Service is the factor that makes a restaurant experience stand out, for better or worse. With so many good choices of what and where to eat available, how you are made to feel throughout the dining event carries almost equal influence on your satisfaction as the meal itself. I will write about excellent service received around wine and fine dining events, beginning with Fearing's Restaurant in Dallas.
I was greeted promptly by my lead waiter, and I described my plans to have Dean's renowned Tortilla Soup and several wines by the glass. I expressed a desire to try Texas wines, and the Inwood Estates Tempranillo-Cabernet was suggested. Before I even considered asking, he offered to bring me a taste. The bottle was presented, and a generous taste was poured into the large Riedel glass. My waiter conversed about the wine while I finished the taste, which lasted several sips, before pouring the full glass. He talked further about Texas wines, explaining that more and more are being produced. "Not at the level of California," he said, "but quality." The dark, spicy, and leathery Inwood Estates blend was just what I had hoped for, and complimented the tortilla soup nicely.
I was thinking about a lighter wine to follow the blend, and asked my waiter what he would try. He mentioned a Pinot Noir, paused briefly, then said, "Let me check in the wine cellar and see if we have anything open." I was intrigued. He returned with a new bottle of Pinot Noir and a previously opened bottle of Caymus Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet, 40th Anniversary 2012, both of which he poured "tastes" of in appropriate glasses. Then I was excited.
He explained that the Caymus had been open for two days, but that it was still good, and he was right. I noted that only the cork was used to close the bottle, no vacuum or synthetic plug, and that it had been climate controlled. After I was visibly impressed by the initial swallow, he emptied the remainder of the bottle in my glass, what I describe as a full pour-plus. He said, "Often people order wine and don’t finish it, so we save it but can’t drink it ourselves. So, we give it to you." The wine still had a lot going on, and was velvety, inky, and vibrant. This was a quality wine that had received skillful preservation.
Next, it was time to taste the Elizabeth Rose Pinot Noir. It was lighter, as I had requested earlier, and refreshing with a subtle earthiness. This was a screw-top bottle, which I was impressed to see as a featured wine. I asked my waiter how he liked working with the huge selection of wines at Fearing's. He enthusiastically described how he gets to taste all the wines, "new ones, too", and how it was critical that he know the wines so that he could properly describe and recommend them.
Afterward, I retired to the lounge area, and Wine Director Paul Botamer, whom I met earlier, arrived with a bottle of Bodegas Toro Albala Don PX Gran Reserva 1983 dessert wine. Paul poured me a glass and told the story of the wine's thirty years of barrel aging. The wine was a delicious treat of dense smoke and chocolate.
Overall service at Fearing's was outstanding. Four servers worked seamlessly to care for me, I enjoyed constant attention early, and then was allowed to enjoy the wines. I never had to look for a server, and all were conversational and knowledgeable. Their collective demeanor as they fluidly cared for a variety of patrons and party sizes put me at ease. I took note of reactions from other tables, and all appeared similarly satisfied. It felt superbly balanced.
The wine service was exciting to experience, and the standout aspects of the wine program were many. The glassware, and the generosity of pours into them. The presentation of bottles, even for wines by the glass. The openness about the philosophy behind the wine program, from staff training to handling leftover wine. Most of all, there was an eager willingness to satisfy my desired wine exploration. It was evident that Fearing's expects to deliver a memorable and satisfying wine journey.