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Snooth User: Craig Bilodeau

The World of Wine - Is Perception Reality?

Posted by Craig Bilodeau, May 3, 2012.

This is a topic that I have been stewing on for a couple of days.  This past weekend, I went to a tasting event that had a dress code... unbeknownst to me.  After trying to remain discrete in my Polo shirt and dressy shorts, I was not so kindly asked to leave.  The event took place at a private club that I was not familiar with, and I should have known to check what the dress code was likely to be.  All that said, I do get the impression that there is a contingent of the wine world that perceives the enjoyment of wine is an avocation for the well-heeled.  What are other's thoughts on this and how has perception changed over time, particularly in the last decade or so?

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Reply by Matthijs Visser, May 3, 2012.

Throughout the tastings I've been to I've seen both ends of the spectrum: ones where a fair amount of snobbery ruined the occasion and others where attendees were having far too much to drink and a bit more reverence for the wines being poured would have been fitting. I've found it takes a bit of trial and error to find establishments that offer a fun and relaxing athmosphere in which you can fully appreciate the wines being poured. Life's a journey!

Reply by napagirl68, May 4, 2012.

In California and Oregon, you would have NOT gotten kicked out, unless it was a DESIGNATED black tie evening affair, most commonly a high monied fund raiser that came with dinner/dancing.

I have actually overdressed for tasting events and felt silly.  Many here in CA are very casual, and usually wear dark, casual clothing to prevent staining.  Again, unless it is billed as a black tie event, almost anything goes here in CA

Where was your event held?

Reply by JonDerry, May 4, 2012.

Would agree with that for the most part NG...

That's real unfortunate Craig, sorry to hear. Doesn't sound like very good event organizers, but when it comes to dress it can get tricky in any number of arenas, outside of wine. However, no real getting around it, wine appreciation at a certain level tends to involve mostly the well-to-do.

Reply by Craig Bilodeau, May 4, 2012.

The event was held at the Park City Club in Dallas.  I had never been there before and knew I was in trouble when I got off the elevators on the 17th floor and was greeted by low lit foyer with mahogany paneling.  Again, I should have called ahead and checked, but I was busy with work right up until I left and did not have time to plan accordingly.  One thing for sure, the event was certainly not billed as a black-tie affair.  I guess that the organizers assumed that Park City Club's reputation and associated dress requirements were well known enough amongst those that would be attending the event.  And they were.  Most were dressed in either business casual or business formal.  Some even dressed to the nines and did not look out of place.  I was an outlier.

Reply by JonDerry, May 4, 2012.

In my younger days, a colleg friend and I made the hike back down to San Diego for another college buddie's wedding who we hadn't seen in a couple years. I convinced my friend that designer jeans would be fine for this event, except my friend didn't have designer jeans and looked worse than I did, he also had to pick up a white shirt from a thrift store on the way down, which made us pretty well late, and the shirt wasn't such a great find anyway.

So the guy's wedding we were to attend, he never seemed the fancy type, but apparently his wife was, bringing in a bunch of snobby east coasters in with the party. When we walked in we were all but completely ignored by everyone except the few friends we had. Even my ex-college roomate was dressed to the nines, first time I'd seen anything like that from him!

It was a lesson learned in a way, but luckily, another part of me didn't mind the failed experiment. The people there were from a different world, and the friends we were reunited with were also, in a way.

Reply by Craig Bilodeau, May 4, 2012.

What about overseas?  How has the "Old World" adapted to the reality that fairly good wines are now accessible to the middle class?

Reply by zufrieden, May 4, 2012.

The event was a TASTING.  Remind the officious of that fact and see what happens.  If you are no threat from the hygeine side of things, then what is the problem? If that does not work,  pull a switchblade (just kidding).


Reply by shsim, May 5, 2012.

Wow that is a bummer Craig, I never had such an experience like that. But then I haven had that much experience. It is probably a venue thing. Tastings here are pretty chill even when it is a well-profiled event. Even in Europe, it has never been a high end thing (except recently), wine on every table was very common when I travelled there. Very decent prices even at restaurants. It also depends on where you go of course.  

Reply by edwilley3, May 7, 2012.

I think that the true enthusiast community doesn't care.  However, for a venue like that, you are likely to encounter snobby folks.  I have had some terrific informal tastings with friends, which I highly recommend as superior.

On Friday, we opened an Alfred Gratien Cuvee Paradis and a 1997 Arrowood cab.  Delicious.  Then we popped the cork on a 1998 Wairau botrytised riesling. Tasty.

Reply by GregT, May 7, 2012.

"All that said, I do get the impression that there is a contingent of the wine world that perceives the enjoyment of wine is an avocation for the well-heeled."

That's true. Pierre Lurton from Cheval Blanc for example, is on record as saying exactly that. The director of Ausone as well, and numerous others. It works for them as much as it harms the industry in general. Stupid.

But that's different from the people at a club, who can make whatever kind of rule they want for their events, whether wine tasting or bocce ball. I don't think that's particularly cool either, but that's their right and to some degree I can understand not wanting to hang out with a lot of people in ripped t-shirts and spandex that's a few sizes too small. Too bad they weren't classier about your presence tho. 

This, however, is quite erroneous:

"How has the "Old World" adapted to the reality that fairly good wines are now accessible to the middle class?"

They've been accessible for centuries.  Clean water is a more recent phenomenon - before better sanitation became available, wine was what you drank. The poorest peasants had wine because they made it.  Not all of it had to be awful either.

Reply by amour, May 10, 2012.

What a pity tasting should have nothing at all to do with dress...I feel strongly about were not scuffy, you were reasonably well-dressed, by any universal standard, and I am sure that you smelt clean!!!

The Club should have accepted you, perhaps with a short caution!!!!!

(...a bit of a pun on short and shorts!!!!!!!)

For all you know, the guests  did not find you a problem in your clean shorts!!!

Since we all want to share your wine notes, kindly get it right each and everytime so that you could participate and report your findings to us who anxiously await wine tasting notes!!!


Reply by Anna Savino, May 10, 2012.

Hi Craig! I live in Piemonte Italy and I find that often the winemakers themselves are the most casual! Sometimes even in tracksuits..hehe... Casual in Piemonte is definitely OK and I agree with edwilley3 that the true winelovers shouldn't have to worry about how they dress. Obviously, for "events" I think Italians tend to dress up stylishly but no totally decked out! what a great topic!

Reply by EMark, May 10, 2012.

I consider myself to be as egalitarian as the next guy (or gal), but in looking at Craig's unfortunate experience I have to ask about context.

Was the central focus of the event to have people taste and learn about wine, or was the central focus a social event (or political, or charitable) in which the wine tasting was secondary?

A couple months ago I saw an invitation to a wine event in Beverly Hills.  Two comical things about the invitation:

  • It was an evening event, but they made it clear that you could not plan to dive into the hors d'oeuvres and call that dinner.  (That almost makes me think that this event was more about tasting wine.)
  • They were pretty blatant about their dress code:  "Dress to Impress."  The unlikelihood of me driving cross-town in evening traffic meant that there was no chance that I was going to attend.  But, also, I know there is no way that I could dress to impress in Beverly Hills.
Reply by Craig Bilodeau, May 10, 2012.

The event was promoted as a tasting, with representatives from wineries/distributors present to talk about the wines that they had available.  There were hors d'oeuvres available, but most people were eating limited amounts and spent time tasting and talking with others.  There is no doubt that there was a social element to the event, as many people seemed to know each other and shuffled off to an adjacent lounge area where people could sit and talk.  I get the impression that many of the attendees were members of the Park City Club where the event was hosted.

Reply by EMark, May 10, 2012.

Boy, I have to agree with you on that one, Craig.  When they say that winery and distributor reps are going to be there to talk about their wines, I would conclude that this event is marketing oriented and societal expectations would have been somewhat relaxed.  But I would have been wrong.

I guess you just have to chalk that one up to lesson learned.

Reply by outthere, May 10, 2012.

I don't understand why anyone hasn't touched on the possibility that the "club" has a tacit dress code that Craig was unaware of. Regardless of what kind of event it was the place where it was held speaks to the order of dress for the occasion. 

Reply by EMark, May 10, 2012.

When in doubt, go for the obvious.  I think OT has cracked the code.

Reply by Craig Bilodeau, May 10, 2012.

OT - I think that you are correct.  I am sure that the club did have a tacit dress code and that most people in attendance, since it they were club members, dressed according to the known requirement.  Unfortunately, since I am not a club member and there was no mention of a dress code on the invitation, I  ended up the odd man out, so to speak.  You can bet that I will be inquiring about the dress code for ANY tasting event that I plan to go to around the Dallas area.  As EMark aptly stated, lesson learned.

Reply by jackwerickson, Nov 6, 2012.

Have to speak to this I have stewed on it long enough. Sigels had another tasting last nite there were 50 cabs to be tasted mostly 09s the average price of a bottle was $75 there was also hors d'oeuvres,which was all high end.. It was held at the Tower Club which is a private club it however is not sponsored by the club Sigels rents the space for this event of which they hold three a year,having said that most of the attendees are not members of the club but customers of Sigels. I had met Craig on Snooth and since he lived in Dallas ask to meet him at this event and we did,he set at our table and not one time did he mention the dress problem.I am highly offended that he portrayed it as a bunch of wine snobs who belonged to the Tower Club. I have attended all of their tastings as well as those they have at their stores.If the impression was left that it was nothing but club members and snobs then one should look to themselves.  Also it is the clubs dress policy not Sigels and he was allowed to atten and partake of the wine and food.

Reply by jackwerickson, Nov 6, 2012.

Forgot to include the price for this tasting is $50

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