Tag Archives: bottles

Advanced wine service: wine lists, decanters, tasting notes

In the year and a half or so that I’ve been working at this current restaurant, I’ve learned a fair amount about wine. About our wine list at least. Definitely the popular wines that we sell, the stuff that we serve by the glass. Everything else, well, it’s probably from California, or near California, and if you ask me about the year, I’m pretty confident that it’s from sometime between 2009 and 2012.


Around six months ago, when I really started becoming familiar with at least the basics of our wine list, I had this mistaken idea that I actually knew something about wine, like in a more general sense. I got tricked. By working day in and day out at my restaurant, I just sort of started to absorb these random wine facts. It was totally unintentional, almost like osmosis.

And so I’d be out at a restaurant and I’d hear a familiar phrase or word used to describe a wine that I kind of thought we maybe had at our restaurant, and I’d be like, wow, I’ve got this. But that false sense of knowing what I was talking about would unravel as soon as I’d look at the wine list, bottle after bottle of something that I’d never heard about, and then whoever I’d be with would see me studying the menu intently, maybe they’d throw me a wine question. I’d just have to pull something out of my ass, “Hmm, yeah, this is definitely very … oaky. Uh … dry. Yeah, classic … uh, that’s definitely a classic California … you know what? I think I’m just going to have a beer.”

I’m at the point now where I’m at least somewhat self-aware of what’s going on, that even though I don’t know much about wines, like I said, at work I can deftly maneuver our list to the point where, when mixed with my natural ability to bullshit about pretty much everything, I can at times give the impression that I actually know what I’m talking about when it comes to wine.

Which isn’t to say that I’m immune to occasionally showing my true colors. Like the other night, I had this party of four, and one of the guys went straight for the wine list. I saw him looking way past the typical cheap stuff, and so I got a little nervous, prepared all of my nonsense qualifiers in case I was questioned, “high acidity, very tannic, old-world style,” but he didn’t ask me about anything, he just pointed to a bottle and said, “This one.”

When I got to the computer to ring it in, I noticed the price, it was like over a hundred and fifty dollars. So I started freaking out a little, I mean, I serve wine on a nightly basis. I rarely if ever make a mistake handling the bottles, but just knowing how much this stuff cost, just imagining me having to go to my manager and be like, “OK, try not to get mad …” it was enough to put just the right amount of added pressure into the mix to make me overthink the situation, to do something unnecessary.

For some reason, I thought, OK, this is an expensive bottle of wine, I should decant it. Decanting a wine is when you pour a whole bottle into a decanter, a large wide-bottomed glass jar with a thin spout for pouring. I think that the idea is to allow the wine to react with oxygen faster, or something, I don’t really know, and I couldn’t tell you if it actually did anything besides showing off to the rest of the restaurant that you ordered a bottle of wine worth decanting.

Anyway I got to the table with this heavy glass piece in addition to the bottle and four glasses. The uncorking went smoothly enough, which, if I were going to make a huge mistake, I would have expected it to be here, the cork not coming out right, or me splashing a little as I popped it out. But it was fine.

Then I started dumping the contents into the decanter. And as soon as I did, I realized, there are four people here, that’s basically the entire bottle of wine in four glasses. Why am I decanting this? I’m pouring it into a receptacle that’s then going to be immediately emptied.

I looked at the host and said, “So, should I pour now or do you want me to let it breathe for a little while?” And he was polite, he didn’t try to make me feel bad or anything, but it was obvious that he realized just like I did that this whole process was a little awkward. “No, you can just pour.” And so I poured, four glasses, grabbed the empty bottle and the decanter and disappeared into the kitchen.

Halfway through the meal, the guy ordered a second bottle, and I knew I’d just pour straight from the bottle this time. But he didn’t leave it to chance, telling me, “and don’t worry about the decanting.”

And so yeah, like I said, he was nice. I’m probably making a bigger deal out of the whole situation than it actually was. But it was a humbling experience, a reminder that, just because I might get away with pretending to know what I’m doing ninety-five percent of the time, I need to always be prepared to confront that other five percent, those times when it’s obvious that, just because I can name three glasses of Cabernet, I really don’t know anything about wine.

Pass me the ranch

I just love ranch dressing. Pass me the ranch! That’s what I’m always saying, pass me the ranch. It tastes great on everything, chicken nuggets, celery sticks, popcorn, yeah, everybody knows that. That’s what ranch rookies use as a medium to consume their ranch dressing. But when I say it goes good on everything, I mean it. Like I put ranch on everything that I put into my mouth.

ranch dressings

Like even if I need a drink of water. Even if I’m playing basketball or running a race and I’m sweating all over the place and my throat is dry and I don’t think I’m going to be able to make it another second without some serious rehydration, while all of my teammates are running for their water bottles or all of the other runners are slowing it down for one of those Gatorade stops, you’ll still hear me saying, “Pass the ranch.”

Because ranch has water in it. Everything has water in it. It’s basic physics. Water is one of the building blocks of everything. Right? So the trick in a situation where you really need some water it to just put down a ton of ranch dressing, like three or four bottles. And while I’ve been known to occasionally put my lips straight to the bottle, it’s really not in line with the spirit of ranch dressing, which by its nature, kind of suggests needing something to eat it with.

Usually something flavorless is better, like that celery stick I was talking about earlier. But there are so many tasteless, bland foods out there that make perfect vehicles for ranch consumption in heavy quantities. Lice rice cakes. Man, you get a solid enough rice cake, that thing can hold like half a bottle, maybe more if you’ve got a steady pour.

Or you know what’s a really professional ranch move? You go to an Asian grocery store, you buy some plain white soy paper, I think they use it for sushi or something, I don’t know. You moisten it slightly, I’m talking just moist enough so you can form it into a round cup without breaking. You make a bunch of these rounds, like one inch, two inches in diameter, you fill them with ranch and then stick two of them together to make a ball. Booyah, instant ranch bomb. One day I want to get in touch with one of those paintball manufacturers. Wouldn’t it be a cool idea to make like ranch paintballs? Because honestly, it’s one of the main reasons why I’ve never been paintballing: how are you supposed to make sure your ranch doesn’t get contaminated with paint? Ranchball, it’s going to happen sooner or later.

Or sometimes I like to go to restaurants that I know don’t serve ranch. I sit at the table and order a whole bunch of food, like chicken fingers, and fries, and onion rings, and more fries, and then when everything comes out, I’m like, hey waitress, where’s the ranch? I don’t even give her a chance to tell me that they don’t have ranch, I just keep peppering her with requests. Where’s the ranch? Bring me some extra ranch. Did you get that ranch yet? All while she’s still standing there passing out the chicken fingers and fries.

And then when she says they don’t have ranch, I like to make a big stink, like what kind of a place doesn’t have ranch? After the manager comes over and apologizes, usually he takes something off the bill, I send him away. And it’s OK, really, because I always have my own ranch with me. I keep a bottle in my jacket and a few emergency packets in my pants pockets. One time one of those packets exploded when I sat down too hard, and my sister, she was like, “Rob, are you still carrying around packets of ranch? I told you that was a bad idea, and now you’ve gone and done it.”

But I don’t mind, I love ranch dressing. What’s a little loose ranch dressing in my pockets? Now every time I go reach for my keys or see if I have any spare change, I can lick my fingers and get a little ranch pick me up. And I get to smell like ranch also. Or, I should say, I get to smell more like ranch, because I always cut my shampoo with just a little bit, just so if I’m working out and I start to sweat, when it drips down from my head to my mouth, it tastes a little ranchy.

Anybody looking for an easy investment? I’ve been trying to get this restaurant off the ground, we’d call either just Ranch, or Rob’s Ranch, I haven’t decided. I don’t want to make people think that I think that I own ranch, like it’s mine. Ranch is for everyone. But anyway, that’s not really important. It would be a regular restaurant, you know, grilled cheese, hamburgers, chicken fingers, but you wouldn’t have to ask any waiters or waitresses for ranch. No, there’s going to be a ranch gun installed next to every seat. So you just ask for some more celery sticks, and that’s it, you don’t have to bother anybody for extra ranch, like even more, like you’re only going to bring me two? You might as well make it four, or eight if you want to save yourself another trip back to the kitchen.

Hit me up, or if you see me on the street, let me know you’re interested. I’m the guy with the I Love Ranch t-shirt on, with the kind of greasy looking pockets, sometimes, usually. Yeah, it’s messy, but what can I say? I just love it. I just love ranch dressing.