Guest: "What is Txakolina?"
Server: "It's a Spanish white wine. It just means farm."
Sometimes sommeliers, servers, or bartenders don't know the answer, so they make something up! What have you overheard at restaurants or wine bars that made you do a double take?
No, but the incorrect pronunciation had to come from somewhere as when people don´t know things in wine, they usually ask which gets back to Emily's original point. And again, why and how have so many sommeliers have invented som-al-yay?
Exactly why I never bothered to correct the guest with his Burgundy-Cab even though I probably could have figured out a way to do it gently. Just let them think it was a lighter style or vintage, steered them to something safer that they would be comfortable spending more money on than another “risky” French bottle.
Now when it was my staff in the Riesling/Burgundy fiasco, and because the error was realized before the bottle was open, I tried to sort things out before opening the bottle just to be safe. That was more on correcting my staff than the guest anyway.
I still think it’s funny to picture one of my best servers talking to a table about this Riesling blend from Burgundy and whatever else he came up with. Just goes to show that if you can deliver your line smoothly and with confidence, you can truly sell people bullshit.
The best part is he never did realize it. They liked the wine, it just obviously wasn’t what they expected so we switched gears after that and chalked it up to anything else I could so he never had to be corrected. I just wish I had been the one to take the order and have the conversation but this was a big restaurant so that wasn’t always possible. Maybe he would have settled on the right thing but depending how he asked maybe I wouldn’t have picked up on his error. I don’t mind it though, in the grand scheme of things. If all of these wealthy people knew what they were talking about they wouldn’t need us.
Oh man that reminds me of one of my more embarrassing moments. It kinda feels like therapy to talk about these things, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has mixed up regions or something before.
Two top is in for dinner and I can’t remember if he was the winemaker or owner of one of the top estates in Priorat but that’s what he was drinking and he definitely knew what he was talking about. I didn’t know any of this yet though, and they were drinking an older Clos Erasmus and his guest asked what grape it was while I was refilling their glasses. Idk if I got Priorat and Ribera del Duero confused or what, but my brain was thinking about Tempranillo from somewhere with more French oak and bigger extraction so that’s what I said. Compared it to Rioja, etc. He just stared at me for a minute before informing me that they grow Grenache and Carignan in Priorat and Spain isn’t just Tempranillo. That’s when he told me who he was and it became obvious that he knew what he was talking about. We somewhat pleasantly agreed that I should stick to the Napa Cabs and he could tell me more about Spain and Priorat, but that I should really read more about Spain too, especially since I was working in a steakhouse. He said there were some great values there but also world class wines and looking back now that guy was so right. He was telling his guest stories about Rene Barbier and Scala Dei and I couldn’t even remember the correct varietal. I just wish I had known more about Spain at the time, I really should have picked his brain a lot more than I did.
Tight fist, red face still when the memory jump in.
VIP guest alert when the four guests sit down, being informed about background, management from top hotel chain. Manager greets, best server finish with food order, master wine menu presented, guest asks for suggestion, the junior somm recommend with 3 choices within 600 chocies.
Isole e Olena Cepparello 2013 is served.
”smooth, nice! Can you tell us what is the grape?”
Years passed, I still feel I am in a bubble when “a hundred percent of cabernet sauvignon” came out my mouth and guests nodded. Cab? Really?
I studied IWS, visit the winery booth in Vinitaly, and others, still feel never, never enough to be a good somm. The nerves can kill.
I just want to add that I love the direction this thread is going. As a new Somm I make a ton of mistakes and kick myself in the back of the house regularly. Sometimes I wish I started a blog on my first day to tell stories of what it's like to be a new somm learning the ropes and making the craziest mistakes. I've only been in the biz 9 months, maybe its not too late! I seriously can't believe some of the stuff that comes out of my mouth.
The one that gets me, and I hear it often, is "sum-in-yay"! Where the heck does that "n" come from?
Guest ask the somm as he hands him a leather bag: "Could you please chill the P3 1971 and leave the Dujac at cellar temp", somm leaves bag in cellar with both bottle thinking "what did he say?!?!?", later brings the bag to the table, opens it to find a Dom Perignon along with the Dujac and says "Wow, I never knew there was a P3 Dom". That was me last night. I guess it was a good thing since they offered me a taste as part of my ongoing education.
So is it wrong in Texas to say SommeY'all?
I had a guy last night order a bottle of Barbera D'Asti. As I'm opening it and chatting he tells me he's a Sommelier as well and that Barbera D'Asti is his favorite Sangiovese. I didn't know what to say, I was kind of caught off guard. I thought maybe he was messing with me so I stated that Sangiovese is great but "Barbera" hint hint is great to pair with many dishes, it's one of my favorites (it's not I just had to think of something). Just a day in the life I guess.
I've had some good ones with spirits that showcased noble humanity...
"excuse me. EXCUSE ME, BAR KEEP!! What did you pour me?"
[me] "Well sir, you asked for a Bombay Sapphire with a cube, so I poured you that"
"This is NOT Bombay Sapphire!!"
[me again] "Well, sir... I assure I did, would you like me to pour you another right here for you?"
"Yes! Maybe this time you'll get it right and it will actually be blue! *to one of his friends* Idiot Bartender..."
Or this gem
*gentlemen orders his date a well vodka on the rocks. we poured smirnoff in the well, so she got that*
*lady takes a sip and loudly spits drink out on bar top and me*
"This is vile! is this well vodka?!
[me soaked in spit and vodka] "why yes it is Miss, the gentlemen ordered it for you..."
"take this shit away and bring me a smirnoff on the rocks"
I realize this thread is about three weeks old but I figured I'd chime in with two of my greatest grape blunders: telling clients that Chateau Grillet was a blend of Marsanne and Roussane and Montlouis was Sauvignon blanc. Both times I realized what I'd said about 10 minutes later and was torn between admitting my mistake to the client or not saying anything. (Ps: I never said anything)