I last wrote about being treated rudely at restaurants—twice in the last six months. The first occurred at an upscale restaurant in which my husband and I were seated in a section best described as a shed. I lied about the second. We weren’t dissed in a restaurant; we were snubbed at a winery.
Although there is no excuse for treating a customer that way, I can understand the temptation. I’m snub-worthy. I favor Charles Town Races (and Slots) over Kennedy Center Honors, hops over grapes, spot the difference over crossword, bathroom humor over subtle witticism. But I was on my best behavior at the Waterford winery my husband and I visited a few weeks ago.
I don’t like wine, but I love wineries. For years, going out meant paper placemats, inevitably spilled drinks, and a swallow-now chew-later speed. Wineries, on the other hand, offer a mature, slow-paced civility, not to mention creative, protracted ways to say “dry” and “sweet.”
All went well at first. We stood at the center of the long, gleaming wood bar as the winemaker/owner, “Phillip,” began with the whites. We studiously followed the tasting menu, using mini-golf sized pencils to make notes – checkmarks, stars or, in my case, smiley/sad faces. Philip explained each wine with a storyteller’s rhythm as we seamlessly adopted the lingo.
Husband: “It has a nice, piquant after-dinner flavor. I can taste the fruit finish.”
We had just started the reds when three people entered the winery: two women and a man. Each held what turned out to be a check-list format wine review. Phillip’s face wore the wide-eyed fear of a Monday morning pop-quiz. He absently sloshed a shot of cabernet into my glass as he greeted the newcomers with false enthusiasm. “Oh, uh, welcome! Welcome! I’ve no more of the merlot I wanted you to try, but I think you’ll like the ....”
As they approached the bar, Phillip urgently hissed at us, “Can you move down? To the end ... keep going.” We felt like guests on Johnny Carson, demoted to the end of the couch to make room for Sammy Davis Jr.
We stood huddled at the edge of the bar holding our now empty glasses, watching in amazement and confusion as the A-listers garnered all the attention. The fawning was enough to embarrass Bambi. When Phillip paused briefly to “fill” (moisten) our glasses, his gaze and stance never wavered from the threesome. It was a fete of wine pouring, gravity defying dexterity as he leaned to reach our glasses. “Here’s the next wine,” he said, followed by this eloquent description: “It’s on the list.”
His assistant, a young woman, eventually noticed us. Perhaps she spotted the confused look in our eyes, the slump of our shoulders, and the waving of our arms. She walked over and asked, “Did you get a wine tasting?” My response was a too-delicate hint that we shouldn’t be charged for a wine tasting: “Well, we tasted wine.”
She charged us the full twenty bucks. After reluctantly paying, we left our corner of the bar, stunned. Note: I wasn’t so stunned that I didn’t try to lift the wine glass as a consolation prize. “That’s not included,” Phillip called out.
Now he notices.
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