Dear, O.C. Restaurants: Stop with the Wine Generics

I’ve been happily crafting this wine column for more than two years. I spend many hours seeking unique wine stories and hunting down wine offerings at Orange County establishments. I do much of my research online and anonymously in person. The common theme I face each week is the lack of detail—or no detail at all—about the wines poured, even from area wine bars.

I’m sure many of you have started researching special locations for Easter brunch. And no doubt you’re finding lots of entrée descriptions such as “cage-free, organic brown egg, made-to-order omelet.” Yet, you’ll rarely find specifics on accompanying wines poured, other than “by the glass” or the classic “bottomless mimosa.”

Speaking of the bottomless mimosa, I’d like to know what sparkling wine is used. I don’t expect it’s highbrow since it is free flowing at minimal charge. But those of us who drink bubbly often know which brands make us feel horrible afterward. I don’t want to ruin my $50-plus Easter brunch with a headache from sugary sparkling wine. If the brand is noted, maybe I’ll choose a glass and have the orange juice on the side, so I can control the sugar levels. Even better for the restaurant, maybe I’d opt for a higher dollar glass or bottle of wine that better showcases the restaurant’s buckwheat pancakes and shrimp hash.

I’m not seeking multi-sentence wine descriptions. I’m purely asking for a brand name and varietal notation. Bet you a bottle of Cook’s that you’ve never seen “House Beer” on a menu. Nope, you’ll find a list of beers by brand name, be it Coors Light, Stella, or Left Coast. Yet, house wine is all too common. When I ask servers what it is, they often politely say they’ll inquire and be right back.

Wine lovers are often dubbed as snobby. The wine industry crafted descriptors long ago to try to explain the wine awaiting you in the bottle. These adjectives took on a life of their own and seemed to create a confidence barrier among consumers who don’t readily talk about pencil shavings and cat pee. However, the industry would do well to find a middle ground for their wine lists—give their wines the same respect they do all those wonderful ingredients in their breakfast dishes.

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