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The essence of wine snobbery

16 comments

Some people give the rest of us a bad name. I’m talking about the “young men” who acted like idiots in full public view and who insulted the waiter when they held a “blind tasting” at a Chicago restaurant, Mastro’s Steak House, where they did everything that diners can possibly do wrong.

You have to feel some sympathy for that waiter, Cory Warfield, who reported the anecdote yesterday on his The Wine Guy blog.

Cory seems like a decent, funny, friendly guy who’s come up through the ranks (doorman, barback, DJ, “unofficial sommelier” at Ruth’s Chris Chicago, website owner at The Swirler), but he does have a temper, and uses his blog to vent when the venting is justified. As it certainly seems to have been in this case. Briefly, eight guys in their 40s who referred to themselves as “young men” (lol) had a wine tasting at Mastro’s, with Cory as their waiter. With no prior warning to the restaurant, they arrived with their bottles, demanded 72 glasses, and proceeded to act “very rude to me, pretentious (they were all trying to ‘one-up’ each other with fabricated stories, many of which included strip-clubs or celebrities.. whatever), and [were] fairly clueless in general…[telling] stories…about drinking Romanee Conti out of styrofoam cups in exclusive cellars making celebrities wait outside in the cold, and bragging about how they have the ‘ultimate hook-up’ [at] Alinea [restaurant].”

To add insult to injury, they were lousy tippers.

We all know, or have seen or been suffered to experience, people like the “young men.” If Cory is to be believed–and his blog rings absolutely true–they are the quintessential examples of wine snobbery, people so concerned with one-upsmanship, with gratifying their own egos by puffing themselves up, that they make everyone else around them uncomfortable.

Poor Cory did his best. Despite their unconscionable and unreasonable behavior, “I made it happen,” he relates, setting up the 72 glasses at a moment’s notice and getting the wine “poured evenly in front of each setting within twenty minutes…”. The “young men” no doubt didn’t have the slightest idea that Cory was secretly fuming, because he had the professional decorum not to show his true feelings. But he was able to relieve himself in his blog, which eerily comes just days after I blogged my own post, “When the critic rants: a defense.” This was Cory’s turn to vent, and he did it with grace and good humor.

Wine lovers, please monitor your public behavior. A few rules of the road:

Rule No. 1: If you’re going to ask for an unusual glass set-up at a restaurant, have the courtesy to call them earlier and make sure it’s okay and that they’re prepared for it.

Rule No. 2: When you’re dining out, please don’t brag about your Romanée-Conti exploits, your run-ins with celebrities, your connections at the best restaurants, in voices loud enough for anyone to hear you except the person you’re trying to impress. It’s rude and nasty, almost as objectionable as talking on a cell phone, and takes away from your neighbors’ pleasure.

Rule No. 3: If you bring your own wine, as the “young men” did, don’t use this as an excuse to leave a cheap tip.

Rule No. 4: Don’t treat your waiter like a slave. Be polite to him or her–offer tastes of the special wines you’re drinking–be considerate of that person’s feelings. That’s a human being you’re ordering about, not a robot. Overcome your own ego to treat others the way you would have others treat you.

  1. I agree wholeheartedly, and a few idiots give the rest of us wine geeks (not snobs, mind you) a bad name. That being said, it goes both ways, if a restaurant is charging a big corkage fee, they should be replacing glasses for new bottles (of course, I am talking about when you have two or three bottles, not twenty).

    Why can’t everyone just act like humans and have a good time?

  2. raley roger says:

    Unfortunately, lots of members of the wine trade…namely somms….will read this and balk and never view themselves as the same kinds of perpetrators as the “young men” mentioned above. I was hanging out with a somm not too long ago; he was so pretentious during dinner. Had to photograph every single effing label to tweet to his minions, and proceeded to make fun of just about every growing region in the US, not to mention most US producers. He virtually looked “through” the entire service staff and never even made eye contact with them when they brought each course to the table.

    Then, to culminate the evening in a fine bit of irony, he held court for a while at the table and paid lip service to “remaining humble” about one’s craft. What a crock of shit.

    In the end, the arrogant jack asses will remain, and unfortunately, no amount of this kind of blogging will change that. They’re so arrogant that they think they’d never treat others badly. They’re entirely clueless and wine becomes the tool that helps them to build themselves up higher than where the rest of us live our daily lives.

    Thank God there are still some good people left in the wine business.

  3. Raley,
    Sounds like a Raj Parr experience

  4. Kurt Burris says:

    Talk about a situation where excessive corkage fees are in order. Always offer a taste to your server, and especially if you aren’t charged corkage, factor that into the tip.

  5. Hmmmmmmmmmm. This happened in Chicago. Chicago? Well. Wonder if I can maybe sorta somehow connect it to the famous Chicago guy, the one with the ears, the one who . . .

  6. Ron Saikowski says:

    Wine is meant to be shared and enjoyed. I am surprised the Manager did not intervene in this group of children. The Som did his job, but the Manager should have done his. Grown men can sometimes be immature boys. This group’s IQ shown through. This type of cheap talk in any fine restaurant should have been reason enough to show the “young boys” the DOOR. Was there a reason the Manager let his employee(s) be abused?

  7. Ron, as someone who worked at a nationally prominent white table cloth steakhouse while finishing up undergrad, let me tell you that–short of actual physical violence–steakhouse management will NEVER come to the defense of their employees against a guest.

    The whole schtick that these places are going for is one of a hybrid between a stuffy men’s club and a country club as seen through a hazy 50s era cultural prism. In my 18 months with this well known restaurant (not Mastros for clarification), I saw “vips” engage in countless acts of sexual harassment and intimidation of our female staff members with nary a peep out of management. I also heard stories of that chain having to settle numerous lawsuits around the country that were the result of actions by both their customers and managers. That’s the steakhouse culture.

    For all their big talk, I’m quite sure that none of these clowns have ever been to Alinea nor tasted Romanee-Conti, and if they had, I highly doubt they would have been able to truly appreciate it on any level other than something about which to brag . Steakhouses and big Cali Cab were right in their wheelhouse, and I find it completely unsurprising as to both where this happened or what they were drinking.

  8. >>Sounds like a Raj Parr experience
    Took the words right out of my mouth !!LOL

  9. In the words of Fran Leibowitz…

    “Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine.”

    Nuff said.

  10. raley roger says:

    Did she really say that? Brilliant woman.

  11. I know almost nothing about Fran Leibowitz, and I don’t want to.

  12. Lenny, wow. Powerful message. Thanks for weighing in.

  13. Steve,

    Labeling the “young men” wine snobs is giving them too much credit. We refer to people like this simply as, “D-bags” or “douchebags”…

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=douchebag

    Drinking DRC out of a styrofoam cup is obviously derived from the movie, Sideways, and as such, leads me believe they also are posers.

    Sad, really.

    Kudos to Cory for not losing his cool.

  14. Chris Donatiello says:

    to sum up: be a descent human being with respect for others. It pretty much applies to anyone anywhere.

  15. Chris Donatiello: Right on!

  16. Hey Steve! Thanks for weighing in on the evening! I enjoyed your perspective, your blog, and your readers’ comments as well. I hope that you check out my winetoons (I am reviving “theswirler.com” and they should be available there soon, likewise on chicagonow.com – they are the real way I vent when angry LOL…

    I have been doing this for a very long time, and needless to say I have more than a handful of stories, but I wrote this particular blog the next day, as it seemed to merit such.

    I am going to find you on twitter and such, because I thoroughly appreciate your writing and angle. I wish you happiness and success!
    Truly yours,

    Cory “TheWineGuy” Warfield

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