Ordering wine in a restaurant can be an intimidating and potentially embarrassing situation. It can be one of those instances when you are put on the spot, like being picked last for kickball as a kid. For years, I’ve said that it shouldn’t be. But sometimes the unknown can seem a little scary.
Your server approaches and hands you a leather-wrapped book, which is just a few pages longer than “War and Peace.” After fingering through a few pages with your eyebrows up, you glumly reply, “We’ll have the house wine.”
First of all, don’t EVER order the “house” wine — unless you’re eating in a European village, where the house wine is fun to try. In America, house wine is usually code for “the cheapest wine we could get our hands on this week to sell off for a major profit to people who don’t know any better.”
Instead, if you don’t have any idea what bottle to choose from the list, check for “wines by the glass.” Most decent restaurants have at least a red and white wine by the glass, and the better establishments have a few choices. This is a great way to experiment and discover which wines you enjoy with various foods.
At Cork, we have switched from a traditional wine list to an iPad format. The app is called Tastevin, and it was created by the owner of California’s Jordan Vineyard & Winery. Not only can you view the wines on our list, but you can also see what the label looks like and read tasting notes from the winemaker.
Tastevin also keeps track of inventory. I’m sure a lot of you have ordered a wine at a restaurant, only to have the server come back and tell you that they are out of it. This program removes a wine from the list after the last bottle is ordered, so that circumstance should never occur.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more and more restaurants going this way in the future.
• Robert Morris is owner and manager at East Valley restaurants Cork, BLD and Stax Burger Bistro. Reach him at (480) 883-3773 or CorkRestaurant.net