A Lesson That All Wine-Focused Restaurants Should Heed

ZumFiglmullerSo we were having this wonderful dinner at 100 Wines Kitchen in San Diego. It was the ideal setting for a fabulous evening: a table shared with good friends, delicious starter dishes shared with those friends, and some nice wine-by-the-glass selections.

You can read more about it in yesterday’s blog (in case you missed it).

Before going any further, I’d like to say that I’d recommend this place to any wine lover. The atmosphere is wonderful, the service is friendly, and the food that we had was expertly prepared and tasty. We hope to return one day soon to try more menu items — if we can bring ourselves to not ordering the same mouthwatering dishes.

Sadly, however, what could have been a perfect evening fell a little bit short of that plateau when the time came to order our main courses.

I love looking through wine lists to identify bargains. I also enjoy trying to figure out which bottle (or glass) will best complement the food I’m ordering.

Michelle was already pretty full from the starters, so we decided to share a main course. The one that caught my eye was the Pork Milanesa ($22), described as “thinly pounded pork loin with a cornflake crust, roasted garlic mash, haricot verts and lemon caper sauce.” When our server said it was “kind of like a schnitzel,” we were sold.

On our pre-marriage honeymoon to Europe in 2014, Michelle and I had visited one of the most famous purveyors of wiener schnitzel in Austria: Zum Figlmuller in the heart of Vienna.

It is a meal we will never forget. From our table near the kitchen, we could hear the “boom, boom, boom” as the veal was prepared for breading and frying. The finished product completely covered a plate, so the accompanying potato dish had to be served on a separate plate.

With the schnitzel, we had glasses of Gruner Veltliner — an Austrian specialty — from a winery we had visited the previous day: Domane Wachau. It was a fabulous pairing… one of the top five I’ve ever experienced.

We tend to remember places as much for the food we eat as for the things we see, and that dinner at Zum Figlmuller will always be the first thing we think of when we reflect on our days spent in Vienna.

Back to San Diego. Now that we had our main course selected, it was time for me to find a complementary wine. The task was made easier because, based on the description of the dish, I knew that I didn’t even need to consider reds. The wine would most likely be a white.

DomaineWachauI scanned the list and then, as if in the middle of a fairy tale coming true, there is was: a Gruner Veltliner.

But not just any Gruner Veltliner — a Gruner Veltliner from Austria.

But not just any Gruner Veltliner from Austria — a Gruner Veltliner from Domane Wachau!

I showed the list to Michelle, pointing to the Domane Wachau Gruner Veltliner line.

“No way!” she enthused. “Really?”

“That’s what it says,” I replied.

We knew that we could not replicate the meal we’d had in Vienna (for one thing, the 100 Wines Kitchen dish was made with a different meat), but we figured we could come pretty close. We then explained to our friends why Michelle was so excited.

The server returned to our table and we ordered the Pork Milanesa, along with a bottle of Domane Wachau Gruner Veltliner. We then sat back with big grins on our faces, and continued our conversation with our friends. An already wonderful evening had just gotten a whole lot better — pretty close to perfect.

A few moments passed. And then it happened. Our server returned and said, “I’m sorry, but we’re all out of that wine. Can I get you something else?”

Michelle and I looked at each other. No words were needed. An opportunity to re-live one of the greatest meals of our lives… one of the greatest nights of our lives… had been dangled in front of us and then snatched away. We could not have been more disappointed.

I didn’t even bother to take another look at the wine list. We had wanted one specific bottle with one specific dish, and nothing else would do. We passed on another bottle, and just sipped water with our meal.

The Pork Milanesa was a great dish. It didn’t reach the level of the schnitzel we’d had at Zum Figlmuller, but we never expected it would. Just the opportunity to have a similar dish with the specific wine we’d enjoyed in Vienna was too good to pass up… but as it turned out, it never really was available.

Instead of focusing on a wonderful evening with friends, when we look back on that meal, we’ll remember the wine that was on the list but not in the cellar.

Therein lies a lesson for all wine-focused restaurants, especially those that include the word “wine” or “wines” in their name: It’s very important to keep your wine list up to date. Otherwise, you risk disappointing customers like us who enjoy matching specific bottles with specific dishes.

By the way, I checked the restaurant’s online wine list last night, and the Domane Wachau Gruner Veltliner was still shown. At the very least, an online list should be expected to be current, even if a printed list isn’t. (In the best of all worlds, a restaurant’s online list would be used for printing the in-house list, and that list would be updated daily.)

To reiterate, we’ll be going back to 100 Wines Kitchen. We loved the food and the ambience. Next time, however, we’re going to choose our meals and wine in advance, and when we make our reservation, we’re going to ask that the bottle we’ve selected be set aside for us.

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Posted in Our Wine Travel Log, Editor's Journal
3 comments on “A Lesson That All Wine-Focused Restaurants Should Heed
  1. […] did have a very memorable meal that will help us forget about the disappointing one we’d had in early August in San Diego. I’ll tell you about that […]

  2. […] In case you missed it, you can read about that experience here. […]

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