Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Dan Berger: Wine Waiters

 As we resume dining out, a few things might've changed during the pandemic shutdowns and one of them is wine service.

When people who are skilled in serving wine in restaurants are laid off for 18 months, many end up taking positions in other fields, leaving some restaurants with inexperienced servers.

Experienced wine servers can be revenue enhancers and can be helpful to diners who need assistance in wine/food pairings.

Problems can arise in situations where diners know more about the wine program than servers do. Or perhaps a server is simply a snob who loves to display wine knowledge.

Watching scenes such as this develop from across restaurant aisles always is a fascinating lesson in human behavior and can make for some hilarious tales.

On one occasion at a snooty San Diego restaurant (now thankfully out of business), the wine waiter was a fellow I knew to be a real professional -- one of the few class acts in the joint. As we dined, in walked a nouveau riche snob smelling of Corinthian leather and $100 per ounce aftershave.

After he had perused the wine list, the waiter asked if the party of four would like a bottle of Champagne.

"Champagne!" exclaimed the snob, "what else is there?" as if to imply no other aperitif was any good. Then he ordered a bottle of Krug Champagne, the most expensive one on the list. But he pronounced Krug as if it rhymed with "ugh." (It's pronounced "kroog.")

The waiter flinched imperceptibly. It was clear that he knew he was in for a bad hair day with someone who had a lot more money than brains. That bubbly faux pas led to other awkward moments in which the wine waiter seemed always to be teetering on the edge of quitting and taking a job as a shepherd.

Then there was the Southern California sommelier who faced three attractive young ladies, one of whom clearly knew nothing about wine. She ordered a bottle of what turned out to be a Cru Beaujolais. It was reasonably priced, and all three women seemed to like it. 

Everything was fine until the woman who was in charge suddenly said the wine wasn't satisfactory. Even though their glasses now contained more than three-quarters of the bottle, the leader of the pack told the waiter that the wine was spoiled, and they wouldn't pay for it.

"What's wrong with it?" asked the waiter.

"It tastes spoiled," she shot back. The waiter smelled her glass and said the wine was fine.

"No, it's spoiled," she said.

The next 15 minutes were awkward and included my involvement (not my idea!) and resulted in the manager telling the woman they wouldn't be charged for the wine. The waiter then removed all of the glasses, much to the displeasure of the other two!

I have written about wine for 45 years (and collected it for 55!), but I usually ask servers for suggestions, hoping to discover something I wouldn't have found on my own

I state what kind of wine I'm seeking and a price range. If the waiter's suggestion turns out to be a dud, it's easier to justify returning it. (He or she suggested it in the first place.)

This happened years ago in a top Napa Valley restaurant. The waiter suggested what he said was a "mature" French white wine. It turned out to be terrible. I returned it with no problem and switched to my own pick.

When you're unable to decipher the wine list, ask for assistance. If you get a lot of hemming and hawing, you can safely assume you're on your own.

If the wine waiter clearly explains a suggestion, you have less to fear by trying it than if you picked blindly on your own. Or buy our wine book of the week.

Wine Book of the Week: "Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book 2022" ($16.99, Mitchell Beazley) -- If a wine server can't explain to you a wine on the list that says Muscadet, googling it on your phone will provide far too much detailed information that you simply don't need. That's where this fabulous resource comes in. It's been around for decades and for good reason. Few people anywhere know as much about wine as does this remarkable English writer. This 336-page mini book is larger than it's ever been, but still packs more useful information into a small space than you could imagine. There is probably not a wine in the world that isn't addressed here, and in a succinct way to help you decide what works best with your hamburger. 

To find out more about Dan Berger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh my the horror.

Recent Comments

Search Jackson Jambalaya

Subscribe to JJ's Youtube channel


Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS