A carafe of musty Syrah gave the staff at Bouchon, Thomas Keller's popular Napa Valley bistro, a chance to show our blogger how the pros deliver exceptional service.
Nobody Does It Better: The servers at Bouchon in Yountville, California, could be haughty. Instead, they are incredibly welcoming.
It was 8:30 on a Saturday night in Napa Valley. My boyfriend Theo and I had just flown in from New York and wanted nothing more than a simple dinner and some wine before going to sleep. So we chose Bouchon, Thomas Keller's convivial bistro, where we ordered some cheese, some shrimp, and a plate of boudin blanc to share, along with half a carafe of Syrah.
After warning us that the wine would be "very French," our waiter poured our glasses. We sniffed and swirled and sipped—and though the wine seemed somewhat musty, I didn't mind—I like my reds dark and earthy.
Theo, however, does not. "I think it's off," he said. He politely asked the waiter whether the mustiness was typical for our wine.
"That's what I meant by 'very French,'" the waiter said with a smile. "It's slightly 'barnyard-y'...it needs to air out a little. But we'd be happy to get you a glass of something else if you don't like this."
A few sips later, Theo agreed that the Syrah just needed to open up a bit and the mustiness had gone away. Meanwhile, the manager stopped by and reiterated that she would be happy to replace our wine. Then the sommelier came over to tell us he had the head sommelier taste the wine to make sure it wasn't off. Finally, our waiter checked in one more time to make sure all was well.
We were impressed at how the staff handled the situation. Not only did they immediately offer to replace our drinks, they checked back three times to make sure we were happy—on a busy night at one of the most popular spots in town. (Lest you think this was a fluke, we encountered similarly gracious service at every restaurant we visited over the next few days, a refreshing change from certain New York establishments that often act like a diner is lucky just to be there.)
When the check came, Theo left a 40 percent tip. "They handled everything so nicely," he said. "They didn't make me feel stupid and they were humble about everything. You don't see service like that too often anymore. I would definitely come back here."
Which just goes to show that no matter how big the restaurant, it's still the little things that make a difference.
CLARISSA CRUZ is the Fashion Features Editor of O, The Oprah Magazine. She is the former Style Editor of People magazine and has written for Entertainment Weekly, InStyle, Food & Wine, and Budget Travel. @clarissanyc1