If there is one thing that drives me crazy while dining out, it’s an overpriced and uninspired wine list. I get all worked up, pointing at wines and loudly reciting what we charge at Binny’s. I think it annoys the people I’m with. And it happens a lot, because I’m poor and I can’t afford to dine at places that put much of an emphasis on wine.
My girlfriend’s birthday is coming up in the next couple of weeks which reminded us that she still hadn’t used the gift card to a restaurant that was my gift to her last year. So this last weekend, we decided that it was finally time to use it. So we had a very nice dinner at the restaurant where the gift card was from.
The restaurant where the gift card was from has this big wine cellar, viewable from the entryway, behind floor-to-ceiling glass. The game started where I pointed out bottles and announced how much Binny’s would charge, and guessed how much the restaurant would charge, and also tacked on any anecdotal information I could. I act the same way at concerts.
Here’s what I said about one wine that caught my eye: See that bottle with the guy with the mustache? That’s the Spring Valley Uriah! I wonder what vintage it is! I had the 2006 a couple weeks ago at that big tasting! Binny’s charges like forty bucks for that bottle. I bet this place has it for one twenty. It’s from Walla Walla Washington. Yeah, the 2006 was totally awesome….
I am starting to realize that I am not a very bearable person to be around.
When we sat down to order dinner, the Uriah turned out to be the 2005, and could be ours for only $78, which was a pleasant surprise, it seemed like a bargain. My rule of thumb is that if a restaurant is charging less than twice what you’d pay at Binny’s, it’s probably a bargain. She agreed to let me order the wine after a couple of minutes of this: Can we get it? Can we can we can we? Aww, come on…. You’d think it was my birthday that we were celebrating eleven and a half months late and not hers.
The wine was good, and still quite young. Also, the glassware was excellent, which is a great thing to see at a restaurant. At first the ’05 Uriah was tight a nose of cherry, raspberry and blueberry (That’s probably from the Cab Franc, I said, brimming with excitement.) with depth black olive, anise, and maybe a little spice made way to a big, fruit-driven wine with a richly tannic finish. After some time in the glass it opened up more cocoa on the nose, and the fruit lightened toward more tart, bright cherry, with a layered and complex finish. (By the way: The 2006 Spring Valley Uriah, available at Binny’s right now, shows a lot of these great flavors, with even more concentration.)
It was a splurge, but a good one. Unlike a lot of people I know in the wine industry, I never did any time in restaurants or bars, leaving me with a detached and willfully ignorant stance regarding restaurant pricing. I know that restaurants have to charge what they do for wine, but it still drives me nuts. I’ll keep looking for deals and buy cheap. I’ll drink water, and go to BYOB places as much as I can. And for her birthday this year, I’ll be making my girlfriend dinner at home.
How about you? Do you regularly get wine at restaurants? Do you have strategies to save money while keeping the fine dining experience? Tell us about it: leave a comment below.
So I sat there, waiting to pay the bill, having gone way over the gift card amount, thinking about the price tag on the bottle of wine we had just enjoyed, and dinner too, and how I’d probably blog about it, all the while sipping on my tiny little $7 espresso. Mmmmmmmm. Frugal.