Editor's note: This excerpt was taken from The Business Traveler Guide to Washington D.C. from Entrepreneur Press.
One challenge many business travelers face is choosing an appropriate wine selection to go nicely with entrees or desserts being ordered. Not only do you want to impress the people you're dining with (such as important clients), but you want to order quality wine that's within your budget.
Andy Myers is the sommelier at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington D.C. In addition to managing the hotel's massive wine collection, one of his responsibilities is to help guests dining at the hotel's restaurants choose the best wine to accompany their meals.
"Ideally, the restaurant has a sommelier. If they do, then ask for that person, give them a basic budget for the evening, a feeling for how much your guests are likely to drink, and a rough idea of what kind of wines you like--fruity, earthy, full-bodied, light, etc. That'll solve most of your problems as a good sommelier likes to have a clear, basic profile of the table, budget and drinking habits. Using this information, we love it when you trust us to make the experience great," said Myers.
If the restaurant you're dining at doesn't have a sommelier, Myers stated, "Assume that most people put away about half a bottle of wine during dinner. This will help when figuring out how much to order. Next, as you'll never please everyone at the table, go for wines that work with lots of flavors. I recommend Sauvignon Blancs, Dry Rieslings and Chenin Blancs for whites and Pinot Noirs and Rhone Varietals (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre) for reds."
Diners at upscale restaurants should know that even if a sommelier is not available, most restaurants train their wait staff on how to assist guests in choosing appropriate wines. "Review the wine list to gather some ideas and then ask your server or manager what they think," added Meyers.
It's important to understand that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to pairing wines. "Very basically speaking, with beef, go with big, chewy, tannic Cabernets. Go to California if you like fruit, and to Bordeaux if you want really dry. When ordering chicken, go with whatever wine you want, such as a white Burgundy, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, or Oregon Pinot Noir. Everything goes with chicken, as it has a little flavor of its own to get in the way. Pairing wine with fish and seafood dishes is a bit tougher. For white wines, go with quirky Italian wines, such as Vermentino, Vernaccia, Falanghina or Orvieto," explained Myers.
Since you might not want to admit to the people you're dining with that you know little about wine, Myers recommends pulling your server or the restaurant's sommelier aside to have an open and honest conversation about your wine needs, taste and budget. "Ask for their help and utilize their recommendations to ensure the best dining experience possible."