SmartCellar, developed by the Plainview-based software company Incentient, is used at dozens of restaurants around the country, including SD26 and South Gate in Manhattan. But last week, Rare650 became the only Long Island restaurant to have it.
Rare650's sommelier, Richard Dorney, said he did not fear being replaced by a computer. "I make all the decisions; and in the long term, it's going to help me by helping my guests expand what they consider their regular selections," he said.
At dinner last week, our waiter proffered an iPad along with our menus, and I hungrily (thirstily?) started tapping away. With the iPad, you can view wines organized by name, by country, by grape, by price. Red wines are further divided into such helpful subcategories as "lighter and fuller," or "rounder, softer and more medium-bodied." And in many cases, you can see what the bottle or, at least, the label looks like.
Dorney pointed out that an electronic wine list is much easier to update than a printed one. "I can update it from my iPhone," he said. "It's as easy as updating your Facebook status." Soon, the restaurant's wine inventory will be automatically linked to the list so that "when the last bottle is sold, it automatically comes off the list. There will no more of the waiter saying, 'I apologize, we're out of that wine.' "
Over the next few months, Dorney intends to utilize more of SmartCellar's capabilities. Right now, clicking on some of the wine entries brings up a "more information" button, but most of that information is pretty standard wine description. It would be useful to the diner to be able to learn more about particular vintners or regions or varietals.
Then, too, the best, most technologically advanced wine list in the world can't compete with a knowledgeable human. When I asked the iPad which wine would go well with my eel-crab-mango roll appetizer and Dover sole entree, it was silent.