I read an article about a survey of female wine drinkers and their experiences in restaurants. Women & Wine sponsored the survey, asking buying habits and service in restaurants. Interesting but not surprising, women noted a marked difference in the service they received. I've observed that same phenomenon in restaurants myself.
I'll admit the servers in Napa & Sonoma are pretty savvy. A good many residents, who you might not guess from their appearance, have ties to the wine business and/or know gobs about wine. It's not that surprising to meet a rough-around-the-edges looking Napkin (what the born & raised in Napa elite call themselves) who seems more like the Nascar, Skoal & Bud type tell you about the Opus One they've been patiently cellaring or rattle off a who's who of names in the wine industry they've known for years.
But more about me- the person who really matters in this tiny sliver of the Internet. M and I recently spent a delightful vacation in Naples, Florida at the end of the year. While Naples is known for it's wine auction which rivals the Napa Valley Wine Auction for wine bacchanalia and fund raising, it's not exactly wine sophistication central the rest of the year. But that could be an entire different post. I want to tell you a snippet about a restaurant I was at in Miami, more specifically South Beach. Bear with me, we'll get to the point of this post eventually.
We drove the 2 hours from Naples to Miami. I highly recommend driving the older 2 lane Highway 41 straight through the everglades. Not only do you get to see all sorts of cool birds and alligators in their natural habitat, but the drive also includes such entertainment as homemade billboards advertising 'gator wrassling' and air boat tours. My favorite, made of weathered uneven boards, hand painted in big letters with one word stacked on top of the other, read "Alligators! Snakes!" and in smaller print "Ice Cream" I should have made M. to turn around and go back for a photo. You will have to imagine the equally homemade fishing shack and dock, surrounded by vegetation accompanying the sign. Here's an alligator picture I took at one of the wildlife viewing spots to help put you in the mood. I can hear you asking, "Are we there yet?" I'm getting to the point even if I'm taking the slow route ala Highway 41.
We spent part of the day on Key Biscayne, and then made our way down to South Beach in the late afternoon. First let me say, if you have never been to Miami, it is the most urban, sophisticated beach I have ever visited and I've been to my share. Most beach towns are pretty casual especially where the land meets the water, but not Miami. So we are here in South Beach, walking around and gawking at the crowd. I had the wherewithal to bring some dressier shorts and a nice top- the beach equivalent of jeans and heels- which I changed into in the car, knowing that M would probably want to go somewhere nice for dinner before we headed back. I should have worn the jeans and heels. The crowd was dressed to kill. We could have been in a bar in downtown San Francisco- everyone was ultra sophisticated and wearing black.
M. wanted to have dinner at Wish which turned out to be a spendy place inside The Hotel. It has a beautiful outdoor dining space and intriguing decor designed by Todd Oldham. I definitely recommend it.
We were shown to our table and M excused himself and proceeded to be gone for what seemed like hours but was really only 15 minutes, but was enough time for me to be miffed about being abandoned at the table by myself. This did give me plenty of time with the menu and the equally spendy wine list. (Hang with me, I'm getting to point of the post.)
I figured we would both be ordering seafood, since M loves scallops, and I'm a tad resistant to paying more than $30 for a steak. I narrowed my choice down to a white. We both prefer Sauvignon Blanc over a California style chardonnay. The one Albarino on the menu was an older vintage and for a white that is usually drunk young it made me wonder. I'm always up for trying something new, so I thought we'd go French. I asked the waiter for a recommendation- white, not oaked, in the $50 range. He complied with a good suggestion. No complaints there, but here, finally, is my point- when M came back to the table (turns out he was negotiating at the front desk for a room for the night- gotta love that man) the waiter felt obliged to tell M that he had helped me pick out the bottle.
Maybe I'm a little sensitive about this. I'm perfectly capable of choosing a wine from the menu- maybe more so than M. I familiar with a reasonable amount of wine styles and regions to know what I might be ordering. I know what I like and obviously I don't mind asking for suggestions. Here's the crux of the matter- do you think the waiter would have said the same thing to me if M. had ordered the bottle when I was away from the table? I bet not. This was a classic example of what those women who participated in the survey were taking about.
So, waitpersons, someliers, wine retailers out there, please take a minute to question your assumptions about gender and wine. Some of us would greatly appreciate it.