Friday, May 18, 2007

"The older we grow, the greater becomes our wonder at how much ignorance one can contain without bursting one's clothes"--Mark Twain

Perhaps I'm becoming sensitive in my old age, but I do believe that there is a certain, growing segment of the population that thrives on demeaning others whenever possible. I must further suppose that these cretins have come to believe that the ridiculous and wholly incorrect mantra "the customer is always right" is some invisible shield, able to protect them as they violate every tenet of common courtesy while vomiting forth the most inane, ridiculously false pronouncements imaginable. This scenario can manifest itself in many instances throughout a dining experience, but it is clear to me that the ordering and tasting of wine is perhaps the ideal situation in which these societal ulcers can truly shine.

I was very short-handed tonight, and both my sommeliers had to work as servers--as a result I was left to open all the wine myself, nearly 130 bottles. My hands are stained red, and it hurts to make a fist with my wine-opening hand. The vast majority of the guests were great, and many remarked positively about our long-standing policy--that everyone recieves the same attention and service regardless of bottle price. The $25 bottle of shiraz/cab was served with the same glassware as the $875 Cote-Rotie, by the same person, and using the same type of decanter. In a few instances however, it was clear that I was dealing with guests owning remarkably ill will, tremendous stupidity, astounding arrogance, or a varying combination of all three afflictions. Much like bacteria under the microscope or maggots emerging from a torn garbage bag, these persons have noticably similar habits by which they may be identified.

With all due respect to Jeff Foxworthy, you might be a douche bag if:

1. You look at the $16 [wholesale] lead crystal 23oz wine glass in front of you and still ask for the "good glasses" or the "big glasses".

2. Your response to my presentation of the wine bottle is to completely ignore me, give me an annoyed look as if I am interrupting you rather than bringing you something you have asked for, wave dismissively at me as if you are Emporer Diocletian deciding whether a gladiator lives or dies, or any of the following phrases--"looks like it", "so far so good", "what do you want me to do with it?", "I suppose we'll try it", and my personal favorite "you took the order, don't you know if it's the right bottle?". You see, I didn't take the order, your server did--the server who is female, fifteen years younger than I am, and a foot shorter, you fucking idiot.

3. In the time it takes you to taste and approve the wine, I could undress, shower, dry off, and re-dress not in a business suit but in a full set of armor and chainmail complete with padded undergarments. You are not Robert Parker--smell the wine [which is really all that is necessary], taste the wine if you wish, decide whether or not the wine is corked or not, ask for a second opinion from the server if you are unsure, and be done with it.

4. After sampling the wine, you decide that everyone else at the table, and possibly those dining adjacent to you, should have their say as well. "pour a litle for Harvery, Blanche you try too, and Uncle Marvin, and Trixie, Bald Petie, etc.". On rare occassion that someone chooses a perfectly good wine that they simply don't like, I usually take the wine back as a courtesy--this however does not mean that not liking a wine, or finding one person in your party who does not like a wine, is reason to return the wine. Not liking a wine that is viable is not a valid reason to return it, and frankly if you can't say yes or no without having everyone else try, you shouldn't be picking in the first place.

5. You use the word "connoisseur". "Connoisseur" is French for "douche bag"

6. I pour you the sample, and you immediately attempt to force someone else in the party to sample the wine. "here, Mortimer you try. Just try it, try the wine, try the wine, just come on--I got it for you, I know you're the real connoisseur, just don't worry about the martini, just try it, try the wine". The icing on this rotten cake of idiocy is when, while Morty is finally trying the wine sample I poured for you, I take his clean glass and set it in front of you. However, when Morty is finished tasting, he puts the sample glass back in front of you, looks at me like I am an idiot and tells me that he will need another glass.

7. When I ask if you would like the wine poured, you say "no, we'll let it breathe for a while". Now, it is true that a full bottle of wine uncorked breathes better than one still corked, but just barely. The neck of a wine bottle isn't so wide. You see, Copernicus, "breathing" is oxidation, that is--exposure to air. The best place for wine to air is in the glasses. Are you telling me that you don't know that, Oppenheimer, or are you too embarrassed to tell me that you don't have the willpower not to drink the wine if it is poured and so want it to stay in the bottle? You are also a douche bag if you tell me you aren't ready to have the wine poured, but then pour it yourself thirty seconds after I leave the table. If you want to pour your own wine, just say so.

8. You start making a bunch of stuff up about wine, a winery, a vintage, etc. and then ask me to back you up in front of the rest of the people at the table. I will lie for my friends when necessary, but that doesn't happen often. You are not my friend. Get your facts straight, do your lying when I'm away from the table, or prepare to be embarrassed.

9. You demand a new set of glases with every successive bottle of the same wine, because "the wine has changed and you can't mix them". Once again, your mouth is way ahead of your tiny little lottery-winner brain. Wine is constantly evolving, whether in the glass, the bottle, or in a decanter. The process of drinking and pouring even one bottle of wine displays nearly incalculable variations of the wine in that bottle--its part of the reason for drinking it in the first place. If you haven't greased the glass up with your grubby paws and there hasn't been any surprise sediment, there is very rarely any reason to have fresh glasses for newly-ordered bottles of the same wine.

10. The hand. Putting your hand over your glass to signal that you do not want any more wine is a non-stop ticket to Dickville on the Douche Bag Express. If you haven't noticed, I'm not sneaking up behind you and tanking up your glass--as Ii go to pour I always make sure to get the drinker's attention and make sure that they wish to have more wine. I am gifted with excellent hearing, please do me the courtesy of speaking to me.

I understand this my seem a bit bitter, but it has been a long, hard weekend. Sometimes I just don't know what people are thinking when they do or say the things they do.

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