A bottle of Pinot Noir is presented with a professional flourish.

“This is one of those wines where you get layers,” says the waiter. “There’s chocolate, dark berries, and then you get, like, the forest floor.”

Dempsey considers.

“How are the Bordeaux doing?”

The candle has burned. Shrill voices and laughter drifting over the hedge are beginning to drown out the sotto voce violin music in the garden. Dempsey’s semi-secret spot is about to be overtaken. Waiting for the check to arrive, the actor takes measure of where he’s been and where he’s intent on going.

“[Grey’s] has given me so much confidence. I went through five years where I didn’t get anything from auditions. You start to think, Well, I’m not attractive, I’m not a good actor. But I never gave up. I just accepted this is who I am. I’m not George Clooney, I’m not Brad Pitt, but I’m uniquely who I am.”

His BlackBerry rings.

“Hey, we’re almost done,” he tells his wife. “I know, I know, I know. Are you home? All right. How’s T? I’ll be home as soon as I can.”

Dempsey pushes his chair back, stands, and jingles the keys to the silver Lotus (on permanent loan from the car company) he’ll drive home to his waiting family. He stares at his uncharacteristically silent PDA.

There is no final word from his team in Mexico yet.

“I still don’t know if we’ll finish third or fourth or where,” he says. “I have a lot of pride and ego wrapped up in this. I want to win.” And with the warm, impish smile that helps keep Grey’s Nielsen ratings soaring, he adds, “But I want to win and be a gentleman, too.”