Customers upset they unknowingly accepted $400 bottle of wine

March 1, 2013 8:47:50 PM PST
Ordering wine at a restaurant can be daunting, especially if it has a very long wine list. A couple from Redwood City was selecting from a wine list full of exotic labels. And they mistakenly wound up picking a rare vintage that was way over their budget.

You've probably had this happen... you order a bottle of wine and the waiter presents it before opening. So are you really paying attention to which wine they're showing you? This couple was so busy socializing they did not notice they were served an exotic wine with a hefty price tag.

Susan Davison of Redwood City recalled a night out with friends at the popular Zibibbo restaurant in Palo Alto.

"Four people wanted wine so we decided to get a bottle," said Susan.

That's when the evening took a surprising twist. Zibibbo's wine list has over 500 wines, most from exotic regions, and most with foreign wineries.

"My husband was looking at the list and was kind of looking at some Italian wines that we weren't familiar with," said Susan.

When the waitress came, Susan's husband Mike just pointed to the wine they wanted. It cost $52.

"He does not speak Italian, so he just pointed," said Susan.

They were almost finished with dinner when the waitress came back and presented the wine. Mike said that's what they ordered.

"So, she opened the bottle and poured it and we drank it and it was only after we got the bill that we realized there was a problem," said Susan.

A problem indeed! Instead of $52, the couples were charged $400 for that bottle of wine. They told the waitress there was a mistake, but she said no, they just drank a $400 bottle of wine.

"We thought she had served us the wine we ordered. We didn't realize that she had served us a totally different bottle of wine," said Susan.

The restaurant manager came out told them sorry, they had to pay $400. After all, they accepted the wine and drank it.

"They bring it to the table and we were so busy talking we didn't really pay attention to what she was saying," said Susan.

It turns out they had ordered a 2009 Barbera D'Alba from Piedmont, Italy. The waitress brought them a 1996 Ornellaia Masseto Tenuta Dell Merlot.

So who's responsible?

"There's no question here that the restaurant made a mistake, but the real question is, did the diners also make a mistake?" said ABC7 legal analyst Dean Johnson.

Johnson says it's not clear cut. However, he says diners do bear responsibility when they accept a wine.

Susan offered to pay just $150 -- the original price paid for the wine 17 years ago. The restaurant declined.

"The next night my husband and I were watching the news and Michael Finney came on," said Susan.

Susan contacted 7 On Your Side. We called Zibibbo. The manager did not want to go on camera but did tell us admittedly the wine list was unfamiliar to them. But "We always show the label, present the wine and present the grape varietal, specifically to prevent a situation like this. This is an unfortunate situation for everyone. The wine is gone, the guests are unhappy."

However, after that, Zibibbo did agree to charge only the original $150 price for the wine -- and after all, they did get to taste a very special wine. They just didn't know it.

"She opened it, we drank it, it was lovely, but we had no idea what we were drinking," said Susan.

The mistake might have happened because the ID numbers for these two wines were nearly identical on the wine list. Because of this incident, the restaurant has now changed how waiters serve wine. They will now point to the name on the wine list before pulling out the cork.

We'd like to thank Zibibbo for refunding part of the cost for that wine. By the way, that expensive wine has gone way up in value. We found it online for as much as $550 per bottle.


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