I spent two-thirds of the long Memorial Day weekend with my lady in North San Diego County. On one of the days, we visited the Villa di Calabro tasting room in Temecula’s “Old Town” district (detailed in Monday’s blog). On another, we spent the evening at Thornton Winery, soaking in the sounds of Chris Isaak.
Thornton is known far and wide for its summertime Champagne Jazz Series, and while it may be a stretch to categorize Isaak’s music as “jazz,” it nonetheless was an enjoyable concert. I’ve been a fan since “San Francisco Days, San Francisco Nights” was on the adult contemporary charts.
I’d attended numerous concerts at Thornton in the past, including a handful that featured my favorite “smooth jazz” guitarist, Peter White. Each time, I’d opted for general admission seating, and had to deal with long lines and a few pushy patrons, ultimately ending up with seats that were just okay — and not at all comfortable, since they were made of wood and packed close together.
This time, I opted for the gourmet supper package. The ticket mark-up is pretty steep, but ultimately we thought it was worth it.
Our seats were reserved, which meant we could arrive later, park in a special section, and walk directly to our seats — no waiting in line. And the three-course meal was delicious, from the salad to the fish dish to the tiramisu for dessert.
I do have one quibble, however. When we were emailed the menu about a week before the concert, it was accompanied by a wine pairing suggestion for each of the three courses. Because it was a “suggestion,” I knew we’d have to pay extra for the wine, but the pairings sounded so good that I planned to order the recommended glass with each course.
But when we got to the venue and I attempted to do just that, we were told that on concert nights, wine was available only by the full bottle. Unfortunately, given the menu, there wasn’t a bottle available that would have paired well with all three of the courses. We ended up ordering a bottle, but did not finish it.
There are good reasons for the policy. I’m not sure how many people were being served dinner, but pouring single glasses for that many people certainly would have been a challenge for the wait staff. You’re basically talking about doubling or tripling the number of glasses needed, thus also increasing the opportunities for breakage.
But there is a flip side regarding those of us who love wine — likely a high percentage of the audience, considering the concert was taking place at a winery. Whereas we ended up spending about $30 for our bottle, we likely would have spent twice that much had by-the-glass service been available (three glasses each for a total of six, at an average cost of $10 per glass).
I’m sure it was the winery’s hope that we’d buy a full bottle with each course. But with only two of us, and a 20-minute drive back to our hotel room looming, that wasn’t going to happen.
Thornton Winery has been hosting the Champagne Jazz Series and offering gourmet supper packages for years, so I’m guessing this isn’t the first time its management has heard this complaint. They’ve probably considered by-the-glass service, crunched the numbers, and decided the present policy is in the winery’s best interests.
Here’s hoping they re-visit the possibility of providing by-the-glass service in the future — even if it’s sold strictly as a package or “flight.” Had that option been available for the Chris Isaak concert, it would have turned a fun evening into a truly memorable experience.