Monday, June 13, 2011

Good Bottle Gone Bad

A dear friend of mine recently had a birthday and not only did he get gifts, he gave gifts. Delicious gifts from his wine cellar; Opus One and Stag's Leap S.L.V. He arrived at Fleming's Steakhouse with a bottle under each arm and asked our server for permission to uncork. Most good restaurants are open to BYOB of wines they do not have on their list. Opus One and Stag's Leap are often found on reserve wine lists but not vintages like these; 2002 and 1998 respectively. My mouth was watering as the wines were decanted. Thankfully they lived up to my expectations.

It's always good etiquette to buy a bottle when you bring one and Fleming's list has a multitude of great choices. We all agreed to a bottle of one of my favorite Cabernets; Chateau Montelena (2007).

Our server poured a small taste and handed it to the wine connoisseur sitting next to me for approval. When he put his nose into the glass, it was obvious he was contemplating; but we didn't know exactly what. When he swirled the wine again, even I could smell the mildew. Being a fan of the wine, we knew the bottle was "corked" or bad. It happens; even in the best restaurants. Our server poured another small taste, disappeared with it and returned shortly with a new bottle that was outstanding.

I'm writing about this so if it happens to you, you wont settle for drinking an off-bottle because you are embarrassed to speak up or afraid you might be wrong. Yes, some wines smell like a barnyard. If you're not sure: swirl it in your glass, let it open some more, sniff again, then taste.  If you are still not sure, ask your server to inspect. Restaurant managers can get credits or replacement for bad bottles from their distributors so it's not like you are sticking them. Even more important, they want you to leave their establishment with a good taste in your mouth, literally.

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