Thursday, September 17, 2009
No Wine List For You!
With its starkly modern new design, enomatic wine bar and so-hip-its-square new new, SD26 may be trying too hard to shake off the stuffy, staid image of its previous incarnation San Domenico. But I had to admit that its new wireless wine list caught my attention.
That's right, SD26 has dispensed with the traditional, leather-bound wine book in favor of a 9-by-5-inch gizmo that looks a lot like my son's DS player. You start out by pressing "red," "white," "rose" or whatever, then go on to country, region, varietal and other categories until you see what your choices are. There are helpful descriptions of various wine-growing areas and grapes, as well as tasting notes on the wines. The devices, of which SD26 has 30, contain about 1,000 wine choices.
Similar computerized wine lists have already been seen at restaurants like Adour and wine bars like Clo. But those were embedded into tabletops and bars. According to the wine director, Jason Ferris, SD26 is the only restaurant in New York to be equipped with the new hand-held objects. (I expect that exclusivity will last about a month or two.) Called Smartcellar, the machines were designed by Incentient.
Ferris said there are no paper wine lists, should a customer balk at using the computerized wine list. This surprised me. Many of San Domenico's patrons skewed elderly and I expect some of them will follow owner Tony May down to Madison Square. I can't imagine they're all cotton to having to undergo a computer tutorial in order to purchase wine with dinner. There are a lot of iPhone and blackberry users out there, true, but there are a lot of computer illiterates as well. (I lie somewhere in the middle.) Having to teach each and every customer how to use the Smartceller will be time-consuming and gum up the sommeliers' busy schedule. (The new SD26 is a huge place with many seats.) Me? I'd have a few paper wine lists stashed away somewhere just in case.
But, hey, my son's gonna lost that Smartceller. Next time I go to SD26, I'm handing that wine list right to him and have him pick something out. Now, if they could just put Lego Battles on the thing to keep the boy busy the rest of the evening, my wife and I could have a dinner in peace.