How Do You Find The Wine?

Chapter One, Part Two.
Snobby Sommelier was created to improve the human condition through a thought provoking exploration of wine appreciation. That, and it will teach you how to deal with asshole waiters.

Has this ever happened to you? The sommelier pours a sample of the wine you ordered and asks, “How do you find the wine?”

You reply, “Why’re you asking me how to find the wine? Why don’t you look in the wine cellar?”

“No sir, I mean what do you think of the wine in your glass?”

You look at the sample in your glass and say, “I think that’s a pretty small pour. Why don’t you give me a full glass, I’m gonna pay for it.”

The waiter rolls his eyes, fills your glass and asks, “Will you be requiring club soda in your wine tonight sir?”

Here in New Jersey we have thousands of BYOB restaurants because a consumption liquor license can cost more than $500,000. Unfortunately having the cents to buy a liquor license doesn’t necessarily mean a restaurant has the sense to create a good wine list. Some of these restaurants allow customers to bring in their own wine but they charge a “corkage fee” for the privilege. They claim the fee is for the wine service but it’s really because they owe the bank $500,000.

I once brought a rare bottle of wine to one of these restaurants and the waitress said, “I’m sorry but you can’t bring your own wine in here.”

I replied, “But this is a very meaningful wine to us and this is a special occasion. We would be happy to pay a corkage fee.”

She handed me the wine list and between smacks of gum said, “The boss doesn’t let anybody bring in their own wine. Why doesn’t you just order from the wine list?”

I examined the wine list then turned to my wife and said, “This wine list is so bad that if Mel Gibson were here he’d order water.” I pointed to a mid-priced wine on the list and said to the waitress, “I would like to purchase this bottle of wine please.”

She jotted down my selection and turned to leave. “Just one more thing,” I said. “Tell the boss he can keep the bottle I purchased. He can sell it to another customer or drink it himself, but please allow me to drink the wine I brought.”

When the boss rejected this offer as well, I changed my order to a 2014 eau l’ordinaire.

Before I learned about wine, I tried to avoid embarrassing scenes like these by quickly handing the wine list to my wife when the wine steward approached. One crafty sommelier put me on the spot anyway when he snidely asked, “Will your wife be ordering the wine this evening sir?”

“She’ll have whatever I’m drinking.” I said with authority.

“And what will you be drinking tonight?”

“I don’t know,” I replied. “She hasn’t told me yet.”


  1. John Marcy
    Feb 26, 2014

    Mr. Carter,
    Your writing brings a smile to my face.
    Keep it up.

    • Don Carter
      Feb 26, 2014

      I’ll keep it up as long as it stimulates me.

  2. Joe Sangenito
    Feb 27, 2014

    My pet peeve is when you bring a nice bottle to a relatively expensive BYOB and they bring you glorified shot glasses for wine glasses.
    I bought a padded case so that I could bring my own wine glasses but always felt awkward using it. I finally bit the bullet and started doing it. The first time I did, the waiter admired the case and asked where I got it 🙂

    • Don Carter
      Feb 27, 2014

      Ahhh, glassware. That’s a delicate subject that needs to be clear. Why better restaurants (even if they are BYOB) don’t use proper stemware is a conundrum, a puzzle, a Riedel.

  3. Chris Cahill
    Mar 1, 2014

    Laughing as I read this one and the comments. Great stuff. Maybe the bank picks the restaurant’s wine glasses as well.

    • Don Carter
      Mar 1, 2014

      When I opened my bank account I asked for a case of stemware but all I got was a toaster. I had to get rid of it because the wine kept leaking out.