Thursday, November 11, 2010

Philly Wine Flight Failure

I had to fly through Philadelphia yesterday, on my way back from a business trip to central Pennsylvania.  US Air still doesn't know how to run a pleasant, fast & efficient air line like Southwest does, and while I was annoyed by my 2nd delayed flight of the day, I noticed a "Vino Volo" bar at the next gate in "Terminal B" where I was waiting.  I thought I'd give it a try.

The bartender had laid out 5"x8" two-page menus at each chair, and was talking to her sole customer as I approached.   I took a long look at the 2 pages and was not impressed with the selections.  For a specialty wine bar, that highlights "Flights", I had higher expectations.  The magazine of opened bottles showed about a 1/3 screw tops, 1/3 fake corks, and the remainder corks that showed very young (no migration through the cork) wines bottled by negotiants / distributors.  I should have turned around and left, but I still had an hour to blow before my late aircraft was going to arrive, and I was still curious.  A minute or so later, the bar keep asked me - with a rather impatient tone in her voice - what I wanted to have?

I saw a flight at the bottom of the list that started off with a Martinolles Pinot Noir from the Languedoc region (2009) and it sounded nice...  paired with another Pinot, the flight was $8, while the individual glasses were $11 and $12 each - pricey...  but I thought maybe it would be worth it.  So I says to the barkeep, my eyes still on the menu...  "That Martinolles Pinot Noir Languedoc...   it sounds...." and before I could finish my sentence, she had aggressively poured a normal serving sized glass of the Languedoc, plopped it on a coaster, and pushed it in front of me.  Feeling a little put off...  I retorted "I was going to have the flight, but you've obviously chosen for me already...".  This late-20s / early 30s aggressively impatient bartender gives me a look of disgust that read "you middle aged white guys in suits are all the same".  Whatever.  I added "...I'll drink this one." 

Then I noticed the customized paper coaster she'd plopped the wine glass down upon.  It had the name of the wine, a little tasting grid graphic, and the title "Cherry Cola and Black Pepper".  I did a double take.  I tasted neither cherry anything, nor black pepper...  and if the wine actually had these qualities, WHO in their right mind would brag about this, and use it as an advertising / marketing ploy?  Black pepper in a pinot noir?  No thanks.  Maybe in a Fitou, maybe, if it was trying to be an aggressive wine or it was trying to cover-up some lower/lesser/poor quality.  And "Cherry Cola"?  Ew. In a wine?  Nasty.  No thank you, not a chance, whatsoever.

While I was sipping my wine another patron approached, parked his roll on luggage at one of the two near tables, and asked the bar keep for a menu.   "Each table has one" she snorted back him, implying "(what, are you blind??)" - no, maybe he just thought a wine bar might actually have more than 10 or 12 selections of mediocre wines on a small 2 page listing.  Silly patron.  After he ordered, he asked if he could get a glass of water as well; "I only have bottled" was the bar keep's retort. 

So, to sum up "Vino Volo":
- conveniently located
- surly, indignant, aggressive service who apparently did not enjoy her job
- inflated prices for the quality served (the bill came to over $12 on a $11 listed wine, so the tip I left was tiny)
- misguided marketing
- copies of "Wine Speculator" (aka "Wine Spectator", but the subscription I used to have years ago provided me with more laughs than it did insights) PROUDLY on display behind the bar.

I will be back to the Philadelphia airport on business (because I have to, not really because I want to - though they did have free WiFi which was nice throughout most of the airport) but I will not be back to "Vino Volo" again.  Complete failure.

1 comment:

  1. When I get bad service like that, I always wonder what I'm keeping the server from doing. She had something really important to be doing behind that bar? Where's the impatience coming from?

    By the way, there is now a nice rule here that licensed restaurants MUST provide free tap water if you ask for it.


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