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Mike B.

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How would you handle this situation?

by Mike B. » Thu Dec 21, 2006 3:01 pm

One of my guilty pleasures is reading Dear Prudence every Thursday on slate.com.

One of the questions this week reminded me of Bob's inquiry about appropriate stemware:

I would like to share some of my cellared bottles with those who can appreciate it, but do not have the budget to share it with family who are just as happy drinking Two-Buck Chuck. Is there a polite way to serve different-quality wine to different people at the same meal?


How do you deal with situations like this?
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Paul B.

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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Paul B. » Thu Dec 21, 2006 3:18 pm

Mike, I think the politest way to do it would be to pour them the cheap wine out of sight and just hand it to them, and pour the good wine for those who are able to appreciate it.

That's my cynical/expedient reply; to be frank, I've served good wine to non-wine people in the hopes of converting them, but often they find it too sour and too puckery ("eww, it leaves my tongue all fuzzy") and I have to watch to see if they aren't reaching to ameliorate it with sugar or maybe a can of Coke. :!:
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Thomas » Thu Dec 21, 2006 5:57 pm

I don't see a question in that person's question.

A gracious host serves the best possible to all guests. A gracious guest accepts the gifts of the host and gives as graciously.
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Mike B. » Thu Dec 21, 2006 6:35 pm

A gracious host serves the best possible to all guests. A gracious guest accepts the gifts of the host and gives as graciously.


My thoughts were similar. Of course, it doesn't have to be an either/or situation. There are plenty of great value wines that novices and geeks alike would enjoy.

I got the feeling that the person asking is a bit of a snob.
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Gary Barlettano » Thu Dec 21, 2006 6:45 pm

How about decanting the wines into different unmarked decanters and then pouring strategically!? :twisted:

In all honesty, I'd select wines which I could serve to everyone because the party is about the people. If I wanted the party to be about the wine then I'd just invite my wine-savvy friends for that kind of event. To tell you the truth, however, the writer of that letter seems a little presumptuous and snobby to me ... as if she were throwing her pearls before swine.

Harrumpf...
And now what?
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Carl Eppig » Thu Dec 21, 2006 7:07 pm

Back a few years when they were in the $15+ range rather than the $20+ range they are in today, we served Terra Rouge Noir and Enigma to a large group of folks all over the wine appreciation map. All those who drank wine loved them.

Another point here is that you do need to have drinks for those who don't drink wine. We always provide beer, soda, juice, and water.
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Redwinger » Thu Dec 21, 2006 7:13 pm

I can appreciate the bugetary constraints but are you really sure they don't/can't appreciate finer wines? When I was growing up (I still am) I was mainly a beer guy with an occasional bourbon. I never really liked wine because my family wasn't into wine and whenever we had wine, it was some gawd awful crap. Then along comes a business acquaintance who was quite a geek and he shared some of his really good stuff with me, someone who on the surface didn't appreciate good wine. That's all it took to get me hooked.
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Dale Williams » Thu Dec 21, 2006 7:13 pm

I'm not comfortable pouring separate wines for the deserving and the undeserving. What I have done, however, is:
1) At a dinner party announce "we're trying multiple wines, so please start with a small pour of each, and decide which one you like best". So with the duck there might be a 1er or GC Burg, and then a fruitier Bourgogne or CA PN. So 10 people get a 1 oz pour of each, and then usually some people prefer one wine and others the other. My predictions of who will appreciate each are not always accurate.
2) At bigger parties keep multiple bottles open, and let folks choose. If there are geeks present I might alert them to the fact the '90 Bourgneuf is on table, but I would never deny serving it to anyone interested.

Of course, if Richard Nixon is your role model, you might feel differently.
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Robin Garr » Thu Dec 21, 2006 7:21 pm

Mike B. wrote:How do you deal with situations like this?


Mike, just as a reference point, one of the famous vignettes in Woodward and Bernstein's <i>The Final Days</i>, their account of the last year of the Nixon administration, they painted a painful picture of RMN (who was, for all his faults, perhaps the most serious wine geek to occupy the White House after Thomas Jefferson), entertaining guests on the presidential yacht Sequoyah during dinner cruises on the Potomac. Basically, he'd pour his guests a decent but not at all memorable Bordeaux; his steward would discreetly pour <i>him</i> Chateau Margaux out of a napkin-wrapped bottle.

Woodstein portrayed this as boorish, cheapskate behavior on his part, and I'm afraid they were probably right. Fooling your guests and giving them cheap stuff while you enjoy the better just doesn't feel right to me, <I>even if they really can't tell the difference</i>.

When we entertain or visit non-geek guests I give everybody the same wine, and I handle it in either of two ways: (1) I'll take decent but not ethereal QPR wines, often wines that were in my tasting queue but that for one reason or another I know I'm not going to get around to reviewing for publication; or (2) I'll cut loose and take some damn nice wines, and I'll make sure that the revelers - not in a snob way but in a hey, let's have fun way - <i>know</i> that it's damn good wine. The psychological factor almost always comes to bear, and they'll drink merrily away, excited about getting to taste a special wine, and maybe learn something from the experience.

We're going out to dinner with some of my wife's old college friends this weekend. They aren't wine geeks, but they like to drink. I'll probably take a trio of really high-end Zins (a recent box from California Wine Club's Connoisseurs' Series) and see what they think.

With all respect to Paul B., though, and to old Tricky Dick's memory, I just can't see fooling my guests and holding back the good stuff from them <i>while I'm drinking it myself</i>. That just doesn't feel right to me, but then, remember that I'm a card-carrying liberal. :twisted:
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Thomas » Thu Dec 21, 2006 7:48 pm

Robin Garr wrote:That just doesn't feel right to me, but then, remember that I'm a card-carrying liberal. :twisted:


I dropped mine when they switched it to picture i.d.--all that hair I used to have back then... ;)
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Robert J. » Thu Dec 21, 2006 8:03 pm

Thomas wrote:I don't see a question in that person's question.

A gracious host serves the best possible to all guests. A gracious guest accepts the gifts of the host and gives as graciously.


+1

My in-laws are not food or wine savvy in the least. When I eat at their house for any occaison the food is poor at best and the wine is usually white zinfandel (even with well done leg of lamb and thin gravy). But I am there for the company and good times.

When they dine at my place we will have very well prepared food (I have been cooking professionally for a looooooong time) and appropriate wine in the appropriate glass. They are there for the company, though. I think that is what is important.

I never refuse the white zin and I alway clean my plate. I also have a serving of Marie Callendar's Frozen Whatever. My mother-in-law is Irish so the conversation always trumps the meal.
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Bob Cohen » Thu Dec 21, 2006 8:03 pm

A perhaps contrarian view. For several years I've gone to a certain New Year's Eve party. The hosts love wine and I always bring them a couple or more nice bottles from my cellar for their cellar, and I bring a few bottles to be set out on the wine table in the living room for the evening's guests to enjoy. If one or more of those bottles is something that I think will be particularly nice and/or will be particularly appreciated by afficianados I'll try to make sure it's not in a prominent place, trusting that the wine geeks will spot it. I don't hold the "good stuff" aside, but I try to make sure that those who I know will appreciate it can get a taste (unless they arrive too late). I don't hold it back from anyone.
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Mike B. » Thu Dec 21, 2006 10:33 pm

I knew this would generate an interesting discussion. And just so no one gets the wrong idea, I'm not asking for personal purposes, but more as a poll to see how others handle situations like this.

Personally, I'd go with some good QPR wines. It's a compromise. Geeks like me love to discover wines that taste expensive, but don't cost it.

I might also bring out some of the heavy hitters. My family isn't wine savvy, but I always bring something really good. Little by little they're starting to gain a greater appreciation of wine and I really enjoy being a part of it when they have those "aha" moments.

I've turned my little brother into a wine geek. Now I have someone to go halves on cases with.

Now on the other hand, I could sympathize if someone brought an expensive wine only to watch people add coke or sprite to it. It almost seems like the effort wasn't appreciated.
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I didn't...

by Bernard Roth » Thu Dec 21, 2006 10:43 pm

A few years ago, at a rehearsal dinner for my in-laws' nephew, I was sitting at a table with the only other wine aficionados. The dinner was at a well-known steak house in upstate NY with an award-winning cellar. I toured the cellar before dinner and found my dinner wine - 78 Rayas. Unfortunately, the sole 61 La Chapelle was reserved for a guy named Parker.

So I ordered the 78 Rayas, it was decanted and served to our table. Out of "respect" for the table where my mother-in-law was sitting, including some parents of the bride and groom, I poured a glass for the table to share. It did not go over well with my brother-in-law at that table, but I have no regrets... He never would have pitched in for such a wine and there is no point to buying expensive wine if the true wine lovers are going to get insignificant pours.
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Randy Buckner » Thu Dec 21, 2006 10:48 pm

Personally, I'd go with some good QPR wines.


This is the best option IMHO. Put out some bottles like 2005 Lindemans, Cabernet Sauvignon, South Africa, $8, 2005 McWilliam's, Cabernet Sauvignon, Hanwood Estate, Australia, $12, or 2004 Veramonte, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserva, Colchagua Valley, Chile, $10. The uninitiated think they're taking a big step up from their box wine. The geeks are happy there is actually something they can quaff without too much thought. Everyone wins.
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Thomas » Thu Dec 21, 2006 11:02 pm

Randy Buckner wrote:
Personally, I'd go with some good QPR wines.


This is the best option IMHO. Put out some bottles like 2005 Lindemans, Cabernet Sauvignon, South Africa, $8, 2005 McWilliam's, Cabernet Sauvignon, Hanwood Estate, Australia, $12, or 2004 Veramonte, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserva, Colchagua Valley, Chile, $10. The uninitiated think they're taking a big step up from their box wine. The geeks are happy there is actually something they can quaff without too much thought. Everyone wins.


You know why I don't like this option? It might deny me the wine I prefer.

What's wrong with opening your best, drinking your portion and enjoying it, and letting the chips fall as they may, so to speak?

I find it niggardly, at best, to withhold what you consider your best. Isn't the communal gathering and not the trophy on the table the important social function?

The cost of a bottle (or a case) of wine seems an insignificant thing when put against the cost of social grace and civility. Robin's reference to the Nixon thing is germain to this discussion. Nixon's actions seemed to me completely indicative of what made up that man.
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Randy Buckner » Thu Dec 21, 2006 11:15 pm

I find it niggardly, at best, to withhold what you consider your best. Isn't the communal gathering and not the trophy on the table the important social function?


So you pull out your classified growths for a crowd of 30-40? I doubt that, Thomas. Too many people would not appreciate the wine. For more intimate gatherings with wine geek friends, it's always no holds barred. I certainly do not do this for parties like one we put on this summer, where we had 108 people -- they got a lot of QPRs and microbrews. That's just common sense.
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Thomas » Thu Dec 21, 2006 11:36 pm

Randy Buckner wrote:
I find it niggardly, at best, to withhold what you consider your best. Isn't the communal gathering and not the trophy on the table the important social function?


So you pull out your classified growths for a crowd of 30-40? I doubt that, Thomas. Too many people would not appreciate the wine. For more intimate gatherings with wine geek friends, it's always no holds barred. I certainly do not do this for parties like one we put on this summer, where we had 108 people -- they got a lot of QPRs and microbrews. That's just common sense.


Actually, I would Randy, and I have in the past. But since I have long stopped cellaring classified growths, or any pedigree wine of that status, I no longer have that conundrum, without a capital C.

I made a decision years ago that I'd rather have in my cellar wines I can drink rather than wines I have to wait to drink. The idea came to me after having been called upon to estimate the value of a cellar of a man who had been in a plane crash. He was dead; the wines still had years to go; he never got to enjoy any of them. Can no longer see the point in that, just as I can't see the point in withholding what others might enjoy, or might not, but would never think of trying on their own.
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Bob Ross » Thu Dec 21, 2006 11:48 pm

Interesting question, Mike.

1. As a liberal it's hard for me to write this, but I always thought Nixon's serving himself a favorite wine was ok. He loved that particular vintage and regularly had a glass or two every night. The steward poured for everyone, and according to the book he served -- at his expense -- pretty good wine (or not) to his guests, just not his favorite regular wine.

The story comes apparently from the captain of the Sequoia based on the sources identified in the book. Guests weren't aware that they weren't being offered what Nixon was having, at least until the book was written.

Nixon has a great deal to answer for in my book, but these were very much in the nature of business meetings, the dinners were his usual evening meals, and he's always gotten pass from me on this behaviour.

2. On the wine front, for a party up to 12 people, or so, we serve a variety of wines -- ranging from a pretty sparkler and rosé to a midprice CdP or CdR to Bordeaux with age on it. We arrange the bottles from light to heavy, and tell people who don't know much about wine a little bit about each type -- if they want to know. [We rarely have wine geek parties -- might as well have a tasting. :) ]

3. If the party is larger than 12 or so guests, we serve a range of wines running $30 to $60.

Our view is that we try to match the food to the wine, both in taste and in price level in that sort of party -- food and wine and other drinks are roughly equal in value. After all, the point of the event is to have fun.

Regards, Bob
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Randy Buckner » Thu Dec 21, 2006 11:54 pm

Actually, I would Randy, and I have in the past.


Then why the hell wasn't I invited? :shock: :shock: :shock: All you want to do now is serve Gene's FL stuff, ya danged skinflint.... :wink:
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Randy Buckner » Fri Dec 22, 2006 12:20 am

We rarely have wine geek parties -- might as well have a tasting


And your point would be :?: :?: :?: 8)
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Thomas » Fri Dec 22, 2006 12:21 am

Bob Ross wrote:Interesting question, Mike.

1. As a liberal it's hard for me to write this, but I always thought Nixon's serving himself a favorite wine was ok. He loved that particular vintage and regularly had a glass or two every night. The steward poured for everyone, and according to the book he served -- at his expense -- pretty good wine (or not) to his guests, just not his favorite regular wine.

The story comes apparently from the captain of the Sequoia based on the sources identified in the book. Guests weren't aware that they weren't being offered what Nixon was having, at least until the book was written.

Nixon has a great deal to answer for in my book, but these were very much in the nature of business meetings, the dinners were his usual evening meals, and he's always gotten pass from me on this behaviour.

2. On the wine front, for a party up to 12 people, or so, we serve a variety of wines -- ranging from a pretty sparkler and rosé to a midprice CdP or CdR to Bordeaux with age on it. We arrange the bottles from light to heavy, and tell people who don't know much about wine a little bit about each type -- if they want to know. [We rarely have wine geek parties -- might as well have a tasting. :) ]

3. If the party is larger than 12 or so guests, we serve a range of wines running $30 to $60.

Our view is that we try to match the food to the wine, both in taste and in price level in that sort of party -- food and wine and other drinks are roughly equal in value. After all, the point of the event is to have fun.

Regards, Bob


Bob, you are the poifect host. I've got to secure an invite...
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Howie Hart » Fri Dec 22, 2006 9:38 am

Actually, I had a similar situation recently. I had prepared 4 magnums of my home made bubbly, with special labels, for my son's wedding reception. The restaurant, as part of the deal, supplied a "champagne" toast with some charmant bulk bubbly, so mine was in addition. I asked the server to pour my magnums for the head table and immediate family only. It worked. There was still some of mine left at the end of the toast, which was shared with anyone who showed an interest.
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Re: How would you handle this situation?

by Laura Brand-Bauer » Fri Dec 22, 2006 12:52 pm

I had to answer this question for myself at Thanksgiving. I had recently purchased what for me were two very expensive "special" bottles. One for my birthday a few days previous. I was going to share the second with a wine friend who was joining us - we had talked about it and were looking forward to it. The other dinner guests were all non-drinkers, so there was no issue.

At the last minute I learned that 4 others were joining us. All lovely people, but none of them were very wine geeky. The type who graciously will drink whatever is available, etc. I had only one bottle of my special wine and I had intended to drink a fair amount of it :shock: So the dilemma was how to share with my husband and friend while offering nice but less "special" wines to the others.

I didn't do it. We put the special wine away for another day. I bought 4 less expensive bottles that we could all enjoy and that I could feel generous about pouring. We had a great dinner.
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