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Wine Service Question


bgut1
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During a recent meal at a well known NJ restaurant (which shall remain nameless) I ordered a fairly expensive California cabernet. Due to the wine's age the bottle was decanted and then served. There were no issues with the wine itself however upon tasting the final mouthful I encountered quite a bit of sediment in my glass. One of my guests also commented of the same experience. While I did comment to the captain that I was disappointed with the decanting of the wine, no apologies were given. Was I wrong to be upset or is some sediment (in this case quite a bit) acceptable? I'm left in a bit of a quandary as I frequent the restaurant and don't wish to embarrass myself. I would appreciate any advice.

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When you say decanted, do you mean simply poured into a decanter for aeration, or actually poured through a meshed funnel into the decanter to catch any sediment? Big difference between the two.

Some restaurants do "wine service" to appear to add value to your dining experience. A lot of the chain steakhouses with wine lists filled with relatively young vintages on the list do this, for example. Sadly, when done improperly or incompetently, it simply detracts. Owning a shelf full of decanters and bringing one to each table is meaningless if they don't understand what they're trying to accomplish, and is really a waste of time in many instances since the wine doesn't need decanting in the first place. Unfortunately yours did, and it was handled poorly, it would seem.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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When you say decanted, do you mean simply poured into a decanter for aeration, or actually poured through a meshed funnel into the decanter to catch any sediment?  Big difference between the two.

Some restaurants do "wine service" to appear to add value to your dining experience.  A lot of the chain steakhouses with wine lists filled with relatively young vintages on the list do this, for example.  Sadly, when done improperly or incompetently, it simply detracts.  Owning a shelf full of decanters and bringing one to each table is meaningless if they don't understand what they're trying to accomplish, and is really a waste of time in many instances since the wine doesn't need decanting in the first place.  Unfortunately yours did, and it was handled poorly, it would seem.

Katie - I'm not sure if it was just aerated or poured through a mesh funnel. The cab was a 2001 vintage. It was decanted away from the table and brought back in a small decanter. The restaurant is well known for its wine service so I was quite surprised.

Edited by bgut1 (log)
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A 2001 vintage wine shouldn't have that much sediment in it. That of and by itself is kind of strange. And why on earth would they decant it away from the table? That's really odd. The whole point of the "show" is to do it in front of the customer, so the supposed "added value" of the wine "service" is part of your dining experience, and also so you can see that it's the bottle you ordered getting poured and not some plonk out of a bag-in-a-box.

Sounds to me like these folks don't really get what they're doing with wine service.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Sounds like sloppy wine service to me. I agree with Katie; an 01 should not have that much sediment. I could live with a mouthful of sediment at the end of the bottle but it's not the best way to finish a bottle off.

Stephen Bonner

"who needs a wine list when you can get pissed on dessert" Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmares 2005

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What was the wine you had? It is really unusual, as Katie states, to have this much sediment in a vintage so young. In any event, the restaurant simply did a piss poor job of wine service and you should tell them so in a way that won't cause you any discomfort.

My standard in these situations is to place myself in the restaurant's shoes. Would I want to know if a situation like yours took place in my restaurant -certainly, and further, how would I appreciate hearing about it.

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What was the wine you had? It is really unusual, as Katie states, to have this much sediment in a vintage so young. In any event, the restaurant simply did a piss poor job of wine service and you should tell them so in a way that won't cause you any discomfort.

My standard in these situations is to place myself in the restaurant's shoes. Would I want to know if a situation like yours took place  in my restaurant -certainly, and further, how would I appreciate hearing about it.

It was a 2001 Salvestrin Cabernet.

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When you say decanted, do you mean simply poured into a decanter for aeration, or actually poured through a meshed funnel into the decanter to catch any sediment?  Big difference between the two.

Some restaurants do "wine service" to appear to add value to your dining experience.  A lot of the chain steakhouses with wine lists filled with relatively young vintages on the list do this, for example.  Sadly, when done improperly or incompetently, it simply detracts.  Owning a shelf full of decanters and bringing one to each table is meaningless if they don't understand what they're trying to accomplish, and is really a waste of time in many instances since the wine doesn't need decanting in the first place.  Unfortunately yours did, and it was handled poorly, it would seem.

Katie - I'm not sure if it was just aerated or poured through a mesh funnel. The cab was a 2001 vintage. It was decanted away from the table and brought back in a small decanter. The restaurant is well known for its wine service so I was quite surprised.

First, decanting a wine has a primary purpose of making sure that sediment is left in the bottle and as little as possible enters the decanter. The person who decanted your wine did a lousy job.

Secondly, with fine wines that are vinified for long aging, tartrate crystals as well as pigmented tannins (phenolics) can show up as 'sediment" after only a few years in bottle. I wouldn't say this is common but it certainly is not suprising, especially with well extracted, big and age worthy wines.

It would be interesting to know, specifically, what wine you had.

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What was the wine you had? It is really unusual, as Katie states, to have this much sediment in a vintage so young. In any event, the restaurant simply did a piss poor job of wine service and you should tell them so in a way that won't cause you any discomfort.

My standard in these situations is to place myself in the restaurant's shoes. Would I want to know if a situation like yours took place  in my restaurant -certainly, and further, how would I appreciate hearing about it.

It was a 2001 Salvestrin Cabernet.

I hadn't heard of these folks. looked em up--they are old grape growers who sold to wine makers like Rombauer, Raymond, Biale, Freemark Abbey and Rutherford Hill.

make their own wine since 1994. The 2001 retails around NJ for $40-$50 a bottle.

I would not be so suprised if their 2001 cabernet had a bit of sediment.

I would be very suprised to find any of it in my glass after a supposed professional decanted the wine.

again--the primary purpose of decanting (by any method) is to separate out any sedimant in the wine and secondarily to aerate the wine. (there's no debate as to the first purpose and some debate as to the efficacy of the second purpose).

As a chef/poster noted earlier--It would have been a good idea to bring the problem to the attention of the restaurant. if they are serving fine wines and want to be "known" for their wine service this would certainly help them out. By the way dropping a note would be a good idea (it might also get you comped for dinner or maybe a free bottle of wine next time you are there!).

By the way--how was the wine before you encountered the sediment?

:smile:

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What was the wine you had? It is really unusual, as Katie states, to have this much sediment in a vintage so young. In any event, the restaurant simply did a piss poor job of wine service and you should tell them so in a way that won't cause you any discomfort.

My standard in these situations is to place myself in the restaurant's shoes. Would I want to know if a situation like yours took place  in my restaurant -certainly, and further, how would I appreciate hearing about it.

It was a 2001 Salvestrin Cabernet.

I hadn't heard of these folks. looked em up--they are old grape growers who sold to wine makers like Rombauer, Raymond, Biale, Freemark Abbey and Rutherford Hill.

make their own wine since 1994. The 2001 retails around NJ for $40-$50 a bottle.

I would not be so suprised if their 2001 cabernet had a bit of sediment.

I would be very suprised to find any of it in my glass after a supposed professional decanted the wine.

again--the primary purpose of decanting (by any method) is to separate out any sedimant in the wine and secondarily to aerate the wine. (there's no debate as to the first purpose and some debate as to the efficacy of the second purpose).

As a chef/poster noted earlier--It would have been a good idea to bring the problem to the attention of the restaurant. if they are serving fine wines and want to be "known" for their wine service this would certainly help them out. By the way dropping a note would be a good idea (it might also get you comped for dinner or maybe a free bottle of wine next time you are there!).

By the way--how was the wine before you encountered the sediment?

:smile:

It was very good. It was exactly what I asked for. I don't normally drink Cabs and sought one which was approachable and was not too tannic. It had a nice finish and went well with my rib eye. Thanks for asking.

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sediment is good... no big deal. This is not something that should ruin a night. It means they did not filter all of the flavor out of it. The server did not do a great job but they are supposed to stop when they see sediment. They were likely caught off guard by a 01 having sediment. It should no unless it is completely unfiltered.

I sort of pride myself in consuming wines that have not been stripped of all of there flavors...

RAF

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i don't think removing sediment means removing flavor. i've never heard that before.

sediment has no place in your glass, and is quite unpleasant to most people. the server dropped the ball and should have not poured the sediment into the decanter, regardless of flitering technique.

a bigger problem is servers constantly pouring the last drops out of bottles. i call servers off when the bottle gets near the bottom because i know that they'll do this, and that's at all levels of restaurants. bottom line is that wine service is horribly lacking in a vast majority of restaurants.

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How many references would you like?

http://www.wine-lovers-page.com/cgi-bin/quest/ga.cgi?q=8

http://www.winespectator.com/Wine/Archives...275,150,00.html

http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_..._85/ai_n6106590

i don't think removing sediment means removing flavor.  i've never heard that before.

sediment has no place in your glass, and is quite unpleasant to most people.  the server dropped the ball and should have not poured the sediment into the decanter, regardless of flitering technique.

a bigger problem is servers constantly pouring the last drops out of bottles.  i call servers off when the bottle gets near the bottom because i know that they'll do this, and that's at all levels of restaurants.  bottom line is that wine service is horribly lacking in a vast majority of restaurants.

RAF

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Some years ago I went to what was then considered one of Miami's "top" restaurants, a steakhouse, whose wine list contained all the First Great Growth Bordeaux - from the two most recent years, plus a few from older years that still couldn't be drinkable (I had seen the list in advance). So I brought an older Bordeaux and happily paid the corkage fee. I had it upright for some time, and when I handed it over to the "sommelier" I pointed that out to him. When he came to decant it tableside, he had the whole works, candle and all. Nearing the last third of the bottle, he decided to turn it quickly back upright to look in it, of course mixing in all the sediment that was waiting to be left in the bottle, and we all groaned. These things do happen, although that was admittedly some years ago.

Getting back to your experience, and of course agreeing that they undoubtedly didn't need to decant the wine and should have done it in your presence if they did, do you remember if you finished off each glass to the last drop before they were refilled? I'm thinking that as the wine sat through the meal, some bits of sediment may have collected in the bottoms of each glass, which sometimes happens even when a wine (with sediment, of course) has been properly decanted.

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Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

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Some years ago I went to what was then considered one of Miami's "top" restaurants, a steakhouse, whose wine list contained all the First Great Growth Bordeaux - from the two most recent years, plus a few from older years that still couldn't be drinkable (I had seen the list in advance).  So I brought an older Bordeaux and happily paid the corkage fee.  I had it upright for some time, and when I handed it over to the "sommelier" I pointed that out to him.  When he came to decant it tableside, he had the whole works, candle and all.  Nearing the last third of the bottle, he decided to turn it quickly back upright to look in it, of course mixing in all the sediment that was waiting to be left in the bottle, and we all groaned.  These things do happen, although that was admittedly some years ago.

Getting back to your experience, and of course agreeing that they undoubtedly didn't need to decant the wine and should have done it in your presence if they did, do you remember if you finished off each glass to the last drop before they were refilled?  I'm thinking that as the wine sat through the meal, some bits of sediment may have collected in the bottoms of each glass, which sometimes happens even when a wine (with sediment, of course) has been properly decanted.

Markk - As I recall, we did not finish off each glass before they were refilled.

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How many references would you like? 

http://www.wine-lovers-page.com/cgi-bin/quest/ga.cgi?q=8

http://www.winespectator.com/Wine/Archives...275,150,00.html

http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_..._85/ai_n6106590

i don't think removing sediment means removing flavor.  i've never heard that before.

sediment has no place in your glass, and is quite unpleasant to most people.  the server dropped the ball and should have not poured the sediment into the decanter, regardless of flitering technique.

a bigger problem is servers constantly pouring the last drops out of bottles.  i call servers off when the bottle gets near the bottom because i know that they'll do this, and that's at all levels of restaurants.  bottom line is that wine service is horribly lacking in a vast majority of restaurants.

As noted --there are two issues here.

Prior to bottling a wine, the wine can be fined, and//or filtered.

Years ago, some critics/writers and importers noticed that some wine makers were making two lots of the same wine. One, unfiltered and the other for export, filtered. Unfiltered wines can lead to sediment in the bottle--usually tartrate crystals affecting bottled wines of a relatively young age. All wines both filtered and unfiltered can throw a sediment as they age in bottle.

Unfortunately, filtration has gained a bad reputation. In fact many wineries use "unfined and unfiltered" on labels as a marketing claim. (a badge of honor so to speak).

Filtration is especially misunderstood and it is somewhat controversial--there is legitimate debate as to its real effect on the flavor of a wine. It has a beneficial purpose.

Just as putting it on a label does not necessarily mean the wine is good a wine that has been fined and/or filtered is not necessarily a poor wine.

However, "excessive" filtration is not so controversial--it is generally agreed that it can strip flavors and complexity from fine wines. (really "excessive" anything is usually not good).

It really depends upon what is in the glass (bottle) that counts.

That leads us to the second issue. What was in bgut1's glass.

A wine server should perform due diligence to ensure that the customer has a pleasant experience. If served from a bottle, the bottle should be stood upright or put into one of those baskets. If the server is pouring the wine he/she should exercise some care to see that no sediment makes its way onto a glass. If the customer pours the wine then they should also be aware that there can be sediment and should take care to pour carefully.

It is understandable that a tiny amount of some sediment can find its way into a glass.

However, if the wine is decanted there is no excuse (ok a very tiny amount could be acceptable--we are not dealing in absolute perfection all the time).

Whether pouring from a bottle into a glass or from a bottle into a decanter--the pourer needs to watch for sediment.

If the wine is rife with it then a mesh filter needs to be employed.

Since sediment can be present in any fine wine, regardless of age, the server needs to keep an eye out for it. (wines can contain some sediment from the barrel in which they were aged that is transferred during the bottling process for eg.).

Edited by JohnL (log)
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Tommy - you scared me there.... :)

How many references would you like? 

LOL! Bob, I thought you meant that by removing the sediment from the *bottle* that you were somehow removing all of this great flavor. You're apparently referring to unfiltered wines, though. we're on the same page now.

RAF

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During a recent meal at a well known NJ restaurant (which shall remain nameless) I ordered a fairly expensive California cabernet. Due to the wine's age the bottle was decanted and then served. There were no issues with the wine itself however upon tasting the final mouthful I encountered quite a bit of sediment in my glass. One of my guests also commented of the same experience. While I did comment to the captain that I was disappointed with the decanting of the wine, no apologies were given. Was I wrong to be upset or is some sediment (in this case quite a bit) acceptable? I'm left in a bit of a quandary as I frequent the restaurant and don't wish to embarrass myself. I would appreciate any advice.

You were not wrong and the lack of an apology was unprofessional. As the other posters have said.

Peter Conway

Food and Wine Guy

Mano A Vino Montclair Food and Wine Blog

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