Cheers! Wine Consultants

A well-trained staff is something to toast to

By Dan & Krista Stockman


Going out to eat is a rarity for us. A few years ago, we began purchasing season tickets to The Philharmonic just so we could be sure to get out of the house together a few times a year. We always have good intentions to have date nights, but the reality of our schedules – and our children's increasingly busy schedules – means it's easy to put off dates.

So when we actually do get out we want it to be a nice experience. For us, of course, that means good wine, good food and good service. This doesn't always happen, obviously. But when it does, it pays off not only for us, but for the restaurant.

It is well documented that when a restaurant has servers who know the wine list and are knowledgeable in making wine recommendations, it sells more wine. They sell more wine by the bottle versus by the glass, and they sell better (more expensive) bottles. This isn't just a sales gimmick, either. It can truly enhance the dining experience.

Honestly, it even works on us. When we go out to eat, we typically have a pretty good idea what we want to eat, what wines will pair well with our meal and how much we want to spend. But, occasionally, a server makes a recommendation that upends our routine. And, that is a good thing.

Earlier this month, we were dining at one of our favorite restaurants. As usual, Krista was planning to order a steak; Dan was eyeing the seafood. We were planning on getting a bottle of red wine (yes, even with Dan's seafood), and looked at the list. We had narrowed it down to a couple of bottles when Dan asked our server what he recommended.

He offered to pour us a sample of the Zinfandel we were contemplating and told us why he likes this particular wine. He also pointed out the by-the-bottle list, as we had only been looking at the by-the-glass list and suggested we look at that while he got the sample.

Never ones to turn down perusing a wine list, we examined the more extensive selection. We found more great options on this list, but again, narrowed it down to two bottles from one of our favorite Zin-makers, Seghesio. We've had the Sonoma Zinfandel (also called the Blue Label) many times, but also on the menu was Seghesio's Old Vine Zinfandel, which we hadn't had before. Our server – not knowing that Old Vine is a favorite of ours – explained what Old Vine means and commented on the differences between the wines. Sold, we got the more expensive Old Vine.

Throughout the evening he stopped back at our table, asking about our meal and the wine. We couldn't help but notice his keen interest and apparent budding knowledge of wine. He's teaching himself by reading about wine and winemaking and, of course, by trying a variety of wines.

We encouraged him to continue learning and sharing his knowledge with others. That, after all, is one of our favorite things about wine – sharing it with others. Wine is delicious, yes, but the experience is enhanced greatly when it is shared with others. And when restaurants have servers genuinely trying to share the joy of wine with diners, everyone wins.