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Nov 1, 2012 08:06 AM

Sharing wine pairings at a fancy dinner - gauche?

Is it acceptable to share a wine pairing between a couple during a tasting menu dinner? For example, if you were lucky enough to get reservations at French Laundry (hypothetically for me unfortunately) and wanted to share a wine pairing with your meal, would you be snickered at behind your back or is it a common request?

I speak as someone who has virtually no experience at high end restaurants; if I were to try and consume multiple (however small) glasses of wine with dinner, I would probably wind up too intoxicated to enjoy the meal.

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  1. I would think they would still charge you for two. I would just ask them for a lighter pour if the point is the intoxication level. If it is the price then this is gauche in my opinion.

    3 Replies
    1. re: melpy

      Why charge for 2 if only the normal wine pairing quantity is served ?

      If the wine pairing includes 6 glasses (for X ounces) , then only that quantity will be served; if you want to share that wine glass with your friend, then do so.

      1. re: melpy

        Uh, yeah -- and when my wife gives me a taste of her entrée, do they charge me for her dish twice?

        1. re: zin1953

          In my experience, they do not.

          Same goes for wines - we often will "split" a glass, and many restaurants pour those "half-glasses," with no issue. Otherwise, we pass the glass, as is required.


      2. I don't think it's an issue if you share the glass it self;

        IMO, once the wine is poured (according to the wine pairing), you can either drink it, share it or worse, leave it.

        1. Whether it's acceptable or not, I don't know. I do it frequently here in the Bay Area and never had an issue.

          I agree with Maximilien, once the wine is poured you can do whatever you want with it.

          1. One reason not to do it, albeit something that would rarely come up, is that the restaurant may be liable if the other person is under legal drinking age. But, again, that would probably be very rare at places like French Laundry.

            I've been successful asking for half-pours for half the price. I've made it clear that it's not the price that is the issue, but the amount of alcohol comsumption. You might want to see if such a request would work for you. Then you could have two half-pour flights rather than worry about the propriety of sharing a single pour.

            14 Replies
            1. re: Brad Ballinger

              wine pairings for meals like this are never full pours, but if the op is concerned about becoming too tipsy, have the conversation at the start of the dinner with the server or sommelier and arrange for smaller portions.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                I did that successfully once at Cru. The conversation started off uncomfortably because at first I asked to dispense w/ a couple of the selections. The somm didn't like that, but once i clarified that the point was I'm petite and I have a history of leaving my gloves in the subway or loosing my contacts whenever I have the pairings w/ a tasting menu...he was helpful and adjusted the charge accordingly.

                But if my husband liked wine, I'd probably just share the same glass.

              2. re: Brad Ballinger

                "the restaurant may be liable if the other person is under legal drinking age"

                My grandkids always MUST taste (from my glass) whatever I'm drinking.
                We've all stayed out of jail, and haven't been required to get liability insurance. At least so far.

                1. re: RicRios

                  REGARDLESS of what you always do, within the State of California -- where I have been working with the CA Department of Alcohol Beverage Control and the alcohol-related laws that comprise the Penal Code, the Vehicle Code, and the Business and Professions Code for over 40 years -- AND within every other U.S. jurisdiction that I know, it is flat-out ILLEGAL for anyone under 21 to be served, to even *taste* an alcoholic beverage on the premises of a licensed establishment.

                  Ric, I appreciate the reason behind your actions. My teenagers taste wine all the time, if they want to (I never insist), but the one thing I do NOT do is offer them a taste in a licensed establishment. The fine can be considerable, including a suspension of their alcoholic beverage license for repeated violations. (The first suspension is 30 days.)

                  Now, I seriously if anyone going to grab their cell phone and call the enforcement division of the ABC when you "force feed" your grandkids a sip of wine. But understand that I am not exaggerating when I tell you that -- whether it's a bottle your brought in and paid corkage for, or a bottle you order off the list -- what you are doing is, under the letter of the law, illegal and it's the restaurant that will suffer the punishment, not you.

                  You can feel free to ignore all of the above -- actually I'm reasonably sure you will, the risk of getting "caught" being, realistically, rather small -- but I do know what I'm talking about, and I know of at least two restaurants that had their liquor licenses suspended because of precisely what you are describing.


                  1. re: zin1953


                    Irrespective of the laws of the State of California, the problem is I'm already predestined to burn in hell. And my grandkids probably too. Must be genetic, we enjoy the heat.

                    But your input is, nevertheless, and as always, greatly appreciated.

                    1. re: RicRios

                      That's fine, I just wouldn't want you to take the restaurant with you! ;^)

                      1. re: zin1953

                        I guess that I am just fortunate. It is always just my young wife, and me, who are sharing, and she is "legal" in CA. Now, when I married her, she was barely "legal" in Mississippi, but that is a different story.

                        For my nieces and nephews, my only forays into their wine consumption were in private, and in an undisclosed state, and all of us have survived, though there WAS an incident with a spilled balloon of red Burg on "Uncle Bill's" white dining room carpet, but we got past that, and it WAS my option to serve that nephew...


                        1. re: zin1953

                          as somebody who has spent a career in fine dining as a sommelier in massachusetts, i'll +1 for zin's replies. have had more than one exchange with parents who insist i should serve their clearly underage progeny. "i always do this", being their rationale. the law holding as mine. it'[s awkward and i really don't know where, why or whom allows this sort of thing with little care for their liquor license.

                          technically it's illegal to serve underage kids in your own home too, but it's something my grandparents, my parents and my friend's parents always did.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            Years ago at my high school graduation dinner at Morton's. the server asked if my sister and I were of age. My father replied we were not but that he didn't have a problem with it but he would leave it to the disgression of the server. The server replied "never asked, never answered" and served both me (17) and my sister (14).

                            1. re: melpy

                              a family of 10 or so came in for graduation to one of my previous places of employment. the father ordered champagne for a toast. the server brought glasses to everybody, including 2 girls who were obviously young teens. i managed to snap up the glasses before the girls had any, and the chef/owner fired that server, on the spot, in the middle of a very busy shift.

                      2. re: zin1953

                        It is my understanding that in TX parents of underage kids can buy them liquor likewise a spouse of underaged person can also.

                        1. re: singlemalt

                          That is possible -- in Louisiana, I *think* it's OK for YOU to let your underage children taste your drink, but they can't buy it for themselves. (Not living in Louisana, but merely being a frequent visitor, this is something I've heard anecdotally.)

                          In MOST states I've worked in, however, it's like California: it is illegal to serve someone under 21, and even if a parent served their child, it's the restaurant that is liable and can be fined, or have their alcoholic beverage suspended or even revoked for multiple violations.

                          1. re: zin1953

                            Hell, it's still legal to drink and drive in Louisiana! They even have drive through Hurricane and Daiquiri places.

                            1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                              Yes, and no. The employee of the drive-thru cannot (technically) remove the paper from the top of the straw . . . ergo, in theory, it's a closed container.

                              But EVERY STATE has DIFFERENT laws. Not really sure why we're still discussing this . . .

                  2. It's NEVER an issue -- never in any restaurant I've been to

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: zin1953

                      And if the staff see it as an issue and "snicker behind your back", then that's certainly not a place at which I want to dine.

                      A proper restaurant should be about hospitality, not milking its guests. There is a HUGE difference between ordering a chef's salad and occupying the table for the entire evening, and sharing a wine pairing to go with your tasting menu.

                      1. re: Julian Teoh

                        >>> And if the staff see it as an issue and "snicker behind your back", then that's certainly not a place at which I want to dine. <<<

                        Agreed. Should have said, " . . . never in any I've been to, would want to go to, would even CONSIDER going to."