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August 07, 2007

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I work in a tasting room...and probably shouldn't say which one, on account of the mixed responses all of these recent articles have been receiving. I can tell you all first hand, that when faced with the horrifically drunk, it can be very intimidating, especially when thirty or so who arrive via bus and are "dumped" by their driver before you even have a chance to come out and state your winery's policy on large groups.

We try to take to appointments; we try to schedule them early in the day so that these large groups won't arrive inebriated. The worst experience I had was group of ten 30-something's who took cheese (that was for sale) off the bar, began chowing down and followed this up by grabbing a bottle I left in front of them and "adjusting" their pours. This culminated in one of their party falling down a small flight of stairs and taking a display of postcards down with her. I cut them off well before I would have in a typical tasting, and frankly, they were too bombed to know the difference. Another taster who voluntarily helped me clean up the mess when they left remarked, "I just can't believe this!"

Bachelor parties get rowdy: I have been asked to pose in pictures, sign a ridiculous t-shirt from a group that was collecting "bar girls" signatures and if I'd like to blow off work and join the party despite the fact that I sport an authentic wedding band. Bachelorette parties, however, are far worse. Smaller tasters = lower tolerances. To any bride-to-be considering this option, they should know that it's now considered very low class.

As a fellow wine drinker as well as someone who has worked in various tasting rooms on the East end, I agree that some parties can get rowdy. I also agree that it can be intimidating to be faced with serving a group of patrons who most often do not know or care anything about wine...with the exception of how it makes them feel when consumed in large quantities.

I once was working behind the counter in a tasting and room and had a young guy come up to me and say while slamming his wine glass on the counter.."hit me again!" I "kindly" said to him that "this is not a bar and it is now time for you to leave." He and his party retreated.

I do however love going to the wineries with my friends and family and enjoying the beautiful scenery, friendly wine makers and tasting room employees, and most of all the treasure that is produced right here on Long Island, the wine.

If you can not appreciate the vino and the hours upon hours of time that go into making it, perhaps you should investigate the cheap buzz you can obtain from drinking Arbor Mist and wine coolers.

Lenn makes a point that I think is often overlooked - that, even with training, the staff in the tasting rooms may be ill-equipped to handle these situations. I'm pretty sure, for example, that in NY you can serve alcohol at 18 even though you can't drink it. Do we really think that even the most mature 18 year-old could possibly handle a drunk and rowdy middle-ager?

Sympathy for the staff is certainly in order. Even mature, well-equipped adults will run into difficulty dealing with drunks.

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