Don’t be intimidated (or worried about pronunciation)!
First off, don’t worry about trying to pronounce “sommelier.” Most folks call them a “somm,” or simply asking for “someone who can help with the wine list” is plenty!
Let them be your personal wine guide
Let them guide you, especially if you’re at all adventurous. Tell them what you’re ordering to eat, and ask if there’s anything they’re particularly excited about that might pair well with the dishes. If you have guidelines, by all means, share them (such as a preference for red or white, full-bodied vs. lean, etc.), but trust: letting them run wild will often yield the best results, like new discoveries or hidden gems that you might have otherwise overlooked.
Take the awkwardness out of $$
To subtly indicate a price range, have the somm look over your shoulder at the open wine list. Let your finger drift to the price of a bottle within your budget and ask for something “along these lines.”
If you bring a bottle, make sure it is something not already on their list. Most restaurants have a wine list online, or you can call ahead. It is always nice to order a little something extra (like a glass of sparkling or a cocktail to start) since most restaurants don’t make money on food sales alone.
Finally, you want to know the real secret? Be generous. Share a glass with the somm or your server. Leave the rest of the bottle for the chef and the kitchen. Send a taste down to the reservationist, who’s sweating it out on the phones in the basement and helped you get that last-minute table. You won’t soon be forgotten; after all, wine is meant to be shared, and the more the merrier!