Tip: Things Customers Say
By Alicia Towns, Wine Manager, Grill 23 & Bar

Customers say the most interesting things. One key element to being a good wine professional is to listen to your customers-but sometimes it is not as easy as one might think. Those of us in the trade, who are comfortable with winespeak, should always bear in mind that not everyone shares our lexicon and our obsessions regarding wine. While we work hard every day to make wine more accessible, that doesn't mean we can't see the humor in some of the misunderstandings we encounter along the way. The following anecdotes are not in any way meant to be mean-spirited, because we all have to start somewhere in this great world of wine.

One night a guest asked me to recommend a slightly sweet white wine. After further conversation, I recommended a Sp■tlese by J.J. Prum. The guest informed me quite earnestly that he had had spatulas before and had found them to be sticky sweet.

On another evening, a customer asked me to recommend a Zinfandel. Upon doing so, he asked me if it was a "country wine." I asked him if he meant earthy or rustic. He said, "No. When you drink it do you get the feeling that you're in the country?" I was a bit dumbfounded. I did not know if he meant a specific country, or if we should be clanging cowbells in the kitchen.

On yet another evening a party sat down, with the woman saying that she wanted Opus One and the man saying he wanted to try something different. I recommended Caymus Special Selection. When I returned to the table, the woman informed me that she did not like the Caymus and that I should bring over a bottle of Opus. I brought over new glasses and a 1987 Opus One. I poured a taste for her, but she inadvertently picked up the glass that contained the Caymus (thinking that it was the Opus) and proclaimed it to be "far superior to the Caymus." I did not have the heart to tell her.

And finally, one evening, a man wanted me to help him choose a Petite Syrah(!) for his Shellfish Sampler. After tasting it, he told me that it was not BIG enough, and asked what else I would suggest. I said "bourbon."

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