When ordering wine, this is the advice once given to my good friend Eren by the father of one of her private school friends. Well, last night Eren and I had dinner at Lafayette, a trendy, up and coming new restaurant, in the East Village. In hindsight, this advice would have served us well, but instead we chose a different route.
From the moment we were seated, our dinner conversation ran like something out of a football play book – a series of well-orchestrated hand-offs and passes. We began with champagne cocktails ordered in step, shared the perfect appetizer to complement each of our dinner selections and executed all without skipping a beat in conversation. Now what was needed was a delicious bottle of wine.
But the wine list was way too extensive for a dinner that’s main purpose was to catch up on life events. So we went sent for the sommelier. But his arrogance immediately gave me the impression that he had no interest in knowing the type of wine we like to drink.
And as it went, we stressed our preference for white, yet he went straight for the Pinot Noir. To compensate for blatantly disregarding our request, he pitched this wine to captivate and entice. But despite his effort, we simply decided that we preferred white. This forced him to scour the wine list in search of a recommendation that might please us. He now had a sense that we were two women who were not going to be satisfied with a lazy attempt and a sub-standard recommendation.
Again we stressed our preference and Eren even added that “we prefer a Sauvignon Blanc – something light and crisp.” He immediately went to Riesling. And despite my resistance, he continued to push his agenda. He assured me that this particular Riesling was not at all sweet, because the acidity balanced out the fruit.
Although skeptical, I conceded in hopes that I would be pleasantly surprised – although I seldom am. So the bottle was delivered and although is a lovely and complex Riesling the fruit is overbearingly sweet. Eren smiled at me nervously and politely told me that she would be satisfied drinking this wine with her dinner, although she would prefer something dryer. I ask if she would send it back and she said “No;” and that she was counting on me for that.
But I strived to keep an open mind and resisted the urge to send back the bottle. But a few more sips and I realized that pretending to be open-minded and flexible was futile; I am woman who knows what she likes and wants what she likes. So we summoned the sommelier with the message that we were displeased with our wine. Then out stormed the sommelier.
We apologized and resorted to typical female tactics which even included the classic batting of eyelashes. But given that his sexual preference was not women, our tactics had little effect. So he abruptly cut us off and pulled out the wine list. In a stern tone, he asked us again what we liked – as if we weren’t clear the first time.
Frustrated and a bit insulted the sommelier recommended a Greek wine which he assured us was light and crisp. He brought us a bottle and although it was generally not bold enough for me, we appeased him and accepted it. But he wasn’t quite satisfied because although I said “fine” the look on my face was one of disgust.
In the end, no one was pleased by this outcome. I left the restaurant questioned the role the role of the sommelier in general. Should a sommelier push a wine which they are passionate about or should they merely give the customer what they want? Without a clear answer, I am left pondering this question.