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Chris Knox
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Hi Evan... Just now happened upon this blog page of yours and as a 12 year veteran of the restaurant industry working every front of house role from busboy to manager and everything in between including wine steward & many years as a server, I feel compelled to comment.... First of all, I am in complete agreement that the server's reaction to your polite request for the actual vintage you ordered was reprehensible by even the most casual of diners' standards. Truly excellent wine service is a bit of an art form, requiring a high degree of elegance, a steady hand, and a polished presence, not to mention at least a cursory knowledge of the wines on your list and some basic wine concepts. When any of these elements are missing it can leave a very sour taste in a diner's mouth and can throw the whole experience off from that point forward. All that being said, I don't really agree with your criticism of the "Due to our extensive wine list, vintages are subject to change." comment you found in their wine list. Unless you've managed an extensive wine list, you may not realize that it is by no means a small task as easy as just updating a vintage on a piece of paper. Keep in mind that most restaurants with an extensive list have a dozen or more servers and bartenders working throughout the week, each pulling wine from the cellar, each with their own level of commitment and dedication and each with their own level of wine knowledge. Most restaurants can't afford a full time sommellier or wine steward, so often it is the restaurant manager or bar manager's job to also manage the wine program on top of their already 60 hour work week and enormous responsibilities. Also, it would be unreasonable to expect a restaurant to perform a full inventory of their wines every day - most perform such an inventory monthly. Add to that the fact that wine deliveries come as often as three or four times a week from multiple distributors or vendors and often you still have a few bottles left of one vintage when you receive the new one in and you want to sell the old vintage before you put the new vintage on the list. Now, certainly some computer POS systems and inventory tracking systems these days are sophisticated enough to handle some of the organizational and tracking tasks, but many restaurants don't have such expensive computer systems and even if they did, it is never 100% accurate when you have humans involved (wrong bottles are served, new vintages are pulled too early, wines are rung into the computer wrong, servers don't communicate to the wine director that they just sold the last bottle of something, etc...). I think that you can get the point I am making that it is far more complicated than you are making it out to be and it is horribly unfair to make assumptions that they are lazy if you haven't done the job yourself. The same applies to when wine sells out - even the most skilled of wine list managers will have situations occur where they must regrettably inform the guest that they are out of a particular bottle (or even two or three)... I think you can see that with so many gears in the machinery of a "perfect" wine list, if any one of those gears breaks down, such perfection is missed. The restaurant printing "Due to our extensive wine list, vintages are subject to change." on their wine list is merely their attempt at preventing a confrontation from an unhappy and unreasonable guest whose world collapses and falls apart when they can't get what they want at the exact moment they want it (and believe me, there are plenty of those types out there!)...it is the restaurant's way of saying "Although we work really hard at keeping up with our ever-changing and extensive wine list in an effort to bring you the best wines we can, there may be times when something has slipped through the cracks and escaped our attention. We therefore ask for your patience if we are out of a particular vintage you were looking for and certainly don't expect you to accept what vintage we have, but rather hope that we can be of assistance in helping you find something else that you would like" Compare that to your crass interpretation of "Our wine list is long enough that we feel it's an excuse to be lazy and not update the vintages when they change. So don't blame us." See the difference. I suspect that what happened was that the server's obviously inexcusable behavior soured your experience enough that it clouded your ability to interpret that comment in the wine list in a much more understanding way... Don't get me wrong...I am by no means excusing either the waitress or the restaurant...they obviously have some service issues to work out and they should certainly strive for the perfection that diners hope for...but to expect such perfection as a diner, even at the finest of restaurants, is unrealistic and unfair to the hardworking people often trying their best to achieve as close to that level of perfection as possible...fortunately, the restaurant industry is still run by humans...and humans are beautifully and marvelously imperfect after all... (hopping off my soapbox now)