The following is a conversation I had on a restaurant telephone many years ago…
Ring ring ring…
“Good day sir,” I answered.
“Is the manager or sommelier there?” asked the caller.
“Timothy speaking, how may I help you?”
“Do you have Silver Oak on your list?” said the gentleman.
“No – but we have many great California Cabernets and Meritage blends, Diamond Creek, Bryant Family, Grgich, Duckhorn, Bond… just to name a few,” I said politely.
“Whoever is doing your wine buyin’ doesn’t know what they’re doing – I’m from the Bay Area,” claimed the client in a stern voice.
“Good day, sir,” I responded placing the receiver down.
Whenever I reflect on that conversation I always find it quite amusing. I’m always diplomatic when it comes to wine, but off the record, Silver Oak’s inside joke is to call it Silver Joke.
It’s not that it’s a bad wine perse, but there are always diners who want to impress their guests with how much they know about wine. They want to try and stump the sommelier by chatting about the review and score they just read about in the Wine Spectator or Robert Parker. It’s always a little strange when a client tells you about the great Pinot Noir they recently drank while vacationing in Bordeaux. (French Pinot Noir usually comes from Burgundy.)
I constantly read reviews, but I really don’t prescribe to the 100 point scale. I’m not a critic, but trained to objectively assess wine for quality. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to be good. I would rather serve a complex, obscure, food-friendly $40 bottle then a $500 bottle that’s overpriced, high in alcohol and one-dimensional. Wine doesn’t have to be expensive to be great!