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We had dinner not too long ago in one of the top restaurants in the U.S., I won't mention a name, but you've all heard of it. We had the tasting menu, and the "Sommelier" suggested he do a wine pairing. We agreed, thinking we would be in good hands. The food was top notch, but the wines sucked. And I mean sucked. The highlight of the evening was a 2002 Burgundy. We kept hoping that the next wine would be better, but we got 4 poor warm climate whites in a row. The sommelier thought he was impressing us with his knowledge of obscure information and varietals. Sometimes obscure stuff is obscure because it's garbage. What happened in the last few years? How did sommeliers begin to confuse good wine with hard-to-get or different wine? Maybe we are giving too many guys (or girls) who have some wine books and passed a tasting exam, the opportunity to pair wines with absolutely impeccably prepared food creations. Wine pairing is a talent, and when it's done right by the right person, there's nothing to compare it to.
And that's what I expect when I go to one of these restaurants and pay $500 for dinner. I won't go back to that one, even though the food was perfect.
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chef neal,
tell us the restaurant, did you ask if the chef new what he or she was serving with the food? i wood have tasted the wines and told him or her that i did not like it or it doesn't match very good to you. your paying the bill
you can all way's put him or her on the spot in a nice way. tell him or her that it taste funny, would he taste it. an watch the look on his or her face.if they say nothing wrong then ask to she the wine menu.
after the forth wine you stuck your self.
spending that kind of money speak up! Cool
bez 780
ya you're totally right, and I felt like a dumb ass for spending that much money to get mad at a "sommelier", and I'm using that term really loosely, but that just makes my point:
Why did that happen in such a restaurant? I go there so I don't have to complain about anything, right? So when did big name restaurants start dropping the ball, and why?
restaurants, like any business have their "peaks". A magical point in a restaurants life where everything is firing on all cylinders. It could be, that this restaurant is currently on the decline. They have already peaked.

That's not to say that it will never be as good again... it could very well be even better. It's just right now it's in funk. Nothing more, nothing less.

AIM: Drunken Mariachi
chef neal,
were the wines paired with the food on the menu?
if not the chef -owner need to know what is happening in the front of the house. the wine steward may be making a little extra in the front on what wine he sells, not every one is honest.
email or call and tell them what happen. best on the phone or in person.
all most soundes like the french landry??
but when we were there i did not see a bad wine on the list.
cal. cabs. $100 up.
again if it was not on the menu call!!!!!

I don't see it as being bad taste. You had a bad experience there, you spent mucho moolah there. They have your money. It's your right to let others know your thoughts on the restaurant. It's not like you got everything for free there. You paid for their services. Their services were poor. Why should others have to suffer the same fate?

AIM: Drunken Mariachi
Wine pairings are almost always a bad bet if you are a wine afficianado. The pairings are usually aimed at, if not the lowest common denominator, close to it. When making up the menu and wine choices, the restaurant has no way of knowing if the diners that evening will be Jancis Robinson and Andrea Immer, or Homer Simpson and his friend Barney. To play it safe, the restaurant will usually choose the functional equivalent of K-J wines (though most pairings I see are almost all European wines...more chance of fooling the unsuspecting customer). If you are in the top 2% of the dining public when it comes to wine knowledge and passion (and I think that people who participate on boards such as this qualify), you will invariably go home disappointed.

I attended a wine dinner prepared by Daniel Boulud (not at his restaurant, he was a guest chef at another establishment) and the 6 course meal came all set up with paired wines. No options. Now, here's a guy with a top 5 restaurant, and a wine list to put up against anyones. He knows wine. The food was stunning. But every wine we had that evening was mediocre. I had never heard of a single one of them. The highest score I gave any wine was 88 pts. Curious, I looked up the scores from RMP and WS. The highest score that either source had for any of the wines was 87 pts.

I don't think that this experience is unique. You get "solid" and unispired selections designed to target the middle of the road wine drinker. If you love wine, you should always order yourself. Or you could let the sommelier know that you are a passionate wine collector, and would really appreciate glasses of stunning wine paired with your meal. I doubt that will help. But it could be worth a try.
finally someone who actually read the first post in the thread
thanks thats what I was looking for, some confirmation that I wasn't alone, and a reason that explains what happened
See, I was right not to mention the name of the restaurant, because the chef would have suffered bad press with everyone on this page. We just have to be more educated consumers. Next time, I'll order my own wine, or ask the sommelier if he/she can put together an outstanding pairing. Live and learn.

p.s. Jimmy V's eyes only I hate naming names, but we had dinner at the home restaurant of who you named, and we had the wines paired, and man, it was spectacular!!!!! That's what spoiled me for life, I think, and then I just expected it at every other restaurant that had such a reputation. Not so. Big Grin
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Although I agree with JimmyV's point, it still doens't give restaurant the right to pair fine food with plunk wines.

chef neil's experience was the wine sucked, to me that sounds like it's just bad wine. There are plenty of safe wines out there that can be very enjoyable when paired right. I don't think it's too much to ask the restaurant to do their homework on making their wine pairing at least that.

Now, a question for chef neil and please do not take this as an offense in anyway shape or form. Smile

Were you aware of what wines were going to be paired with each course? Or did you just went with the sommelier's suggestion without knowing what wines are going to show up? If it's the later, then I think you are partially responsible for your bad experience.

We just let the sommelier pair the wines, but the thing is that we didn't know what food we would be eating, we just had a blind tasting menu.

We did this at Daniel, and that's what has spoiled us. Now I expect every big name chef to be as good. Daniel didn't miss a thing. Food - hey, I'm not worthy to even comment on it, and the sommelier was a sommelier in the true sense of the word. He was adept at pairings, and also at learning what kind of consumers we were and what we would be impressed with. Sign of a true blue professional. He nailed it.
We went into the lounge for an Armagnac later, and my wife was seated on the bench. She was just forming the thought that maybe it would be better to sit in a chair, when a waiter appeared with a pillow and placed it behind her back. When she asked where the washroom was, she was escorted, not just a "to the left" and a point. On and on.
When I spend this kind of dough, I don't want to do any work. There are a lot of restaurants I need to go to still, but if I want to be spoiled, I'll go to Daniel or Le Bernardin. Any comments on Le Cirque, or Ducasse, in this train of thought? Where else can you go, and the standards are this high?
Some STUPID 2002 South African riesling
some 2001 alicante
really bad 2002 chile Sauv Blanc
cheese Italian chard (or was it oak-water?)
2001 Savoie Mondeuse
some 2002 gevrey-chambertin for the coup de resistance red
1986 d'Yquem (corked) Wich I sent back and they replaced with a CAB FRANC ICE WINE inniskillin 2001

Wait there was one good wine. We had a bottle of Bolly RD ,but we ordered that ourselves as soon as we arrived.
I don't think the d'Yquem was on the tasting list. I think it was a corked bottle, returned by a customer who ordered it off the wine list, and they tried to pass it off on us. That would explain why they didn't open another one.

Neither of us remembers who the producer of the gevrey was -sorry. It was good, unlike most of the others, but nothing outstanding.
Ahh, very good to know. I would've trusted the somm. there, on the restaurant's reputation alone.

And for the person who asked about experiences similar to Daniel, I've heard that Ducasse is supposed to be that good although I haven't been and will offer my comments on whether Per Se is that good (i should hope so) at the end of March.

The second best meal after our Daniel tasting menu (which involved similar experiences of an escort to the ladies room hallway and VERY gracious staff) was Picasso in Las Vegas. An outstanding experience (even if you took the excitement of the first night of our honeymoon out of it Wink )
Originally posted by chef neil:
I still want to say that I believe isolated incidents are prevalent, and I don't think any restaurant, or person should be judged on one single event.

Not completely aggreeing, but at least partially.

Off night in the kitchen? Fine.

Not so good choices on wine pairing? Fine.

Try to pass off a customer returned corked wine to another unsuspecting customer is a completely different story. Mad

You wondered if sommeliers (or at least this one) want(ed) to impress with hard to get or obscure stuff, and in all honesty I'd have to say that I do not know.
I CAN however say that I've shared and enjoyed the love (or passion) that TRUE sommelieres have for wine.
They are good listeners, helpful, and direct you to what they consider the best QPR>
As my friend pyang mentions, recycling a corked bottle is certainly an issue that should no be taken lightly and probably addressed to management.
That action borders on fraud.

Restaurants have budgets for everything. Even wine.

High End restaurants that deal w/ tasting menus can't afford to pair the high end wines with their tasting menu. I'd say 1/2 - 2/3's of your business on those nights will be tasting menu if you're at a "special" joint. Wine pairings usually run 30-50 extra. For a 5-6 course dinner, that's about $10 a glass. You can't make money off the good bottles by selling them by the glass that way. You would be lucky to break even.

AIM: Drunken Mariachi
The one thing you are all not thinking about is that most chefs do not understand wine. They do not understand wine is an ingredient- like truffle butter- that needs to be taken into account whan they create a dish. At some point in the past 15 years many people decided to become a "chef" because they thought they could earn a good living, and become famous. All you had to do was work alot, cut yourself, read some books, cook for you momma (momma always loves what you cook!! You are so creative, who would have thought of lobster and chocolate?) and drink alot- which most of them were already doing. At some point you would allow your ego to define your art. When a ego driven chef writes a tasting menu, he or she is trying to challenge themselves and their diner. Because they have no concept of wine, they do not understand how mushrooms bring out the earth (good), or how spinach will bring out the iron (bad). Most "Sommeliers" are trying to make an name for themselves; the more less expensive wine they can "match" with a dish the better. They will move more wine through the house, thus more profits, etc...
Aww, forget it. I'm just drunk and bitter.

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