Ordering by the glass seems the perfect restaurant wine strategy.
A glass is cheaper than a bottle. Pair your dish with wine of your choice. You don’t get stuck with a disappointing bottle. But there are downsides:
• By-the-glass glass clearly is cheaper than by-the-bottle, but it is not cheaper by the fluid ounce. Wine by the glass is the most expensive way to buy wine at a restaurant.
• There are five, five-ounce pours in a wine bottle or four six-ounce pours in generous restaurant. Many restaurants hope to pay for the bottle with first pour, certainly before they finish the second. By-the-glass is four or five times as expensive as retail bottle cost, while by-the-bottle is only two or three times the cost you would pay in store. You do credit card calculations.
• Caution needed. You know nothing about storage with by-the-glass. Has bottle been open respectable hour, or flavor-flushing four days? If the wine is bad, you can and should refuse it.
• Limited choice. Only a fraction of restaurant’s list is offered by the glass. Some can be house wines you probably would not drink if offered free. Well, maybe if free. Maybe.
Much depends on the restaurant. Finer and more popular the restaurant, more likely wine-by-the-glass will be an acceptable, even winning strategy. But when you get past top-tier establishments, your chance of having a pain in the glass dramatically increases.
When wine is served ice cold so you can’t taste it, well, you were forewarned.
• Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay. Tropical fruit, pineapple. Wine store bottle $10; local restaurant glass $7.
• MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir. California Russian River Valley, concentrated red and black fruits, black cherry, subtle oak. Wine store bottle $18; local restaurant glass $8.
• Four Vines Zinfandel. Wine store bottle $12; local restaurant glass $8.
• Jam Cabernet Sauvignon. Silky cherries and plums. Wine store bottle $20; local restaurant glass $9.