Thursday, November 8, 2007

Wow, talk about a wine experience...

Last night, the wife and I decided to get together with another couple to try out a new "Bistro and Wine Bar" (name to be withheld), we'll call it 'V' for now. We had peeked in to this place previously while in the area, looked at the menu, the wine list, the ambiance, and decided it looked very promising to check out...boy, did we get an experience to remember.

Keep in mind, I go to these places with the thought of doing reviews for my site and forum. I present my cards to the server/manager/owner and let them know upfront who I am and why I am there. This usually works out quite well in our favor as things get attended to more diligently.

Let's start the sequence of events:

We arrived to a fairly empty restaurant and got the seats of our choice. Very nice atmosphere, well lit and well dressed in the theme they had presented. Overall a really nice setting. It took a while to get a server and order our pre-meal problem as we were getting settled and perusing the wine list. Lots of Italian selections and a decent 'wines by the glass' list. We finally got our cocktails and inquired about a few items and ordered a bottle to start. This is when the fun began...

The first bottle we ordered was an Ornellaia Super Tuscan blend (they're lower end bottling) at ~ $60. After a while, the server shows up with an alternative bottle (of which I did not recognize) because they were out of what we ordered. We held off on it, went back to the list and tried to find a better substitute and then asked to talk to the resident Sommelier or manager. The server squirmed a bit and made a few excuses in reference to this, mentioned the word "turnover" changes, but said the GM would help us. He finally shows up with two bottles for us to try, highly recommends one, Lucente Tuscan blend. Fine, we agree and he pops it open for us to try. Initially, my first two thoughts were green acid with very little fruit to be found. I understand Italian wines need to breathe, but I was guessing this was not going to get there with any length of time we had at this sitting...back to the drawing board.

So, I review the wines by the glass list, and discover an Antinori sangiovese blend that I have had before, and decide to play it somewhat safer here. The GM shows up with a different glass, the lowest end blend they have, stating they are out of the Antinori, and to try this as a substitute. It was horrendous and the worst of the lot so far...made the Lucente taste like a fruit bomb comparatively. Another visit back to the list...back to good 'ol dependable CA wines. I quickly spot a 2002 Sienna by Ferrari-Carano, and say "sold!" let's do it. She shows up with a 2005 (three years off), and we punt...again, back to the list.

After discussing with the group, we decided to stick to a dependable Merlot, Rodney Strong...nothing special, but consistent and in our price point for the evening. After a few minutes, the server sheepishly returns saying they are out of the Rodney Strong, but presented a Sterling Merlot that she heard us also discussing. At this point, it is at a comical stage and surprisingly, we are being fairly good natured in our frustrations...and the server is totally embarrassed. We agree on this quickly and just want a frigging glass of wine for God's sake! I take a quick glance at the bottle, see a '2004 Reserve' name on the dark label (hmm...?), but just wave it off in complete dismay of what has transpired and amongst the chatter at the table of the farce we are encountering.

She opens the wine for us to try, and it is quite nice, soft, good fruit, but pretty big for a Merlot. She pours all of us a glass and everyone agrees the we have finally found the holy grail for the evening. As I take another sip, something seems a bit awry. It has a bit of 'greenness' to it and some familiar flavors that seem a bit off for Merlot. I go back to the bottle to inspect it more closely and see that it is actually a 2004 Reserve Cabernet! Big OOOPS!! Then it triggers that they do not make a Reserve Merlot and I immediately go back to the list and see that it is over $150 compared to the Merlot at $49...UGH!!! We call the server back over and point out the problem, she is completely frazzled by this point and just assures us that it will be taken care of some how. We assure her that after all that has transpired, we are certain things will be taken care of as well.

To wrap it up, the Cab was fine and worked well for the dinner. They only charged us for the Merlot price and all in all they were pretty good about it. I feel they could have done more given the circumstances, but we all felt that they had dug such a deep hole that they were just going to cut their losses on us. Sad thing is, the food was really good and aside from the wine debacle, it was a nice place.

The silver lining is that I spoke to the GM afterwards and we agreed he needed some help with his wine presentations and list/inventory. We agreed to have lunch and talk about how I can help them out. For that matter, who better than one that has gone through the experience as I did from the customer perspective. I think we'll return when I have my hands in the business a while and can go with confidence that the wines I order from the list are the ones I'll get at the table (I know that is a lot to ask...uhem). Case closed.

Until the next sip...swirl ya' later!

1 comment:

BradF said...

Hmmmm, sounds like one of my bad dreams, Oh yeah I was there......
At least I understand the cocktails were good. My Halibit was good, nicely cooked on a bed of spinich with a lemon caper sauce.I'm sure new restaurants go through growing pains but that said, how hard would it be to edit your wine list with your " current" inventory? I'm sure James can help this establishment get better prepaired to handle changing vintages and stock as well as coach the staff and mentor the GM.