Monday, December 10, 2007

Learning Curve



Being a young wine steward at a 4 star hotel makes me work for my money. I am learning very quickly and have come a long way over the last 6 months in this post but still have a way to go. Right now I would say I am working on "smoothing out the edges" of my wine service. Normally, it is very good: the foil comes off with ease, the cork screw worm enters perfect, the cork comes out with no pop, and the wine is poured in the right order without a drip and I have a good handle on all the wines on my list. Then occasionally there is a pop or a drip. But two nights ago there was a bit more.

We had a party of 26 people joining us for their company holiday party. Looking to drink some great wine I had already pulled a number of bottles for them and they said they would be drinking a lot more. They were not lying - and only the good stuff.

10 bottles of wine and 26 entrees later dessert was on it's way and the parties hostess called me over asking for champagne recommendations. Turns out that she would like 3 of our finest champagnes. Done and done. I went about champagne service for the head of the company first, 1995 Tattinger Comtes Blanc. Great service not even a hiss from under the cork. Then 1998 Tattinger Comtes Blanc no hiss here either just a loud pop followed by a steady stream of champagne. My forearm was drenched and probably about 1/5 of the bottle was now on the floor. I can't explain how it feels to be standing in front of a group of people being covered in their bubbles and I don't think I need to I am sure that you can imagine.

I didn't get anybody wet and after they stopped cheering I began pouring after a quick joke trying to move forward. Credit to my staff they immediately came over and cleaned up the spill nice to have some support when going through such an ordeal.
This is what I call "smoothing out the edges". Most of the time my service is great but most of the time is not what I need. The only reason that the bottle popped as it did was because I took my hand of the cork for a second while re-adjusting my hand. Important lesson learned, never, never, never, never take your hand off of a champ cork after you begin untwisting the cage. Never!!!

I find that I am lucky to work in a place where I am surrounded by beautiful wines and people who want to buy them and trust me to pick one out for them. Although, the other night was embarrassing it did remind me that I am there learning right now and that that is a unique and wonderful situation.

1 comment:

Popehammer said...

Wow, that must have been brutally embarrassing! How do you simultaneously keep your hand on the cork AND remove the cage? Why does taking your hand off the cork make the bottle bubble?

A couple of weeks ago, Erin was waiting on a couple at our restaurant. They were about 50 years old and it was their 25th anniversary. They had gotten engaged in the very same seat they were sitting in that night, 25 years earlier. She was pouring the second bottle of wine they had ordered that night when the tip o the bottle just nicked the rim of the glass and the glass shattered covering the woman in glass and red wine! She was not happy about it but everyone recovered and they still left her 20% and got up from the table happy as ever. I thought that was nice of them.

Five minutes later I observed them at the host station enraged...I asked what was wrong and it turns out that the valet had LOST THEIR CAR! They were in our lobby for 2 hours before it was recovered. Needless to say they will NOT be back for their next anniversary. Talk about nightmares. As you might have been able to tell, my restaurant is not a 4 star joint....