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One Bad Apple...

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Apr 25, 2006 8:44am ET

My friends went to dinner the other night and ordered the ’99 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the sommelier. The sommelier then presented a bottle of ’00 without noting the difference in vintage.

“What’s the difference between the ’99 and ’00?” asked my friend.

“365 days,” said the sommelier.

Perhaps he was trying to be funny, but this is the kind of flippant answer that gives sommeliers a bad name. Sure, sometimes items sell out and the wine list hasn’t been perfectly updated – but that’s no excuse. The sommelier should have noted the change in vintage and explained the difference, instead of hoping the customer wouldn’t notice or mind.

It’s a shame, since there are so many passionate, hard-working sommeliers now in America. If you have had a good experience with one, let me know. And if not – let me know as well.

Mike Farrelly
April 25, 2006 11:23am ET
had dinner last oct. at blackies in dc. sommelier was very helpful. we ordered a wine that was out of stock, he suggested an alternate that was both excellent AND cheaper than original choice. highly recommend
Chris Lavin
Long Beach, CA —  April 25, 2006 1:22pm ET
The sommelier that presented the incorrect vintage should be flogged! He obviously does not do the buying for the restaurant. Unfortunately, the title of sommelier is rather vague in many restaurants - Passion is the sommelier's true calling. Are you telling me that Solaia 1997 is the same as Solaia 1998? No one needs a sommelier to be flippant. As a sommelier, I pride myself in maintaining precision on the wine list and updating vintages (and prices) accordingly. Granted Pegau is superb vintage in and vintage out, but...Perhaps the sommelier could use a subscription to Wine Spectator or pick up a book now and then!
Chum Lee
Mendocino, CA —  April 25, 2006 1:22pm ET
the other day the som. swapped out a martinelli 2003 woolsey road for a 2002 charles ranch (95 pt collectible). charged the same price as the woolsey ($45). didn't say anthing, only smiled when we tasted it and freaked out. woo hoo! but that's an exception, it seems like every rest. has a som., from burger joint to white linen. with this many som's, some are bound to be bad.
Robert Johnston
Washington DC —  April 25, 2006 2:08pm ET
We recently took my son Jake to Citronelle for a milestone birthday and I must thank Mark Slater (the sommelier) for a wonderful evening. He is nothing short of the cosumate professional. We know each other from a food blog and it was fun to finally meet him in person. He paired the wines with our meal perfectly. After confirming what my tastes were, he recommended several Burgandys in several price ranges. At his recommendation we ordered a 2000 Domaine du Ch¿au Chorey Beaune Les Teurons 1er Cru to start the meal. My wife raised her eyebrows a bit when I ordered a Burgandy (she knows I really love the big RRV type Pinot Noirs) but she loved the wine. When the entrees were ready to arrive, I asked him for something to pair with the lamb and venison. Again, a short discussion about tastes, and I let Jake choose whether he wanted a French Syrah or an Aussie Shiraz. Once he said he wanted something from "down under" Mark recommended a 2002 Torbreck "The Steading" and once again, was dead on. Jake loved it and even my wife, who usually does not like Aussie wines loved it. And Mark's stories were sidespliting. He also made sure the service we received was first rate. I have to say a big thank you so much to Mark, he made Jake's birthday dinner special.
Chris Lavin
Long Beach, CA —  April 25, 2006 2:34pm ET
Martinelli for $45! Pray tell, where is that restaurant! Of course, the sommelier must not be the owner. "with this many som's, some..." - good one!
William Newell
Buffalo, NY —  April 25, 2006 3:53pm ET
Back in the early to mid '70s, the sommelier at the restaurant in the Churchill Hotel in London was a veteran of the Boer War (1899-1902)in South Africa, who had to be in his late eighties or nineties. Nevertheless, he knew his wines and his cellar inside and out, and if you asked him for a "good value", he would recommend something that was reasonably priced and, perhaps, at or slightly past its prime. I still remember an exquisite 1959 Volnay that he recommended, tasted (and found satisfactory), decanted, and served to our party. Today, many restaurants don't have someliers at all, and rely on wait-staff who wouldn't know a Volnay from a viognier.
James Peterson
San Antonio, Texas —  April 25, 2006 4:05pm ET
Last May I called the sommelier at Morton's Steakhouse in Georgetown because I wanted to bring my own wine (a friendly $15 corkage!) for my wife's birthday dinner with friends. The guy was hilarious. When I said I wanted to bring my own wines he said, ''I don't blame you. Our prices are way too high.'' Then when I said I wanted to check and make sure I didn't bring anything on the list he said, ''Oh it doesn't matter. Just bring whatever you want.'' Hah!Needless to say we had a great time and he was impressed with my line-up of wines (none of which were on his list) and the fact that I offered him a taste. As for the guy you describe, he needs to rethink his career choice. What a jerk.
Anacleto Ludovic
paris france  —  April 25, 2006 6:04pm ET
geezzzzzzzzzzzzz.unbelivable!!!!as a sommelier for 11 years i`ve never heard such an history !!!!Ihope and believe that this guys was drunk or maybe that the real sommelier was out of service this evening.Unfortunatly ,has said before,sommelier is very vague denominacion and anybody can pretend to this title.Mr sommelier ,in the ame of the entire profession:SHAME ON YOU .PS.:Sorry for my bad speling
Chum Lee
Mendocino, CA —  April 26, 2006 1:34pm ET
Don't ask me what I was doing at a vegetarian restaurant, but it was Ravens in Mendocino.
Check out these wine list prices:
Beaucastel for $85, '99 Selene for $56 makes the tofu and brussels sprouts a little more palatable
Chris Lavin
Long Beach, CA —  April 26, 2006 6:26pm ET
Perhaps a good Gruner with the brussel sprouts!
David Nerland
Scottsdale —  April 27, 2006 1:21pm ET
We had a dinner at Windows on the Green at the Phoenician last year. Ordered a nice bottle of wine, based on the vintage. They put the bottle on the table and left, bottle unopened. They came back 15 minutes later when we were eating dinner and wanted to open the bottle. Much to their surprised, I informed the waiter, it was not the vintage I ordered and the service was unacceptable. The other two restaurants, Terrace and Mary Elaine's both had excellent sommelier's.
Robert Gray
Cincinnati,OH —  June 5, 2006 10:57am ET
My wife and I were in Toronto for memorial day weekend and, as I often do, I used the WS restaurant guide to find some wine friendly restaurants. I chose Harbor Sixty Steakhouse for what looked like a large wine selection at moderate prices. When I was given the list however, there was a large selection but the prices were outrageous. The average bottle price with currency conversion included was about 5 to 7 times retail ('03 Two Hands Sophies Garden for $315). We decided to order by the glass a Cali. Zin blend and Valpolicella for $25 a moderate size glass. Our service wasn't bad given they only had to bring our two glasses out but if the sommelier priced these wines, something is a miss. I assume you wouldn't consider these wine prices moderate. Since your name was on the restaurant guide, I thought you should know.

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