these elements, I am happy. If not, I will find them. If I do, and they do not, I hope that the will go with my findings. If not, they have forever lost a patron, and I tip well.

                                                                                Hunt

                                                                        2. re: sedimental
                                                                          m
                                                                          Missmoo Apr 18, 2011 12:45 PM

                                                                          Funny, that wasn't what my point was, it was that it was true that often people cannot tell that a wine is bad. And I was not offering an opinion on the waiter asking to taste the wine, which would seem strange to me as a customer, but not something I would get all up in arms about. Also, your analogy should be that you don't know what medium rare is, since the comparison is about customer knowledge.

                                                                          1. re: sedimental
                                                                            Bill Hunt Apr 18, 2011 09:14 PM

                                                                            Actually, they should already have tasted the steak, that evening, before the restaurant opened.

                                                                            Are you so hung up on loosing a sip of your wine, that you would want your guests to be served flawed wines?

                                                                            Hunt

                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                              s
                                                                              sedimental Apr 18, 2011 09:40 PM

                                                                              Of course not.

                                                                              How do you know I am dining with guests? That has nothing to do with anything.

                                                                              Having your waiter asking to taste the wine first is not a crime. It would feel strange. This has *never* been a standard in the restaurant industry before. Maybe it will be a new trend. I hope not because I think it's weird. It's as weird to me as a waiter asking to taste my food first. Following your logic-there is a much higher likelihood that something will not be quite right with my food that the waiter could "detect" first (just like the OP said). So why wouldn't the waiter do that? I will tell you why....it's weird :)

                                                                              1. re: sedimental
                                                                                Bill Hunt Apr 19, 2011 06:25 PM

                                                                                I do not know such, but almost always am. Let me rephrase, "my guests." Does that play better?

                                                                                As far as a standard, I have experienced it over 50 years, though mostly at Michelin starred restaurants, and the request to taste normally comes from a sommelier.

                                                                                Hunt

                                                                      2. re: sedimental
                                                                        l
                                                                        LovinSpoonful Apr 18, 2011 08:47 PM

                                                                        The fact of the matter is that corked wine happens more frequently than you might think or that your experience leads you to believe. I worked for a few years at a four start New York restaurant and often encountered corked bottles. In part it was simply due to the volume of wine we were serving. Also, the storage that many restaurants have for their wine is not the best.

                                                                        We also had regularly scheduled wine tastings, both underwritten by the distributor but also the restaurant itself. Waiters were expected to be articulate and conversant about every bottle on the list. The owner considered this a basic aspect of quality service given that approximately 50% of patrons ask for recommendations. I would easily tell you when any bottle was corked or off.

                                                                        The new trend, while unusual, makes sense to me for several reasons. First, patrons are not paying to test a bottle of wine to see if it is good, they are paying to get a good bottle of wine. Who better to test it than the people who taste it frequently and know how it is supposed to taste?

                                                                        Second, expensive wine is...expensive. It is not uncommon to have a patron send back a bottle of wine in the mistaken belief that it is "off", or, believe it or not, to impress their date.

                                                                        We had one patron who came in once a week, always with a different date. He was a partner at Goldman Sachs, and he liked to put on a show. He would ALWAYS send back the first bottle that was served to him and we would scurry to make amends. Little did his date know that there was a standing agreement with this patron that he would pay for the wine he sent back, which was promptly removed to the bar where it was served by the glass as a special. Dinner is theatre. It goes both ways.

                                                                        If you are all huffy because you pride yourself on your ability to detect a corked or turned bottle of wine and it is important to you to not have that tasting tradition usurped, then ask in advance for the waiter to not taste your wine. And of course you are always free to disagree with them. How that turns out is as much a function of the respect you show as cultivation of your palette.

                                                                        1. re: sedimental
                                                                          Bill Hunt Apr 18, 2011 09:12 PM

                                                                          You have been very fortunate, indeed, or are not sensitive to TCA.

                                                                          Good luck,

                                                                          Hunt

                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                            s
                                                                            sedimental Apr 18, 2011 09:21 PM

                                                                            I have not had a corked wine at a restaurant, but I have had plenty of corked wine! There could be many factors for this, statistically it makes sense for me- I don't eat out weekly and I don't always order wine when I do. If you eat out frequently and order many bottles of wine and taste them all- you would run the risk of getting a corked bottle.

                                                                            Industry estimates are from between 1 and 5 percent from most respected sources. this number would be higher if a particular winery has a big problem with contamination and a sampling was taken from it. There is no point in debating the number because there is no definitive number...other than everyone agrees that the number is very small and is getting smaller by the year.

                                                                          2. re: sedimental
                                                                            Bill Hunt Apr 18, 2011 09:18 PM

                                                                            Actually, you have fallen for an old, and incorrect canard. Older wines are no more likely to be corked, than last month's release.

                                                                            The server should also not be determining the temp of the wine. That is between whomever manages the cellar, and the patron. I always test the temp of my wines, and seldom ask for an ice bucket (except for some reds being served too warm). I do this initially, so as to save the wait-sfaff the effort of brining an ice bucket.

                                                                            Hunt

                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                              s
                                                                              sedimental Apr 18, 2011 10:08 PM

                                                                              No "incorrect canard". From what I have read, the incidence of TCA is falling. This is why older wines may have a higher incidence. Also, the country of origin has a variable in this as well (for barrel and cork).

                                                                              1. re: sedimental
                                                                                Bill Hunt Apr 19, 2011 06:30 PM

                                                                                The reason that it is falling is the capping under Stelvin, or other alternate closure. Under cork, it still remains in the 4% to 10% range. Why do you think that even some higher-end wines are going under alternate closures, especially with the marketing problem associated with wines that are not under cork?

                                                                                Even with Stelvin, or other, non-cork closures, there can be other causes for TCA contamination, such as the barrel room. There have been several wineries, that had to be, at least partially, rebuilt, due to elements that contributed to TCA contamination.

                                                                                In the last three months, I have encountered TCA from Italy, Argentina, US and France. The latter two had more, but I believe that reflects the wines that we consume normally.

                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                  s
                                                                                  sedimental Apr 20, 2011 10:59 AM

                                                                                  Here is a great little "chatty" article written highlighting the absolute inability to put a definitive number on the issue of "corked wine". It gives a wide variety of educated opinions and anecdotal experiences on the vast issue of TCA, corked wines, other bacteria, flaws, percentages, experiences, tests, etc. It also talks about concepts such as individual tastes (sensitivities, likes/dislikes) and other reasons (ego, misidentification) why people may taste more "cork" in wines than others. These are wine lovers, experts and judges giving *exceedingly different* opinions on the topic. To me, this is why wine is fascinating, fun, and highly individualized...and highlights why others should not taste your wine for you.
                                                                                  Cheers.

                                                                                  http://www.wine-pages.com/features/co...

                                                                          3. re: alanbarnes
                                                                            Bill Hunt Apr 18, 2011 09:11 PM

                                                                            I agree on the educational value. I hold on to a few bottles, with varying degrees of TCA contamination, for lectures. Once one gets TCA on the nose, and the resultant issues on the palate, they never forget it.

                                                                            Hunt

                                                                          4. re: sedimental
                                                                            Bill Hunt Apr 18, 2011 09:09 PM

                                                                            Well, the industry estimates are 4% to 10%. That translates to a max of 1.2 bottles per case. I recently had one case, where the TCA taint was 16% - higher than industry estimates, and hardly insignificant.

                                                                            Hunt

                                                                        2. re: sedimental
                                                                          Bill Hunt Apr 18, 2011 09:06 PM

                                                                          Unfortunately, a fresh, properly stored wine can be off. Now, there are other flaws, that can manifest themselves in older wines, but even just-released wines can be flawed.

                                                                          Hunt

                                                                        3. h
                                                                          hsk Apr 15, 2011 08:32 PM

                                                                          Your food is a different issue, but yes it is proper for your waiter to taste your wine, and proper that he asked beforehand so that if you begrudged the little bit he poured to make sure your wine was sound you could say no I will check it out myself.

                                                                          1. scoopG Apr 16, 2011 10:22 AM

                                                                            Absolutely not.

                                                                            1. linguafood Apr 16, 2011 01:55 PM

                                                                              I see, as with most NAF threads, that everyone here agrees and is on the same page.

                                                                              Excellent '-D

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: linguafood
                                                                                Baron Apr 16, 2011 02:33 PM

                                                                                It's been a pleasure to listen to the professionals discuss this issue. I'm just a novice who appreciates good wine and the people that know good wine and know how to present it. My most memorable wine was a 1964 Chateau Haut Brion. Several years ago, I was whipping up spaghetti and meat balls for a couple friend of ours. When they walked in, they pulled out this wine from a paper bag. "We don't drink" they said, "my brother gave it to us and we think its a special wine." How right they were.

                                                                              2. q
                                                                                Querencia Apr 17, 2011 10:58 AM

                                                                                The waiter took a swig of your $70 wine? Sounds like a scene in an old Charlie
                                                                                Chaplin movie. What ever happened to pouring a bit for the host to taste before serving the table?

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Querencia
                                                                                  iluvcookies Apr 17, 2011 11:59 AM

                                                                                  Ding ding ding! This is what the waiter should have done!

                                                                                  1. re: iluvcookies
                                                                                    o
                                                                                    ospreycove Apr 17, 2011 12:29 PM

                                                                                    Look at it this way.....You might just have made a service worker a little happier in their drudgery of putting up with the whims, demands and affectations of those he/she "serves". You probably should feel good about that.

                                                                                2. Bill Hunt Apr 18, 2011 08:05 PM

                                                                                  Baron,

                                                                                  It is fairly common in higher-end restaurants. Once, many sommeliers wore a tastevin on a chain around their necks. This served a couple of purposes, plus was a good "show." The bowl is faceted and highly reflective, to show off the wine to the Sommelier. A little pour was smelled, and then usually tasted.

                                                                                  This "ritual" was as multi-faceted, as the tastevin. The sommelier could clearly see the wine from the bottle, and then could taste a little, to sample for flaws, or whether the wine was corked. If they found flaws, at any level, a good sommelier would not offer the bottle, but would replace it from the cellar.

                                                                                  While I can judge flaws, or TCA taint with the best of them, I like that the sommelier is directly involved - so long as they detect problems. That saves me having to point out problems.

                                                                                  At any wine event, the person doing the pours should do the same - sample every bottle, as it is opened.

                                                                                  Sorry that the veal chop was not up to task.

                                                                                  Enjoy,

                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                  21 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                    s
                                                                                    sedimental Apr 18, 2011 09:01 PM

                                                                                    Bill, a little OT but I have an antique sterling tastevin on a chain. It is really beautiful and I can just imagine the show!

                                                                                    The OP was referring to the waiter tasting the wine in a restaurant- not a sommelier tasting it or tasting it at a wine event. Maybe this is a new trend in the restaurant industry? I have been to several exceptionally nice restaurants in the past 6 months in WA and CA and have not had this experience. When I order my bottle, it is opened, a tasting glass is offered to me, I taste my bottle -as is traditional in a restaurant. I have not had the experience of the waiter pouring his own glass and tasting before me, letting me know it is good- then pouring for me and others. Is this something you say you are experiencing too? I honestly have not seen it before.

                                                                                    1. re: sedimental
                                                                                      alanbarnes Apr 18, 2011 11:39 PM

                                                                                      >>"a new trend in the restaurant industry"<<

                                                                                      What, that pretty good restaurants lack sommeliers but have servers who know something about wine? Sorry, but most places don't have wine stewards. And in those places you've got to rely on your server or you're totally on your own.

                                                                                      My stomping grounds are Northern California. PassionFish in Pacific Grove has a great wine program and very well-informed servers, but no somm. Ditto with the Waterboy here in Sacramento. Aziza in San Francisco doesn't have a world-class wine list, but it's got a Michelin star, fercryinoutloud. If a server at any of these places wanted to take a sip to ensure that a wine I'm drinking is all it should be, I'll always be more than happy to offer a taste.

                                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                        s
                                                                                        sedimental Apr 19, 2011 03:49 PM

                                                                                        Alan, you didn't answer my question at all (see above) and I am really curious. Are you saying that you too- go to restaurants- and the servers now bring themselves a glass to your table -and ask you if they can taste it for you? This happens at all those places you listed??? Honestly, I have not had it happen yet. If this is now happening all over- I would consider that a "new trend in the restaurant industry".

                                                                                        When I have had somms make a recommendation to pair with my meal- they don't offer to taste it for me either though - they just ask if I like it. Do your somms ALWAYS ask to taste it for you? I don't believe that it is a requirement for somms to ask to taste your wine either. This would be new information to me too.

                                                                                        If it is a new trend- servers being required to offer to taste the wine of their customers...it is interesting to consider. It brings up interesting issues. There are not many jobs that require you to drink alcohol on the job if requested. Are there limits as to how much you drink in a shift? How about big tables with many different bottles? What if you become pregnant? Have a religion that doesn't allow alcohol? What if you are in recovery? A medical condition develops? What if you don't like wine? This would certainly change our current ideas and requirements of "food servers", would it not? Fine dining servers currently have no requirements like this whatsoever. Maybe they will get pay raises and be called something else? Food servers not being hired because they are nondrinkers?? Interesting.....

                                                                                        1. re: sedimental
                                                                                          alanbarnes Apr 19, 2011 04:15 PM

                                                                                          My point was somewhat different than yours. I'm not saying that servers at these places routinely ask to taste the customers' wines. They don't. What I am saying is that in the absence of a sommelier, it's not necessarily a bad idea for a knowledgeable server to do so.

                                                                                          A few years back a server opened a bottle (a young pinot, IIRC) and poured me a taste. It was a little funky, but I thought it might just need to open up. Seeing the look on my face, the server asked "may I?" When I assented she took a sip, whisked the bottle away, and replaced it. Bingo, problem solved; the replacement bottle was a vast improvement.

                                                                                          Because she knew the wine, the server was able to identify a minor flaw that I wasn't sure about. And the only way she was able to do that was by taking a sip. Had it been up to me, I would have wasted half an hour sitting and swirling and might have just decided that the wine wasn't to my liking. Instead I had an enjoyable bottle immediately. You may disagree, but I think that's great service.

                                                                                          1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                            s
                                                                                            sedimental Apr 19, 2011 05:32 PM

                                                                                            Okay. That's what I thought. I think Hunt misunderstood as well. It is hard to believe that all those restaurants he went to- had the servers offering to taste every bottle for him.

                                                                                            I don't get out to restaurants all that much these days so I thought maybe I was really missing something.

                                                                                            There is nothing wrong with your scenario. I am glad it worked out for you. If there is ever a problem with the wine- I simply send it back. It rarely happens, I can count on one hand. I can't see having our food servers become professional "tasters" for us though- I think that went out with one of the King Henry's...along with elevator button pushers...and bathroom attendants...all superfluous, elitist, ridiculous job requirements for people that can't tolerate the slightest inconvenience. Yes, that is my very opinionated opinion :)

                                                                                            IMO for the few times in a lifetime - I would just order another bottle, leave the server out of it, they have enough to do.

                                                                                          2. re: sedimental
                                                                                            Baron Apr 19, 2011 07:48 PM

                                                                                            hello sediment. I've been following this thread with interest. The server did not taste the wine at our table. He brought the open bottle to our table after his tasting. I do not recall him giving me the cork for inspection. I was told that he didn't swallow the wines he tasted. As the one paying the bill, I'm not sure that I like this practice. Suppose the wine passed his taste, but not mine.?

                                                                                            1. re: Baron
                                                                                              alanbarnes Apr 19, 2011 11:08 PM

                                                                                              >>"Suppose the wine passed his taste, but not mine.?"<<

                                                                                              That's when you send it back. Two heads are better than one, and all.

                                                                                              1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                                Baron Apr 20, 2011 07:15 AM

                                                                                                That is when the manager comes over and asks who am I to question the palate of the well qualified, highly trained server.

                                                                                                1. re: Baron
                                                                                                  alanbarnes Apr 20, 2011 08:17 AM

                                                                                                  And that in turn is when I get up from the table and walk out of the restaurant.

                                                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                                    Baron Apr 20, 2011 12:36 PM

                                                                                                    That did not happen. I was only giving you a hypothetical.

                                                                                                    1. re: Baron
                                                                                                      alanbarnes Apr 20, 2011 01:01 PM

                                                                                                      But it's not a realistic hypothetical; at least not in any restaurant worth its salt. If a customer says a wine is flawed, it's not the manager's job to argue about it. One who does so shouldn't be in the business.

                                                                                                  2. re: Baron
                                                                                                    Bill Hunt Apr 20, 2011 08:44 PM

                                                                                                    Baron,

                                                                                                    That is when you explain the flaws that you detected, and ask the manager to also taste the wine. Describe the flaws in as much detail, as you can.

                                                                                                    Hunt

                                                                                                2. re: Baron
                                                                                                  s
                                                                                                  soupkitten Apr 20, 2011 09:50 AM

                                                                                                  mmmm. the wine should be opened at the table after a proper presentation, not brought over in an opened bottle. perhaps mr. florence is unfamiliar with the pretty strict american alcohol laws designed to prevent anti-contamination (mixing of spirits) post-prohibition, and folks' generally low comfort level with just getting an opened jug of some kind of wine as a result. . . open the container in front of the customer, and the bottle is never out of her/his sight, please.

                                                                                                  the cork presentation is a bit dated and silly, though you can of course get some info from a cork if the wine has been stored very incorrectly. many fine places don't do it because then you have a piece of refuse (the cork) cluttering the tabletop and someone can inadvertently put their glass down on it and have a spill (you'd be astounded how often it happens). tasting is better. i think the server tasting your bottle away from the table changes the scenario to one that wouldn't be copacetic for me. and the mgr sounds like an ass.

                                                                                                  1. re: Baron
                                                                                                    s
                                                                                                    sedimental Apr 20, 2011 10:17 AM

                                                                                                    Well, that is even worse (to me). I wouldn't like it either.

                                                                                                    Since it is a new restaurant, it would be interesting if they keep that procedure for wine service.

                                                                                                    1. re: Baron
                                                                                                      mamachef Apr 20, 2011 10:33 AM

                                                                                                      Baron: not to mention the completely poor taste this shows, it's also strictly illegal in every state I can think of - it's a way of preventing places from decanting cheapo wine into an expensive bottle. Any bottle that shows up to your table already opened should expect a fast u-turn right back to the bartender it came from, directly.

                                                                                                      1. re: mamachef
                                                                                                        Servorg Apr 20, 2011 11:00 AM

                                                                                                        It also prevents anyone from "adulterating" your wine.

                                                                                                        1. re: mamachef
                                                                                                          Baron Apr 20, 2011 12:34 PM

                                                                                                          I want to be fair to the restaurant. I was treating my daughter and son in law who live in Mill Valley to dinner. I assigned the wine selection to my son in law.
                                                                                                          El Paseo is a grill so we agreed on a Cab and took the waiter's suggestion (2006 Mount Eden). The server came back with the unopened bottle and whispered something to my son in law. Then left our table, but I believe he remained in the room. He then came back to the table with the bottle already opened and poured me a taste - which was fine. I later asked my son in law about the whisper when he told me the server had asked if he could taste the wine. I had my back to the room and my wife told me that she saw him tasting other wine - spitting into a separate glass. I don't want to start a rumor that the restaurant was breaking the law. Otherwise the service was impeccable - except for the very long wait for the mains. (perhaps another topic) I wrote a personal letter to Tyler Florence about ruining my main course. We'll see if or how they respond.

                                                                                                          1. re: Baron
                                                                                                            s
                                                                                                            soupkitten Apr 20, 2011 01:02 PM

                                                                                                            i appreciate that you are not trying to dog a restaurant over one issue. so many of these NAF threads are precisely like that. i am very glad that the "ass" mgr was totally an hypothetical example and that your service was otherwise great.

                                                                                                            i still think that opening the bottle away from the table is iffy/questionable at best, totally unacceptable at worst. the restaurant should rethink this, as it's more troubling than your original issue of whom is tasting the wine, imo.

                                                                                                            1. re: soupkitten
                                                                                                              alanbarnes Apr 20, 2011 01:09 PM

                                                                                                              Well, there's "away from the table" and then there's "away from the table." I've had sommeliers do their thing at a separate table a few feet away and in full view of anybody who cared to watch. That didn't bother me at all. It would seem weird if the wine was opened on the other side of the dining room or, worse, back in the kitchen.

                                                                                                              1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                                                                Servorg Apr 20, 2011 01:19 PM

                                                                                                                It seems like the "spitting" portion of the event drives the "spittee" away from the immediate area where the dining public may see them. Perhaps if they are actually "tasting" rather than "spitting" the process could be done more in the observable vicinity of the table(s).

                                                                                                        2. re: Baron
                                                                                                          Bill Hunt Apr 20, 2011 08:58 PM

                                                                                                          As for the other aspects of the wine service, many things were done incorrectly. Any tasting should have been done at the table, with the wine opened in your presence. Others have made the same mention.

                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                3. psycho_fluff Apr 19, 2011 04:35 AM

                                                                                                  Ummm, NOPE! Blimmin cheek! Id pour it over him! Make a complaint to the restaurant!b Bang out of order!

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: psycho_fluff
                                                                                                    invinotheresverde Apr 19, 2011 05:01 AM

                                                                                                    Why, though?

                                                                                                  2. d
                                                                                                    DGresh Apr 19, 2011 05:23 AM

                                                                                                    I've been reading all of this with much interest. I will preface by saying that we eat out only several times a year, so we purchase wine at a restaurant a similar amount of times. I will also admit that I have no belief that I would be particularly good at detecting a "slightly corked" wine. But here I wonder about the context of the "tasting". It sounds like this is a high end restaurant, with well trained staff, so I can imagine that what is being offered is a service (though I've never been offered this service, and have eaten at a number of high end restaurants). However, I can also imagine that the reason the waiter might ask for a taste (or at least a reason that might occur to the patron) is that rather the waiter is trying to "build up his knowledge" of the wines offered by the restaurant, so that he might be able to offer a more knowledgable opinion in the future. Obviously, none of us were there. But if it is the later, then it *is* inappropriate (IMO) for the request; that sort of learning should be done on the restaurant's bottles, not mine.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: DGresh
                                                                                                      o
                                                                                                      ospreycove Apr 19, 2011 07:32 AM

                                                                                                      Ahhh, I think I prefer my favorite osteria in Sulmona, Abruzzo. Where the owner says "Rosso?" and I reply "Si"! and that is the end of the discussion, although, it is HIS family's product, and of course, as in all of Italia "Ours is the best!!"

                                                                                                    2. b
                                                                                                      BN1 Apr 19, 2011 05:38 PM

                                                                                                      I have observed that the level of wine service often varies with the price of the bottle. I’m not a wine connoisseur by any means, but even I have had my decanter and glasses primed by the server on occasion. One would expect the wine to be tasted before going through all that trouble. Surely, you would not prime all the glassware with tainted wine, as it was done before I got my taste. I observed this for a couple seated next to me at the bar at Incanto in SF the other night and I have found it fairly common on a nice bottle.

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: BN1
                                                                                                        s
                                                                                                        sedimental Apr 19, 2011 05:46 PM

                                                                                                        Yes, but that is a bit different. When a wine is decanted- anyone that has the sense of smell can decide if it should be tasted first or served. I wouldn't suspect anyone would serve a "stinky" tainted wine, at least , I would hope not. There are all different procedures for different dinners too (wine flight, vintners dinners, wine events, etc). The OP was referring to the server tasting the wine after opening the bottle at your table. That is unusual.

                                                                                                      2. d
                                                                                                        dinwiddie Jun 10, 2011 07:25 AM

                                                                                                        If you trust the waiter enough to recommend the wine, you shouldn't have any problem with him tasting it first to make sure it isn't flawed. After all, if it is, he just saved you the trouble and embarrassment of having to send it back. Before you say you wouldn't be embarrassed, remember that most people who are not wine geeks often feel embarrassed to say that they think the wine may be flawed, especially if it isn't a wine that they are familiar with.

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: dinwiddie
                                                                                                          Bill Hunt Jun 15, 2011 06:09 PM

                                                                                                          Good points.

                                                                                                          Recently, we had the sommelier reject two bottles of wines that I chose. Saved me having to do so, and the third WAS the charm.

                                                                                                          Now, that it took her three generous pours of my DRC to determine if it was good, was suspicious... [Grin]

                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                        2. r
                                                                                                          rbrig Sep 8, 2011 01:41 PM

                                                                                                          so here's the deal... i work in a ** restaurant as a sommelier and wine buyer. i will taste because i guarantee i know wine better than the person at the table. i can spot a flaw in a wine that a guest will not be able to. it could be just a hint of tca or touch of va. i have 2 servers that i encourage to do the same thing as they are also certified somms. if you come out to a restaurant trust that what we are doing is to ensure that you have the best experience possible. i'm not just trying to wet my palate or steal your wine. if i just wanted a drink i would go open a bottle for myself... and i do on occasion.

                                                                                                          its no different that your bartender taking a straw taste of your cocktail or the chef trying the dish as he preps it.

                                                                                                          ryan

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