Sommeliers: Stories from The Front Line

mr-creosote1by Andrew Chalk

If you work in the hospitality industry you serve humanity. You are bound to come across all types of people and accumulate some funny anecdotes over the years. I surveyed Dallas sommeliers about the soft underbelly of wine service.

Anthony Martinez at The Gaylord Texan handles thousands of wine orders a week. He still remembers the time that a table asked for straws and drank their wine from a straw. Another time, a guest tasted the wine straight from the bottle.   

Jennifer Jaco recalls an episode when she was at Del Frisco’s “I once had a guest ask me to take his bottle of wine, decant half and put the other in a blender for 5 seconds .  Then asked me to pour the wine into two glasses to see if I could tell the difference.  It was a really nice bottle so I couldn’t bring myself to oblige, but asked the bartender to do it.  Besides the fact that the blended wine looked like a raspberry smoothie, all it did was make the wine smell like mint because they had been making mojitos all night”

Russell Burkett at Sēr once had a regular customer order Cabernet by the glass, accompanied by Sweet & Low, and a glass of ice cubes. To cool and sweeten. I have had the ice request before, but never Sweet & Low!!!???

Jeremy King of the Gaylord Texan reports “I’ve had a guest ask me to put two different wines in the same glass because he liked different things about each wine”. And…

“Once we had a lady come in and tell her friends and the sommelier on duty that she could take the sulfites out of a glass of wine.  She then asked the sommelier for the cork but said “It can be anything you pull out of your purse.”  She moved the cork in a circular fashion inside the glass seven times, noting to her fellow guests to “make sure you don’t touch the sides of the glass.”  Then repeating the procedure for each person’s glass of wine and with completion announced that their wines were now sulfite-free.”


Some problems arise due to misunderstandings about wine. Anthony Martinez notes that “I find it humorous when the cork is passed around the table of 4 to 6 guests for everyone to smell. It’s even more humorous when they smell the side that has had no contact with wine.” And…

“At least a half dozen time a guest has ordered a Zinfandel $60+ and were expecting a Blush, but they were willing to pay over $60??”

Chris Morgan recalls one time at Oceanaire “I had some guests order a Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (with 2 seafood dishes, if I remember correctly) to be served between their first and main courses. I pulled a bottle out of our temperature-controlled cabinet and decanted at the table for them. The process was seamless and the entrees were delivered just as I finished the wine service. The server alerted me that the table wished to speak with me not long after the entrees had been delivered. “Is everything prepared perfectly?” I asked. “This wine is cold,” the gentlemen replied, “much colder than we like it. We thought we could get used to it and tried to like it, but we just don’t want to wait for it to warm up while our food gets cold.  Could you bring us a bottle that isn’t so cold?”  “We do keep certain selections at cellar temperature,” I replied, “55 degrees is the best temperature to store and serve fine red wines.  I’m sure it wouldn’t take long at all for the wine to come up to a more agreeable temperature for you.”  “Well, this is much colder than we like or we’re used to.  Could you bring us a bottle that is closer to room temperature?”  Grudgingly, I removed the decanter, the bottle and their glasses, then repeated the process with a bottle from storage that was room temp or above.  I returned to the table near the end of their meal, and they both expressed sincere gratitude for exchanging their “cold” wine for a bottle that was “a more proper temperature.”

He summarizes the situation in a way that is applicable to the other anecdotes above.

“This experience reinforced the adage that the guest ISN’T always right, but they ARE the guest, and have the right to be wrong.”


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