Sour grapes

Choosing a wine for a business dinner, whether it’s an in-house function or a meeting with clients, can be a daunting task.

“Wine is difficult,” says Todd Thompson, service manager at Pier W restaurant in Lakewood. “There’s so much to know and learn, it’s a full time job just to keep up with it. It’s very subjective, and my favorites probably won’t be yours.”

So how do you get around the problem? Variety.

“You either need to know something about the other people’s tastes, or have enough variety available that everyone will be happy,” says Thompson, who is also Pier W’s wine steward. “Get a bottle of red and a bottle of white for the table. If someone is having something spicy and wants a sweet wine, then it’s acceptable for them to order from the glass list.”

As the host, it’s your responsibility to let that person know they can order a glass of something that’s more appropriate to their food. If you’re uncomfortable choosing the wine for the table, then either talk to the wine steward before you arrive for suggestions, or ask the steward to make the selection at dinner.

“You don’t want to be pouring over a wine list in front of your guests,” says Thompson. “Use your restaurant professionals. Some people are uncomfortable with that, but it’s what the wine steward does. They know things you don’t know.”

When communicating with the steward, the more direction you can give, the better. If a wine you want isn’t on the list, tell him or her you want something similar to that. They’ll be able to come up with something comparable. If you are worried about cost, then use a phrase like “value oriented” when describing what you like.

“You don’t have to pay $90 a bottle for a great wine,” says Thompson. “There are fantastic wines most people won’t be familiar with, which is why they aren’t $90 a bottle. You are paying for the name.

“Ask the steward to recommend a wine that compliment your food. Don’t order what’s the most popular or what you think people will find interesting. Don’t fall for that. Wine is a food, and the big labels might look good on the table, they may not go at all with what everyone is eating.”