Observing the Couple at the Next Dinner Table

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GrapevineI have a few favorite columns that I’ve penned over the course of my years writing for The Examiner. They span technical, educational, news and personal opinion topics. This week I’m reprising one of the more humorous stories.

By Nick Antonaccio

Over the course of my travels to wine country destinations, intermingled with professional conferences at highly rated hotels and resort properties, I have witnessed, and been a party to, a number of memorable meals and wines.

A recent dining experience reminded me of an incident my wife and I witnessed at an expensive restaurant on a visit to a high-end, exclusive resort (for business, not personal). It was one of those restaurants with a wine list that resembled a book and was as thick as the Manhattan Yellow Pages. (Remember that tome?)

Sitting at our table enjoying a half-bottle of a rare Burgundy available at such restaurants, we noticed a couple on a date being seated at the next table and determined that this must be a special evening. When the sommelier came to their table, the boyfriend (I’ll refer to him as “The Gusher”) deferred to his girlfriend (“Easily Impressed”) to select the wine. She quickly asked for her favorite wine – Merlot. The Gusher, knowing that her Merlot of choice was Cupcake (such a cute name), usually on sale for $7.99, in a loud voice quickly interjected:

“Bring the most expensive Merlot you have.”

After all, this seemed to be a special occasion, he was clearly trying to impress his date and besides, how much could an “expensive” Merlot cost? $50? $100?

This proclamation made the sommelier very uncomfortable. He asked in a calm but deliberate voice, “Sir, as you can tell from our vast wine list, we have a broad and deep selection of Merlots in several price ranges. Allow me to review them with you for your consideration.”

“No, no, nothing’s too good for my baby,” gushed The Gusher.

“But sir . . .”

“What’s wrong, do I have to speak to the Maître d’?”

We could see the look of glee in The Gusher’s eyes as the sommelier was playing perfectly into his plan to impress Easily Impressed. At a cost of up to $100 it might be expensive, but certainly a worthwhile investment.

“No sir, I’ll bring the wine to you post haste.”

The sommelier, never one to upset a patron and seeing no compromise, retreats to the vast wine cellar that holds a number of the world’s most highly respected wines.

As we watch, mesmerized by what is unfolding before us, the sommelier decorously (resignedly?) presents the wine to The Gusher. He notices the label is in French, is written in fancy Old World calligraphy, has the name of a producer and locale he has never heard of and is an older vintage. He realizes he has no idea what he is ordering, hesitates for a second, but the label has all of the obscure elements necessary to impress Easily Impressed. Again, the sommelier hesitates.

“Sir, would you care to consider an alternative wine that I think the lady might enjoy?”

“No, please open the bottle.”

Easily Impressed notices the older vintage.

“I like my wines as fresh as possible; I hope this 2005 wine is good.”

She sips the wine. “I like it,” she proclaims.

Immediately The Gusher begins to gush profusely. “Nothing’s too good for my baby.”

Fast forward: The Gusher and Easily Impressed are pawing each other and whispering sweet nothings in each other’s ear as they enjoy their meal.

The check arrives. The Gusher’s eyes bulge and his face becomes flushed. The wine he insisted on ordering was a Chateau Petrus – the second most expensive wine in the world. The 2005 vintage served to them was listed on the wine list for $4,500.

We concluded that their dining experience was likely more memorable for The Gusher than for Easily Impressed. Fair warning to the rest of us: rely on professional advice for your selections, not your emotions.

Nick Antonaccio is a 45-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years, he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member and program director of the Wine Media Guild of wine journalists. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at or on Twitter @sharingwine.

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