I'm fielding your questions about dining out in 21st-century Bay Area restaurants. Have one? Email me.
The learning curve on ordering wine in restaurants isn't as steep as it appears. And it's not hard to relax on the bottom end of the curve without feeling pressure to climb. Take this week's questions about how to navigate the ritual around pouring wine.
T.W.: When the server shows you the bottle you ordered, what do you say? “Yep, that's it all right,” or what?
J.S.: Is it all possible to skip over the thing where they pour a little bit of wine and then I have to taste it and pretend like I know anything and give a curt little nod? It's a bit of theater that always bothers me.
The subtext to both questions seems to be: What do I have to do to avoid looking like a fool? Not much, actually.
In answer to T.W.'s question, all you have to do is nod. You're just confirming to the waiter that the bottle she brought out is the one you ordered — not just the brand, but the vineyard and vintage as well. You might not have been paying attention to the vintage when you were looking over the menu, but I've been out to dinner with wine pros who immediately called out the restaurant for switching out a 2007 for 2006 without updating the wine list.
So if you picked a bottle at random but want to pretend you made a careful, intelligent choice, all you have to do is peer closely enough to read the year and then nod. If you're on your third bottle, simply confirm that the wine is, indeed, alcoholic.