Boston Wine Lists Getting Better, Service Still Meh

1217863647Picking up the August 31 issue of Wine Spectator last week, I was happy to see that Boston has six new Award of Excellence winners: Mare, Mooo, Morton’s Seaport, Sasso, Union, and Villa Francesca.

On Nantucket, American Seasons got an upgrade, taking home the grammatically challenging Best of Award of Excellence; other new area winners include Best of Boston ’08 champs L’Andana and Scarlet Oak Tavern, as well as Edgartown’s Catch at the Terrace (the Vineyard arm of Winchester’s Catch, another current Best of Boston winner).

Interestingly, though, the same WS issue includes a national reader poll confirming what has long irked me: that a great cellar doesn’t always equal great service. It seems wine-drinking diners are overwhelmingly disappointed in the presentation and pouring of the wines they order; editor Bruce Sanderson’s related blog about wine-service faux pas launched a storm of comments on peeves like overly chilled whites and wrong vintages.

Boston restaurants are no exception. While I’ve had nothing but pleasant experiences at WS award-winner Meritage, a good friend of mine—a wine consultant—won’t ever return, because the small plates they’d ordered kept arriving too late or too soon to pair with the wines they’d chosen.

At Smith & Wollensky, my server described every single red wine as a “fruit bomb.” Conversely, some of the best wine service I’ve received—at No. 9 Park, where the sommelier actually recognized me from shopping at the South End Wine Emporium—gets no WS love at all, presumably because its list is too small.

There’s no accounting for ambience, either. Some of the current WS winners may have phone book-thick wine lists, but they’re hardly top-of-mind when I’m in the mood for serious vino. (Golden Temple? Anthony’s Pier 4? Skipjack’s?)

And places that do wonders with food or cocktails can royally screw up with wine. I had a memorably painful experience at Eastern Standard this spring—not a WS award-winner, but an otherwise favorite boite. Each time someone ordered a glass, the overzealous server launched into a long-winded description of the wine we’d just chosen, its flavor profile, and why it would pair well with the appetizers we were eating.

“I know,” I wanted to scream. “I just ordered it!” When I put in my dinner order, I half expected her to say, “The short rib? Fantastic!! It comes from a cow, and has a really beefy flavor…”

What about you? Know of any underappreciated wine service in this town? Or have you been unimpressed by a restaurant that’s supposedly all about the wine? Do tell…