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Drinking Out Loud

All Right, It’s Elitist. So What?

Is deliberately serving wine in inadequate glassware any less pretentious than demanding the right stem?

Matt Kramer
Posted: December 15, 2009

NAPA VALLEY—I was in the restaurant Ad Hoc in Yountville this past Thanksgiving weekend. If you haven’t been to Yountville lately—or if you’ve seen it so often you’re inured to its transformation—you need to know that Yountville is Napa Valley’s version of the Las Vegas Strip.

You want shopping? Yountville has got it—in abundance. You want faux-Tuscan? Just park your carcass at the authentically Las Vegas–like Villagio Inn and Spa. You want eco-chic? Try the geothermally greener-than-thou Bardessono hotel. You want big-name-chef dining? There’s Thomas Keller and The French Laundry, of course.

Ad Hoc is Mr. Keller’s down-market, pâté-to-the-people restaurant, a two-minute jog from his temple of high gastronomy. “We wanted a place to dine for our community and ourselves,” is Ad Hoc’s raison d’être, according to its website.

Ad Hoc’s sole offering is a four-course dinner that changes daily. Food is served family-style: You dish it up from a platter placed in the center of your table. Courses are served sequentially: an appetizer, the main course, a simple cheese plate and dessert. Everyone in the room gets the same meal and is charged the same price: $49.

And how was it, you ask? The meal I had that night was excellent: straightforward, perfectly prepared and made with ingredients of a very high order. Service was welcoming and friendly, although the waiter did say “Enjoy!” (He apparently wasn’t aware of the French Laundry’s famous fatwa against this particular feel-good locution—or maybe it isn’t applied at Ad Hoc.)

However—you knew that was coming—when it came to wine, Ad Hoc went from family-style to autocratic. Mr. Keller, you see, doesn’t believe that wines (or his guests) need or deserve anything more than a straight-sided tumbler. I grant you that the tumbler—and the accompanying taller, narrower water glass—seemed of exceptionally good quality. So cost does not appear to be the overriding consideration.

“Chef has drunk many wines in these tumblers,” explained our affable waiter when I (gently) asked about the glassware. “And he thinks that wines taste great this way.” I murmured my doubts about this but didn’t make a big deal out of it. (Really.)

We had brought our own wines—corkage is $20—and I hauled out the red, a delicious 1998 Savignola Paolina Chianti Classico. But the aged white Burgundy, a 1996 François Jobard Meursault Charmes, that I also brought remained unexhumed, for obvious reasons I think.

“So how was the meal?” inquired our waiter as he brought the check. We assured him that we enjoyed it a lot, which we did. “And what did you think about drinking from the tumblers?” Wrong question.

“I’ll tell you what I think,” I replied. “I think chef Keller doesn’t know a goddamned thing about wine if he really believes that wines taste great from these tumblers. And what’s more, I think that it’s a kind of reverse-snobbery arrogance.

“Take a look at the flatware he’s using for his food,” I said, holding up the spotless fork. “Take a look at who makes it: Christofle Hotel. When it comes to presenting his food, he’s giving it the best he can offer, at least in this price category.

“But when it comes to somebody else’s wine, well, the message is clear: Wine isn’t important. And it certainly doesn’t deserve or warrant the same curatorial care and concern chef Keller rightly lavishes on his food.”

As you can imagine, our hapless waiter wasn’t expecting that sort of blast. And he personally didn’t deserve it. I said as much, suggesting that he convey it back to chef Keller should he see him.

I mention this example not because I have anything against Ad Hoc or its owner (I don’t), but rather because this sort of let’s-take-it-down-a-peg presentation of wine is becoming fashionable. For example, wine labels are becoming ever more gratuitously vulgar (Big Ass, Bitch, Fat Bastard).

We’re seeing an increasing number of restaurants that pointedly seek to “épater la bourgeoisie”—that rallying cry of the late 19th-century French Decadent poets—or “skewer the middle class,” shocking them from their complacent, smug conventionality.

To cite just one example (every city has them, I’m sure), there’s a much-lauded restaurant in Portland, Ore., called Le Pigeon that does this by serving its food on no-two-are-alike plates, some chipped, along with worn, shabby-not-so-chic flatware, both of which clearly came from a second-hand thrift shop. The message is clear: It’s all about the food, not the bourgeois trappings. Wine, curiously, gets better treatment: The glasses are appropriately shaped and of good quality.

I don’t think that you need a degree in semiotics to fathom the reasons for this new, reactive, reverse snobbery. The sociologically acute French—who are always at the ready with a poetically apt phrase—call it “nostalgie de la boue,” a yearning for the mud.

Now, this is not the same as an artful mixing of the high and the low. Rather, it’s a political statement, a declaration about a perceived preciousness in today’s food and wine culture. Anyone who gainsays this is dismissed as a fusty conservative. Wine has become too pretentious is the oft-heard cry. But is serving wine in straight-sided tumblers at Ad Hoc (with a wine list that ranges from $30 to $200 a bottle) any less pretentious or reverse-elitist than insisting on the full Riedel regalia?

Between these pretensions, I ask you: Which is worse? Drinking your wine out of the equivalent of a Fred Flintstone glass (however expensive) or from the purportedly just-right glass from some purveyor to the “wineoisie”?

The division today is not, as it was back in the 1950s and ’60s, a cultural chasm between white-tablecloth restaurants encrusted with tuxedo-clad waiters and “lesser” restaurants. Those days are long gone. So if you’re going to suggest that fine dining today is either white tablecloth or nothing, forget it. That’s a red herring. Not only won’t that dog hunt, it’s long since trotted off and made reservations at places like A16 in San Francisco, which uses butcher-paper table coverings and serves superlative pizzas and mouthwateringly good main courses presented on plain white plates partnered by wine-enhancing glassware (which, in turn, serves a truly remarkable wine list).

Those who believe that, in the name of bringing wine to its senses (and not the hedonistic sort), they are doing the food-and-wine world a favor are misguided. And boorish. These same chefs wouldn’t dream of using dull knives for a steak (or in their kitchens). But a dull glass for wine? Bring it on, baby! Let’s break down that wall between wine elitism and the “real people.”

Pish. We’ve seen this before. And we know where it leads, namely, to the very sort of we-know-what’s-best-for-you arrogance that these self-styled saviors are supposedly saving us from.

What we really need is simple. We need food that’s well prepared from good ingredients, served to us attractively and with respect (for the food itself, not just us).

And we need wines that are served co-equally: well-chosen, decently priced and presented to us in glasses that allow the wine to shine, that signal a respect for the effort that went into creating such wines and that, not least, allow us to effortlessly enjoy the wine.

If that’s elitist, all-righty then, I’m an elitist. I can live with it. Indeed, I can live better for it.

Can the chipped-plate and tumbler crowd say the same? Maybe. But I’ll beg to differ when I hear tell about how much they love and respect their food and wine.

Eric P Perramond
Colorado Springs, CO —  December 15, 2009 2:02pm ET
Thanks for putting voice to many of our collective frustrations on this aspect of glassware. It's doubly insulting when you're paying wine mark-ups at a restaurant of course, but it's almost as frustrating when you're served a $50 wine at someone's house in what amounts to a sippy-cup. THANK YOU!
Anthony Wilson
Right now, Warsaw, Poland —  December 15, 2009 2:04pm ET
I agree with you that, at the very least, one should have the option of having appropriate glassware for fine wines such as the ones you brought, although, equally, I don't have an issue with sometimes drinking "vins de soif" out of tumblers -- especially beautifully made tumblers. I have some impeccable ones from Japan that are elegant and an absolute pleasure to drink just about anything from. Still, it is clear that "when it comes to the showdown," as Daniel Plainview said in "There Will Be Blood," with wines that deserve something more, one needs appropriate glasses, and it sure would be nice to have the option.

However, in response to one of your other comments, I thought Le Pigeon hit all the right notes, from the food, to the choice of wines, all the way to the presentation of both. In looking at my pictures from a recent meal there (August), I see my food presented on clean, beautiful, un-chipped dishes with absolutely lovely antique flatware alongside. As you say, the wine glasses are what they need to be. It seemed (and seems again, looking at my photos) to me that Le Pigeon puts a lot of thought into their presentation, creating an atmosphere of elegance that is not cookie-cutter and corporate, with everything uniform and the same for everybody. The variety of dishware and flatware, it seemed to me, contributed to that atmosphere, one that doesn't thumb its nose at preciousness or bourgeois convention, but celebrates quirk and and a kind of old-school beauty.

Love your posts, Matt!
Anthony Wilson
Right now, Warsaw, Poland —  December 15, 2009 2:16pm ET

Chiming in again with agreement: If they are going to charge $20 for corkage--in "wine country" no less--they sure as heck should have a stock of the right glasses at the ready. That's uncool. What "wine service" was your $20 paying for?
John Shuey
Carrollton, TX —  December 15, 2009 2:22pm ET
Marvelous Matt --

I've enjoyed your writing for quite some time and this is as spot-on as anything you've written. Bravo!
John Kmiecik
Chicago, IL —  December 15, 2009 2:25pm ET
I guess I am an elisist too......Great post Matt!
Dave Reuther
Deerfield, Illinois —  December 15, 2009 2:36pm ET
The country and western song "Champagne in a Dixie Cup" comes to mind. I totally agree the wine should be respected with proper stemware. Your corkage fee should have insured that. I would have been upset also. I glad you made your feelings known. I hope they get back to chef Keller. It be interesting if he would reply to your comments.
Matthew Segura
San Francisco, California, USA —  December 15, 2009 2:45pm ET
I concur! Not only with the notion that telling someone how they should enjoy their wine, whether it be one way or another, is elitist, but also with the notion that good wine (anything more than slightly marginal over cost) should be presented at it's best (stemware and temperature) regardless. What else are you paying for?

Thank you for giving your waiter your well-informed opinion, I only hope he can relate that to a decision-maker (and if not, hopefully your blog will help too).
Larry Schaffer
central coast, ca —  December 15, 2009 3:10pm ET
Very well put.

It has become clear to me over the past few years that the glass certainly DOES matter - you simply get more aromatics out of an 'appropriate' glass vs. a tumbler. Period.

That said, I do not think it's necessary to have an array of 'high end' glasses to accomodate all requests at a restaurant . . . unless that is what that establishment wants to be known for.

A good quality white and a good quality red glass would certainly suffice . . . and even a good quality cross-over would be fine.

Timothy Moore
Tinley Park —  December 15, 2009 3:35pm ET
Thank you for the post. I have a friend that brings his own stemware to places that don't get it right. I have not yet had the courage to try it. Is this pratice ELITIST?
Valli Ferrell
Tom Ferrell —  December 15, 2009 3:50pm ET
Matt, this is Tom, not Valli so don't blame her for what I say... maybe at heart I'm just a peasant, but I really like drinking wine from a tumbler. At home, I go for the tumbler just as often as the wine glass. Sometimes I even forgo the crystal flutes in favor of a tumbler for Champagne. Now and then, after a bad day, I go for a large water glass and fill it to the top.

For me Riedel glassware and proper wine glasses are so common and so much a part of the job, that it is refreshing to have a pretty cut glass tumbler that makes the wine sparkle in the light, and says, "don't sniff, don't judge, don't think, just kick back and quaff."

Ad Hoc's family-style meal presentation and simple wine tumbler encourages me to forget about work, forget about culinary art, forget about decisions from a complicated menu, relax with my friends, and wash down some good food with an inexpensive wine. That said, Ad Hoc's job is to take care of their guests, and if the fussy guest :>) wants a regular wine glass, they should be willing and happy to provide it.
Richard Millang
Santa Cruz, CA —  December 15, 2009 4:10pm ET
Can we add the Reidel 'O' collection to this rant? Please???
Matt Kramer
Oregon —  December 15, 2009 4:16pm ET
To Mr. Moore: "Is bringing your own glasses elitist?" Well, I'd just as soon not get into parsing too closely what is or isn't elitist.

I have long had strong feelings (and opinions!) about wine glasses in restaurants. I've written numerous columns on the subject over the years. Yet I have to say that I almost never bring my own wine glasses to a restaurant.

I qualify this by "almost" because I have been a longtime devotee of Tadich Grill in San Francisco which has the most wonderful fish (I enthusiastically recommended their calamari steak) and the worst wine glasses.

Since I won't give up Tadich Gril--and I won't drink the wines I bring from their crummy glasses--there I bring my own wine glasses.

Otherwise, I think it's pretty geeky to bring your own wine glasses. I sure do understand the impulse, though.
Mark Sinnott
Issaquah, WA —  December 15, 2009 4:26pm ET
Doesn't seem elitist as mush as simply going too far. Taking the pretentiousness out of wine is a good thing. Serving it in glassware that inhibits its full expression and one's enjoyment is not. I think this is being overly-analyzed.
Daniel Kaufman
Charlottesville Virginia —  December 15, 2009 4:37pm ET
This got me thinking about a recent visit to a local winery here in Central Virginia.

I have been becoming more and more confident about the quality of wine made here Virginia and it seems that more and more "serious" wine drinkers are starting to appreciate the fruits of our local industry.

I can't imagine a bigger setback to the precieved "seriousness" of Virginia viticulture than when I visited one local winery (albeit one of the smaller ones) and was offered a small, thimble-sized paper cup in their tasting room. When I asked for a glass, I was told that they only had a couple and that they would have to wash one. I accepted to her dismay and was given the glass and a cold shoulder for the tasting.

Needless to say, I bought no wine.
Steve Lenzo
PHX, AZ —  December 15, 2009 5:26pm ET
Go get'em. How can he do that in Napa of all places. Perhaps 30 years ago when napa was seen as a farming community, but today, and they know this as well as anyone, people expect something more when dining out. I would have told them the same thing. Taylor's serves wine in better glasses then that.
Scott Elder
The Dalles, OR —  December 15, 2009 5:58pm ET

I was sitting here at my paying-job desk and busted out laughing when I read Big Ass, Bitch, and Fat Bastard. Somehow those words coming from Matt Kramer are very funny to me.

Anyway, I’m not sure I coined this phrase or not, but – there’s a time and a place and a person for all wines. There are a few caveats, but you get my point. However, for years I’ve been baffled by the dumbing-down direction the wine industry and wine media have gone. One argument of course is the more people drinking and enjoying wine the more people that will eventually drink better or even great wine. That’s great, but what developed in parallel is the attitude that any wine costing more than say fifteen bucks is overpriced, and god forbid, if you spend more you are an elitist wine snob. That attitude in the wine media has become more prominent in the economic downturn.

Your other point about reverse elitism is really just elitism, period. It’s the statement that “we can drink fine wine out of a Fred Flintstone glass because we can afford to”. It’s similar to the culture in some European circles not to eat everything on the plate – it’s a sign they can afford not to because they can have another meal whenever they choose.

Bill Houston
Montvale, Nj —  December 15, 2009 6:11pm ET
I guess if I had no other choice for miles around, and had only a tumbler to pour a very nice wine into, I could probably derive some enjoyment from it. However, I do not think I could derive maximal enjoyment from it, for all the typical reasons for matching wines to glassware. Most of my stemware is Riedel, and I actually like their "O" glasses, particularly outdoors, but there is an elegance to stemware they simply cannot match. However, when you don't have a lot of storage space, the stackability of the "O" glasses shines through. Plus, I don't feel nearly so bad when I break one as I do with the stemware.

That said, I was quite surprised to discover that a chef such as Thomas Keller would not only permit, but celebrate the use of tumblers in one of his restaurants, but then again, it's probably a pricing dependent choice, as well. I've had wine many times from tumblers, and when they are simple, rustic, quaffing wines, I have no issue. However, the day has yet to arrive when I will pour one of my Kistler Chardonnays or Williams Selyem Pinot Noirs into a plain tumbler. It just doesn't feel right. If that makes me an elitist, or being considered foolish by those who disagree, I will not lose a moment's sleep over it.
Kirk R Grant
Bangor, Maine —  December 15, 2009 6:15pm ET
I have to say that I would rather think of myself as a "wine geek" than a "wine snob"...I still like to have fun with wine, and I love to learn too. However...I'm not up for drinking my wine from a tumbler because someone else thinks that's "good enough" I don't care if it's Thomas Keller, Bill Harlan, or anyone in between. I want to enjoy my wines...and the glass shape and quality clearly impact this. I don't have the time, patience, or interest to spend my money on restaurant mark-ups if they can't be bothered to offer me proper stemware. I go out because I want an experience and I want to enjoy it. Thanks to your warning...I have one less place in Yountville to consider when looking for a restaurant.
John B Vlahos
Cupertino Ca. —  December 15, 2009 6:42pm ET
Matt, it seem that most people simply miss the point. The flavor, aroma and all around taste of a good wine can be better appreciated in a proper glass. And that would not be a tumbler! Tumblers are for jug wines. John Vlahos
Dave Pramuk
Napa, CA, USA —  December 15, 2009 6:50pm ET
A group of five of us had dinner at Ad Hoc two weeks ago. As I recall, the wine glasses were gently tulip-shaped and stemless. No tablecloths on the wood/metal tabletops. We ordered a bottle of SB and brought in a magnum of Zinfandel which we left a good portion of with the staff. The food was so delicious, the staff was so pleasant, and the experience was overall so relaxed and fun no one (all tasting room folk) even noticed or said one word about stemware. One comment was, "isn't it nice to sit down, talk, and just be served."
In a wine region replete with fancy places including his own, I can't blame Chef Keller for providing a basic menu concept, a more relaxed and convivial venue yet very high quality experience for visitors and the lower paid local folk.
In my opinon, stemless glasses and no tablecoths help set the right tone for this particular concept. Perhaps not the best place in the valley to showcase rare or extra special wines.
Adam Lee
Santa Rosa, CA —  December 15, 2009 10:08pm ET

Forgive me, but I am trying to figure out your "standards." In your last column you wrote about a winery where at least one of the wines, from your own notes, was a science experience run amok, several of the wines were good but not necessarily great....and the one you deemed extra-ordinary was that way because of, in your own words, "the winemaker’s own revisionist notion of the possibilities of wine beauty, brought to life by an extreme non-interventionism?"

And yet a restaurant that has a chef's revisionist, non-interventionist notion of wine service is not acceptable to you?

IMO, I find both to be questionable, but it seems interesting, and inconsistent, to me that you are willing to grant a level of flexibility to the winemaker that you aren't willing to grant to the restauranteur.

Adam Lee
Siduri Wines
Jonathan Rezabek
Chandler, AZ —  December 15, 2009 11:39pm ET
Adam, Matt is saying that Ad Hoc made a calculated decision (and spent a lot of money) in serving wines from a glass that does not do the wine justice.
As a winemaker I would think you'd share his opinion...especially if you had wines on their wine list.
Christopher Dunn
Hawaii —  December 16, 2009 12:21am ET
Mr Ferrell: "don't sniff, don't judge, don't think, just kick back and quaff." That is fine if you're drinking a vin de pays, but if you bring a $100 bottle to Keller's place, the last thing you would do is "quaff" it...yes?? Matt Kramer is talking about going to a "fine" restaurant, not kicking back at home after a hard day of reading comments such as ours!
Adam Lee
Santa Rosa, CA —  December 16, 2009 7:26am ET

I do share his opinion.....on the wine glasses....but not his opinion on the wines.

I don't think that spending high $ on stemware that does not do the wine justice make a lot of sense. But neither do I think charging a lot of $ for wines that are praiseworthy simply because they are extreme makes sense either.

My point was simply that praising one example for being extreme but not the other seems inconsistent.

Adam Lee
Siduri Wines
Glenn Keeler
OC, CA —  December 16, 2009 8:29am ET
I don't mind the tumbler in this type of family style setting. I think the flaw in Keller's concept is having expensive wines on the list. If someone is ordering a $200 bottle of the list, they deserve a nice stem to fully enjoy the wine. He should have kept the list under $50 to really play into the casual "table wine" vibe. If I'm drinking a $30 Zin off the list, I personally don't think it would be all that different out of a stem or a tumbler.
John Lawrence
Michigan —  December 16, 2009 9:52am ET
Adam: Perhaps it's your application of "non-interventionist" that's the problem here: I know what this term means when it comes to winemaking, but how do you feel it applies to the choice of glassware by this restaurant? My opinion on this would be that your comparison isn't apt (i.e., that Mr. Kramer isn't being inconsistent), since the choice of glassware seems more reactionary than non-interventionist.
Richard Scholtz
Austin, TX —  December 16, 2009 10:15am ET
The one time I've eaten at ad hoc, it was after the restaurant had been open for about 3 months, when the viability of the restaurant was still up in the air. At that time, I believe the most expensive wine on the list was $65, so I don't think extrapolating a retail price of $30 is out of the realm of possibility. I would have no problem drinking those kind of wines out of a tumbler.

I think people are not comprehending the concept of the restaurant. It's supposed to casual, no pretense, etc. Remember something else: the price of the meal is $45. That is dirt cheap. I can't think of many places in the Napa Valley you can get a four course meal for that price. For food of that quality for that price, I think it's necessary and proper to drop the pretense of the wine and serve it from a tumbler. If you don't like it, or can't relax for a couple of hours for some casual dining, bring your own stemware.

I'm reminded of a small Vietnamese restaurant here in Austin. It's a hole-in-the-wall type place in an aging retail center. They let you bring your own wine, and provide a corkscrew, glasses, and don't charge corkage. One night we were there, at least half the tables had a bottle of wine on it, with most being in the under $15/bottle price range. The corkscrew isn't great, and the glasses aren't really wineglasses, but they serve the purpose. I seem to recall everyone there enjoying their meal with friends and/or family, and having a great time.

Sometimes, sharing a good meal with the ones you hold dear is more important than whether the wine is served in a Riedel glass. In the words of kids these days, "chillax."

Adam, I hate to admit that I've drunk Siduri wines out of a plastic cup before, because it's all the guest had available. It still tasted good.
Bill Belkin
Minneapolis, MN —  December 16, 2009 10:32am ET
Kudos to you Matt! Thanks for so eloquently stating a consternation that I have had (and continue to have) with the folks who offer us "white tablecloth service" with peanuts on the floor accoutrements... It is baffling to me as a retailer who knows exactly what the foodies are paying for their wines, that they cannot see the direct connection between thoughtful, coherent wine lists and proper stemware to offer the best chance of the wines showing properly...thereby guaranteeing themselves MORE WINE SALES! New concept perhaps!!
Philippe Richer
Montreal, Canada —  December 16, 2009 4:17pm ET

Suggest that you try the ultimate BYOW experience in Montreal Canada.

Competition for haute cuisine is so high that a new generation of Chefs are starting restaurants for wine lovers, that means no wine on the menu, only BYOW, excellent wine service and no corkage please...

All that for 50-80$ for technical six course exquisite menus. Check www.alos.ca or www.restoyoyo.com for samples.

My wish is that Wine Spectator promote these BYOW concepts that are truly for wine lovers. In reality, we all have a cellar full of wine that just need to be respected.

Hope you make a stop to Montreal shrortly.

James T Vitelli
CT —  December 16, 2009 5:05pm ET
It is beyond curious that Mr. Keller could agonize so studiously over his choice of plates, bowls and dishes for his culinary creations (and sell his own line of tableware to boot), yet have such a laissez faire approach to wine service. Cross the street and dine at the French Laundry and you will be left with no doubt that he "gets it" when he wants to, and that wine service is indeed a critical part of the meal. This leaves us to conclude only one thing. He is making a statement that sometimes wine service matters, and sometimes it doesn't. But where is that line drawn? The price of the meal? The price of the wine? And who gets to make that call? If every table were served the same carafe of house wine alongside the family style meal, I might buy into his approach. But when a restaurant sells wine (and some at over $100), and allows or encourages Napa visitors to bring in treasures from home, or, more likely, recently acquired bottles from tasting room visits earlier in the day, it owes us (and the local wineries) more. How insulting to the locals in the wine industry to know that the wines they are trying to market to newly minted customers are being treated so poorly. And it is impossible to argue that the treatment is not poor when every other Keller establishment uses proper stems. His inconsistency is the telltale sign here. I remember when Alain Ducasse was pilloried for having servers bring out a selection of pens with the credit card slips when his eponymous restaurant debuted in New York. But perhaps Keller should consider an homage to this practice and have his servers bring a selection of galssware to the table and let the diners choose. When 90 percent of his patrons choose a stem, the market will have spoken and he won't have to worry about this issue ever again.
Eldon Lauber
Omaha, NE  —  December 16, 2009 7:56pm ET
$20.00 corkage for good wine in an ice-tea glass! Give me a break.

I agree with your excellent editoral Matt; keep up the good work!
Perry A Johnson
East Peoria, IL —  December 16, 2009 8:00pm ET
“I’ll tell you what I think,” I replied. “I think chef Keller doesn’t know a goddamned thing about wine if he really believes that wines taste great from these tumblers. And what’s more, I think that it’s a kind of reverse-snobbery arrogance."

Well said Matt---and right on the money. I guess this "chef" forgot he is in a service business---serving others writes his paycheck, not padding his self centered ego by projecting his personal preferences as if they were the last word on the subject.

I can tell the difference between the mediocre and first class places by the level of detail they put into such things as serving wines at the right temperature and in appropriate stemware---which DOES make a big difference. And I gladly pay more to go to these places to get the extra value they represent by their diligence.

This isn't snobbery, it's a simple expectation that wine purveyors pay attention to the relevant details to make our experience first rate. We shouldn't have to ask for it---it should be a given.
David Lobe
Toronto, —  December 17, 2009 9:02am ET
Amen Matt,
I completly agree. I can't tell you how many times i have had to ask at restaurants... "Do you have anything better in terms of glasses?"
I don't think they all need to have Riedel Sommalier series....just buy some Nachman, Spigelau, Schott Zweisel that you can find a multiple of discount stores......just have some respect.
Tim Hansen
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA —  December 18, 2009 1:23pm ET
Thank you for saying it! Take 'em on, each by name! Keep up the beautiful, fearless writing.
Yusuf Amlani Sr
Riverside CA. —  December 18, 2009 6:11pm ET
Been there, nice meal, fun place, but TOTALLY agree
about the lack of stemware, DID NOT enjoy our
Spottswoode Cab...
Dennis D Bishop
Shelby Twp., MI, USA —  December 19, 2009 10:31am ET
I agree with you Matt, stemware is important; I belive it is more important than flatware or china.
I enjoy a little restaurant down the road from our home, the atmosphere is VERY low key, the food extraodinary, the wine list is approachable and very well thought out. They charge a $20 corkage (corkage is very rare in Michigan). The owner is also the chef and he realized the importance of providing great wine, served in approtriate stemware at affordable pricing.. all in support of his fantastic menu. It makes for an enjoyable experience and brings us back time and time again. My only complaint is that there is not a decanter or a funnel filter to be found in the whole place! I over look this by bringing my own decanter and pouring tools. My motto, if you can not find it, bring it yourself.
Steve Dunn
phila, PA USA —  December 19, 2009 3:27pm ET
Well said, Matt. I know that one can purchase good quality stemware for under $7 per. No excuse for tumblers unless you are drinking beer, soda or water. What was Keller thinking? Did someone give him bad advice? What's next, plastic? Did they serve coffee in mugs or styrofoam? Actually, I have given up on Champagne flutes in favor of general Riedel tasting glass at $7.
Bernard Kruithof
San Antonio, Texas —  December 21, 2009 6:45pm ET
Thanks for the opinion Matt however I think it just comes down to what we are used to as wine drinkers. As one who is accustomed to drinking from great or good glassware at home my standards have been raised to expect this level of glassware everywhere. I find little excuse for anyone with talent, expertise and a great name to lower mine and everyones standards to be trendy or rustic and informal as I suppose is Chef Kellers intention in this case. I am with you in that I prefer great glassware to show off good or great wines and especially in the wine country. I also prefer to get in my nice car as opposed to someones not so comfortable one. I enjoy my level of comfort and don't beleive comfortable equals elistist or snobbish, its just the standard we have become used to and take for granted until someone thinks they know better but doesn't really as in the case. Thanks again for your great insight on this subject.
Jeremy T Hall
Columbus, Ohio —  December 27, 2009 1:08pm ET

As someone who works in the industry and decants several bottles every evening, I couldn't agree with you more. At home, I use my Riedel magnums and Schott Burgundy bowls, and I expect decent glassware when dining out. If we're paying a corkage (which is a charge for the cost of covering glassware), why shouldn't we be drinking out of stemmed glassware that allows our wine to shine? I'm not drinking my '95 Insignia out of something that looks like a mollested rocks glass! If you're an Elitist, I am, too!
Sherman Harns
Phoenix, AZ —  December 28, 2009 10:59pm ET
There are a number of restaurants that I will not patronize simply because of some "small detail" that materially affects my enjoyment of the experience, one of which happens to be decent stemware for decent wine. Why support an establishment that makes that choice for me, when so many others provide a suitable alternative? I vote with my palate *and* my dollars --
Dale Rouse
Oregon —  January 11, 2010 10:48am ET
It seems like a happy medium for Mr. Keller yourself would have been to choose some Riedel O series glasses
Keith Hoffman
California —  January 24, 2010 2:59pm ET
If this was Twitter I'd be re-tweeting James Vitelli's comments - they are spot on. Let the market speak. HOWEVER - I've been to Ad Hoc three times, and will be going again 2 more times this coming April. I absolutely love the food and the place - but, like almost everyone here - I'm not thrilled to be drinking wine from tumblers. The first time was kind of interesting... but that wears off. I recalled that had I requested stems they would bring them. I just called Ad Hoc to re-check that. The
hostess and beverage director just confirmed it - if you want stems at Ad Hoc - just ask for them! Don't miss out on this excellent culinary treat because you think you have to have tumblers... you don't !
Keith Hoffman
California —  January 24, 2010 3:00pm ET
If this was Twitter I'd be re-tweeting James Vitelli's comments - they are spot on. Let the market speak. HOWEVER - I've been to Ad Hoc three times, and will be going again 2 more times this coming April. I absolutely love the food and the place - but, like almost everyone here - I'm not thrilled to be drinking wine from tumblers. The first time was kind of interesting... but that wears off. I recalled that had I requested stems they would bring them. I just called Ad Hoc to re-check that. The
hostess and beverage director just confirmed it - if you want stems at Ad Hoc - just ask for them! Don't miss out on this excellent culinary treat because you think you have to have tumblers... you don't !
Sergio Gonzalez
Los Angeles, CA USA —  January 27, 2010 1:28pm ET
I would rather be an elitist.

I started drinking and learning about wine only two years ago. I'm of average financial means, not wealthy by any stretch. The reason I got into wine was that I enjoy tasting the facinating flavors of different wines. The complexity of a finely made wine should be fully appreciated. I don't drink wine just to get drunk. If I did I would get a plastic cup and some liquor store $6 wine.

Even though I'm new to this, I have seen the dumbing down effort to bring wine to the average Joe Shmoe. I think it has to do with the current financial times and the whole "peace-love-go green-carbon footprint-save the world-socialist living-bs movement. It's as if we don't follow this, we are considered snobby or out of tune. Have Americans given up their freedom of choice? Since when did we all cease to to become independent individuals?

Unisex jeans, women in men's clubs, unisex hair salons, wine/beer sports bars-casual corporate attire-all in effort to unite everything-forced blurred lines. Shouldn't there still exist places where one can participate in one's activity without being pressed to be "acceptable"?

Call me elitist. I still want to enjoy my wine among those whom still appreciate a fine wine in an appropriate glassware, among a fitting environment.

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