Dorothy, here you come again

Half-jokingly, a wine publicist and good friend recently remarked to me: “I mean, come on, let’s face it. No offense, but how many people read your blog anyway?” As much personal satisfaction that my blog gives me, I recognize that I’m no Eric, Alder, Tyler, or Franco.

But that’s partly what makes me all the more angry (and I promise this is my last rant for the week) when one of the truly influential sources of food and wine journalism publishes disinformation, like Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher’s supercilious take on 2004 Barolo, published last week in The Wall Street Journal, or their truly offensive and imbecilic “10 Ways to Save Money Ordering Wine,” published on Saturday. (I apologize in advance to my friend J, a WSJ editor and writer I admire greatly for this second harangue about his colleagues: the poorly delivered humor in my post about the 2004 Barolo piece was simply that — poorly delivered.) Especially in this day and “age of responsibility,” when many of our nation’s restaurateurs find themselves gripped in a day-to-day battle for survival, Dorothy and John’s tips for not being “hosed” by restaurateurs (they actually use the word hose! in the WSJ!) and the accusatory, paranoid tone or their article are no less than nefarious. It’s important to acknowledge that restaurant-going consumers are feeling the financial pinch these days as well: Dorothy and John’s readers would have been better served by “tips on how to find value on the list at your favorite restaurant.”

Here are some highlights from their piece…

1. Skip wine by the glass.

I studied Italian literature at university but it doesn’t take a Ph.D. to figure out that a glass of wine costs less than a bottle. Wine by the glass is one of the ways that we find new wines we like without having to pay for the bottle. Better advice would be: when ordering a wine by the glass, ask your server if you have the option to purchase the whole bottle at the bottle price if you like the wine.

3. Bypass the second-cheapest wine on the list.

A generalization like this is simply stupid, irrelevant, and inappropriate. Honest restaurateurs (and most of them are honest) price their wines in accordance with the prices they are charged by wholesalers. Better advice: figure out what you want to spend and ask your server or sommelier which wines in that price point meet your expectations in terms of style, aromas and flavors, and desired pairing.

6. Never order Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio.

Even Eric and Charles — two palates who really do know something about Italian wine — liked Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio when they tasted it blind in a New York Times tasting panel. Dorothy and John, come on: this is insulting. Better advice: order what you like and enjoy when you go to a restaurant. Whether you like Pinot Grigio by Santa Margherita, white Zinfandel by Beringer, or first-growth Bordeaux (wines many would consider over-priced but coveted and thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless), then go for it. You go to a restaurant to have fun… not to be scared of being ripped off!

9. BYOB.

Dorothy and John, I hate to break it to you but bring-your-own-bottle is appropriate in two cases: 1) when a restaurant doesn’t have a beer and/or wine license; 2) when you bring an illustrious and expensive bottle that doesn’t appear on the restaurant’s list. And remember: whenever you bring your own bottle to a restaurant, be sure to order a bottle of equivalent value. Thrift, Dorothy and John, is no excuse for rude behavior or bad tipping.

Here you come again, Dorothy and John, Just when I’m about to make it work without you.

13 thoughts on “Dorothy, here you come again

  1. I read this article and thought it was the most anti-restaurant bunch of nonsense. I don’t work in wine – only love it and couldn’t find rhyme or reason to their suggestions. Does anyone take their column seriously?

  2. well said jeremy, your points are excellent indeed. try not to get too pissed off at this kind of thing though. you are simply not a mainstream guy (which is why you’re so interesting), and they are mainstream. maybe they’ll win a fermentation blog award.

  3. on point #1, i doubt that two people who would drink 2 glasses each of the SAME wine would bypass the bottle, the problem is that usually people don’t all want the same wine. we are all willing to pay for the convenience of drinking what we want.

    who are these people anyway? wasn’t she responsible for reporting on race issues and he an editor? how was the crossover to wine made?

    i think it’s important for restaurateurs AND consumers to have compassion for EACHOTHER right now. What if the manager of a famous restaurant wrote a column on “how to shake the most money out of your clients pockets in these hard times?” it would be insulting and outrageous. the tone of this dismissive article is no less egregious.

  4. thanks everyone for weighing in here… I guess their article really got under my skin because I’ve been talking to a lot of restaurateurs and retailers these days and I see how tough it is out there… people are losing their businesses (not to mention their homes)… the dismissive tone of their article and lack of compassion (well put Tracie B) needed to be addressed (even if only in the microcosm of our small blogging community).

    jwsobeck and susieshep, thanks for stopping by.

    BrooklynGuy, thanks for feeling my pain…

    AC, your recent posts on restaurateurs, winemakers, and pricing are also relevant here. We ALL need to start taking responsibility… winemakers, importers, distributors, retailers, restaurateurs… and consumers AND JOURNALISTS…

  5. I just read the article, and though I agree with the thrust of your critique, it does seem as though the headings are more inflammatory than the text. But I think you missed talking about the most interesting line:

    “Check the vintage closely. We’re not talking here about ordering a 2004 Barolo from the list and getting a 2002”

    This looks like an implicit mea culpa that ordering a 04 Barolo might be something one would want to do. Apparently their subtle appeasement did not work.

  6. RT–i listen to npr regularly and their column comes on now and again. i remember hearing this “list” on the radio a couple of months ago…before this was published and the ’04 poo hit the fan.

  7. Quite simply, the D+J’s WSJ column makes me feel like I’m reading Bobby Jindal’s take on wine. (don’t get me started on “Open That Bottle Night”)

    Wines by the glass are exactly how many consumer experiment and find wines they like w/out having to risk $30-$100 on a bottle.

  8. Headings that begin “Never” and “Don’t” certainly set one up for attack. One of the great things about wine is that right when you’re about to come up with a hard-and-fast rule, an exception pops up. ’04 Banfi anyone?

    Reason #3 for BYOB is that many of us can’t dine out as often as we’d like if we’re paying $90 for the $40 wines that we like. I’ve never had a problem bringing wine to a restaurant where I’m a regular (well, I wouldn’t try it in NYC). And at those places I seldom get charged corkage.

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