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That Time a $400 Bottle of Rare Wine Tasted 'Old'

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Photo: Palisade

Sometimes, when people have money to burn, they don't mind pouring $400 down the drain after ordering an expensive bottle of wine they dislike. Yashar Shayan, Wine Director at The Willows Inn on Lumi Island, has a whale tale involving a woman, a rare bottle of wine, and some possibly jacked-up taste buds. It happened to him when he was a sommelier at Palisade:

I acquired two bottles of 1982 Château Beychevelle at auction, which is a fourth growth from Saint-Julien in Bordeaux, France. I was pleased to have these two rare bottles on my wine list and they were priced at about $400 each. One day, a server came to me and said that a guest had ordered a bottle, and I was excited to meet someone who would have such appreciation for fine wine. I greeted the guest at her table with bottle in hand, and as I was opening the bottle, I struck up a conversation with her, saying "You must be a lover of Bordeaux, do you drink Bordeaux often?" To which she simply replied "Not really." Immediately, I got a case of cold feet, like someone about to walk down the aisle who only just now realized they might be marrying the wrong person.
Long story short, I opened the bottle, she tasted it, and said she didn't like it and that it tasted old. Mind you, this wine was almost 20 years old. An unfortunate circumstance of a "customer is always right" kind of industry is that when a customer is wrong, it has real consequences. In this case, I've opened a rare bottle of wine, which turns out tasted as it should, but its destiny is now to be poured down the sink in the name of customer service.
To this person, a $400 bottle of wine may have meant nothing, but to me it was something special—a rare piece of history. We ended up selling it at the bar for about $25 a glass (or 75% off) and every guest who had it loved it that night. Of course, I had a taste of it for myself too.

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Palisade Restaurant

2601 West Marina Place, , WA 98199 (206) 285-1000 Visit Website

The Willows Inn

2579 West Shore Drive, Lummi Island,, WA 98262 (360) 758-2620