Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The $6K Wine Was Screaming Eagle . . .


Got an update on the $6,000 wine story I wrote earlier this week.

Turns out the diner at an unnamed Chicago steakhouse ordered a 2001 Screaming Eagle. That bottle retailed for $6,000 at the resto, while a 1998 vintage was a little over $3,000. Perhaps he ordered the wrong bottle?!

I'll admit that when it comes to fine wines, I'm no expert, so I turned to Avenues at the Peninsula Sommelier Michael Muser, who shed light on how this situation could've been handled better:

"You delicately and clearly explain what they just ordered, including the vintage and everything," he says. "If you have an item on your wine list that's $6,000, you need to be very, very cautious, making sure the guest understands the severity of the situation. That is a major purchase."

On the other hand, Muser says, if he wasn't paying attention, "he deserved what he got. This is the most exclusive wine, and I'm assuming they know Screaming Eagle and know it is one of the hardest wines in the world to get."


art and chel said...

Of course there are a lot of unknowns with this scenario. How was the wine listed on the menu--was it easy to have misread the price, etc? Did someone else in the party order it, was there a price dispute, so on and so forth.

The situation itself brings up some interesting points though about proper etiquette. As Michael Muser pointed out, is perfectly acceptable to reiterate to the client what they have ordered. At the same time, he explains that if someone is not paying attn. they deserve what they got...

But a question still remains, "was the client in a situation where they needed to pay attention?" In other words, was the client persuaded to order something by someone? Did the client even look at the menu? It will be interesting to learn how the entire wine service was conducted. That would include inquiries by the client, any recommendations and suggestions on the part of the service staff, the presentation of the bottle, etc. Was this as simple as a point, bring and pour?

And is it typical for a restaurant to treat a significant asset such as a highly allocated bottle (arguable less of an asset than the restaurant thinks it is worth) as something that is pointed to grabbed and poured?


art and chel said...

Oh yeah, and another question remains..."did the customer know wine?" I mean, really know wine. There are a lot of people who spend a lot of money on wine, know they like certain stuff but don't really know wine on such a level that they are familiar with cult wines for example. So if he did know wine he'd be prepared to pay a high price for Screaming Eagle. And a question to a wine expert, "if he was familiar with SE, does value ever play a part in a decision on this level? Was 6k a value here? Is it typical to upcharge 300% on bottles like these?"

312 Dining Diva said...

Hey, Art:

I'm not sure how the server presented the wine to the guest, but the diner definitely did not realize he had ordered such an expensive wine.

He totally misread the menu, but from what I understand he wants to leave the issue alone and chock this up as a VERY expensive lesson. TO PAY ATTENTION.

Michael said...

Hey Art,

You bring up a lot of great points, the last of which I particularly find interesting. Is there Value in a $6000.00 dollar bottle of Screaming Eagle? I have to say, the Value of a bottle of wine is about as subjective as it gets. However, when dealing with wines like Screaming Eagle or Crystal Champagne or 1st growth Bordeaux, these are not just wines, they become status symbols, art pieces, symbols of success or excess (whichever way you chose to look at it). A bottle of Screaming Eagle is like a share of stock, the price of the bottle is relative to the strength of the economy (which is why Im a little taken back at the $6000.00 price tag). This is why these wines do so well on the auction market, they are purchased low and sold very very high or what ever the market will stand. Restaurants and hotels tend to charge high prices for these bottle because it is assumed (and you know what they say about assuming) that any guest considering such a purchase is well versed in the world of Cult California reds.

I never get mad at a restaurant for having high mark-ups as long as their are lots of exciting and less expensive options on the list. Its the responsibility of the sommelier to offer a wide range of price points so the guest never feels forced into a high-end purchase.

I feel like this particular guest had no idea the wine he ordered was so expensive and I feel terrible for him. I doubt he will make the same mistake again.

art and chel said...

Thanks Michael!

And when 312DD said that he "totally misread" the menu I felt the same way you do.

We can only assume now that the mistake was 100% the fault of the diner.