HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >

Bringing a Bottle to French Laundry

mhoffman May 10, 2007 04:32 PM

After years of dreaming, my girldfiend and I have secured a reservation at the French Laundry.

We've been saving a bottle of 1996 Veuve Clicquot Gold Label, and we are wondering if this is the appropriate oppurtunity to drink it. I have reservations about bringing wine to a restaurant with such a famed wine list, and that's why I'm asking for advice.

If it turns out that they do not have this wine on their list (I'll wait until a week before to ask since their list changes), is it appropriate for me to bring it?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. z
    zin1953 RE: mhoffman May 10, 2007 05:00 PM

    I think they have a great (albeit expensive) list. They also have an expensivbe corkage fee. But as long as the bottle is special to you -- and it's not on the list -- then by all means . . .

    1. ccbweb RE: mhoffman May 10, 2007 05:13 PM

      It'd be perfectly appropriate to bring a special bottle that isn't on the list to any restaurant that offers a corkeage option, The French Laundry included.

      1. r
        rickym13 RE: mhoffman May 10, 2007 05:20 PM

        take it! corkage is high but it will be much higher to order off the list. besides...you have been saving the bottle and no better place to open then FL!
        last time i went...i took 5 bottles and paid $250 for corkage

        13 Replies
        1. re: rickym13
          ccbweb RE: rickym13 May 10, 2007 05:35 PM

          5 bottles? Wow, I've never even heard of a restaurant that would allow someone to bring so many bottles. Most places I've seen have a limit of one or two bottles.

          1. re: ccbweb
            rickym13 RE: ccbweb May 10, 2007 07:42 PM

            yeah...there was 5 of us and i took somewhat aged bottles of

            cht mouton rothschild
            cht d'yqume
            peter michael pinot
            97' herb lamb vyd cab
            and one other that i can't remember....

            we were there for 5 hours and loved it every min! if you never had a "food hangover" you will get your first :)
            have a great time!

            1. re: rickym13
              ccbweb RE: rickym13 May 10, 2007 08:49 PM

              That's impressive on every level! Great set of bottles to take along and wonderful of the restaurant to welcome them.

              1. re: ccbweb
                RCC RE: ccbweb May 11, 2007 07:10 AM

                On one of our jaunts to FL, there were 6 of us (3 couples) and we took 3 bottles of pre-1990 Bordeaux. We were charged a total of $150 for the corkage fee.

                Their wine list is impressive and expensive, but we made sure that the ones we brought were not in their list (at the very least, the vintages).

              2. re: rickym13
                dinwiddie RE: rickym13 May 11, 2007 07:12 AM

                ricky, how was the KL?

                ccb, true some restaurants have limits on how many bottles they will permit for corkage, but there are others that do not. I belong to a wine group that regularly meets at different restaurants here in DC. Lately we have averaged 1.5 bottles per person, which means that we bring 15-20 bottles with us. Usually the limit is per table, but sometimes it is per person. However, here most restaurants do not care.

                1. re: dinwiddie
                  RCC RE: dinwiddie May 11, 2007 07:15 AM

                  I'm sorry, but, what is a KL?

                  1. re: RCC
                    whiner RE: RCC May 11, 2007 07:45 AM

                    Dinwiddie is assuming that the '97 Herb Lamb that Ricky had was a Karl Lawrence Herb Lamb Reserve. Perhaps, but I read that as HL -- Herb Lamb Vineyards Cabernet. They are similar as they are both sourced from Herb Lamb Vineyard and they have the same winemaker -- Michael Trujillo. But Mike is part owner or Karl Lawrence, whereas he is only the winemaker for Herb Lamb Vineyards... and Herb and Jennifer Lamb are the owners ofthe property the wines come from and have an arrangement with Karl Lawrence.

                    The limit thing is new and has only taken hold in the less-than-3-years I've lived in SF. I have often been able to negotiate a deal with restaurants that impose a limit, however.

                    1. re: whiner
                      RCC RE: whiner May 11, 2007 07:52 AM

                      I too have Karl Lawrence Herb Lamb cabs. But I know that Colgin also has (or had) Herb Lamb bottlings.

                      1. re: whiner
                        dinwiddie RE: whiner May 11, 2007 07:54 AM

                        I was making the assumption, and I should know better.

                        1. re: dinwiddie
                          whiner RE: dinwiddie May 11, 2007 07:56 AM


                          I forgive you

                          1. re: whiner
                            dinwiddie RE: whiner May 11, 2007 08:00 AM

                            The hell with forgiveness, how about sharing a bottle of HL with me the next time I make it to the city?

                            BTW, Michael asked me if I wanted to get on their single vineyard waiting list the last time I talked to him. I said that I had too many temptations as it was and I'd stick to the regular bottling. Might have been a dumb move, but the better half is already looking at me for buying my full allocation of Kosta Browne, I don't need another expensive temptation.

                            1. re: dinwiddie
                              whiner RE: dinwiddie May 11, 2007 08:03 AM

                              Make it out here and we'll talk! But I'm not averse to the idea...

                    2. re: dinwiddie
                      rickym13 RE: dinwiddie May 11, 2007 11:25 AM

                      97' herb lamb vyd cab was great! this wine was not your typical 97' fruit bomb and will age very nice imo. this wine was all about balance with very long finish. would love to try another one but it won't be for years....since we only get 2 bottles each year. i think 97' was their first vintage and only made 50 caese...i think they are up to 75 cases now.

              3. m
                mhoffman RE: mhoffman May 11, 2007 10:48 AM

                Thanks for the encouragement, all. As you might have surmised, I am extremely green when if comes to wine. I love wine, and try to learn all I can, but I'm one year out of college, and I live in a small apartment on a grad student budget. (My girlfriend has actually studied wine formally, and will probably continue her studies in the future.) Cooking, eating, and drinking well are my greatest non-professional passions, buy my wine collecting days are (hopefully) in my future. I've never actually tasted vintage champagne (or if I did it was before I was old enough to care), and my gf has been saving this bottle for a special occasion.

                Okay, okay, I'm rambling. Just wanted to introduce myself a bit to the CH wine cabal. I hope that I can hang around these parts despite my inexperience. As some of you may have learned when you started out, the wine world can be intimidating to the uninitiated and the impecunious.

                4 Replies
                1. re: mhoffman
                  ChefJune RE: mhoffman May 11, 2007 11:24 AM

                  just calling your attention to what several posters mentioned within their comments: Make sure this wine is NOT on the FL list. If it is, they won't let you open it.

                  1. re: ChefJune
                    ccbweb RE: ChefJune May 11, 2007 11:31 AM

                    Nor should they. That's the first rule of taking wine to a restaurant.

                    1. re: ccbweb
                      mhoffman RE: ccbweb May 11, 2007 11:44 AM

                      As I noted in my original post,

                      1. re: mhoffman
                        ccbweb RE: mhoffman May 11, 2007 12:09 PM

                        Yes, sorry, i was just agreeing with ChefJune, didn't mean to imply that you weren't aware of it and you were quite clear about it in your OP.

                2. Beach Chick RE: mhoffman May 11, 2007 11:46 AM

                  I wish I knew that before I spent a fortune at the French Laundry..
                  The wine list is very impressive and very expensive and to bring a 96 Veuve Clicquot Gold Label will be delicious as a start to your 9 course meal.
                  Have a wonderful time!

                  1. c
                    chickstein RE: mhoffman May 11, 2007 01:08 PM

                    It is Napa Valley for Pete's sake.

                    It is perfectly acceptable to bring wine to the FL, but like all of the other posters have warned, make sure the wine is not offered on their list.

                    1. s
                      SteveT RE: mhoffman May 11, 2007 02:08 PM

                      The one missing piece of advise is that you can drop it off ahead of time -- say earlier in the day. That way you can have them chill it, and even enjoy a glass while you review the menu.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: SteveT
                        RCC RE: SteveT May 11, 2007 02:16 PM

                        Needless to say, if it is a wine that you want decanted in advance, you can have that done, too.

                        1. re: SteveT
                          mhoffman RE: SteveT May 11, 2007 03:14 PM

                          That's a lovely idea. We were planning on arriving early. Our reservation's at 8:45 and we're hoping to see the kitchen in full swing, if they'll let us back there.

                        2. d
                          daclaw RE: mhoffman May 11, 2007 02:59 PM

                          Honestly, corkage there is probably as much as the cost of that wine, or close to it.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: daclaw
                            mhoffman RE: daclaw May 11, 2007 03:13 PM

                            Corkage is $50. That's not cheap as corkages go (from what I've seen), but I'm pretty darn sure it's a fraction of the cost of a bottle of vintage champagne at FL.

                            1. re: daclaw
                              Panini Guy RE: daclaw May 12, 2007 07:06 AM

                              You are correct. It's currently $50.99 online from Raeders.

                              I'd have to think the staff at the FL would be very gracious to this couple despite their desire to bring this bottle.

                              That said, bringing in this particular bottle would announce to the staff that the expense of this dinner is a reach and likely a one-time only event due to the cost. That information could work for the couple or against them at most restaurants (would be an indicator one might not be able to afford - or knowledgeable enough to know - to tip well).

                              However, at the FL, it won't matter to the kitchen or the waitstaff - they're simply above that.

                              Personally I wouldn't do a champagne of any sort at the FL but this isn't my fantasy. If that's what they want to do...

                              1. re: Panini Guy
                                ccbweb RE: Panini Guy May 12, 2007 02:01 PM

                                First, "service charge" is included in the price of the meal. So, the staff really shouldn't care about whether something announces to them that the people might not be "knowledgeable enough to know to tip well." As you note, at a restaurant like TFL, the staff should be providing the best possible service at all times, period.

                                A special bottle for a special meal makes sense to me. Price isn't the only measure of good or appropriate.

                                1. re: Panini Guy
                                  TonyO RE: Panini Guy May 13, 2007 08:03 AM

                                  Or maybe they just might be gracious, pull the cork and be grateful to have a couple spending a few hundred dollars while enjoying a wine that is special to them no matter what the cost (not that a $50 bottle is "cheap" by any means , we are not talking about a 1.5 l Yellowtail here). Personally if I felt I was being "judged" pertaining to my ability to afford a dining experience based on the bottle of wine I brought, I would reward the staff for their keen senses and tip accordingly for their obnoxious attitudes.

                                  1. re: TonyO
                                    Bill Hunt RE: TonyO May 13, 2007 08:08 PM

                                    You are right. It is about the enjoyment of the moment. If that is improved with a BYOW, then so be it.

                                    Because I would be flying to Yountville (actually SFO, then driving), I do not think I would be likely to bring a bottle. We do "special" bottles on the pool-level, all of the time, and have not yet made the dent in the cellar, that I would like.


                              2. ellaystingray RE: mhoffman May 18, 2007 10:05 PM

                                Two things.

                                1. Take the bottle (as repeatedly noted, as long as it is not on the list...you've already noted you know this). Let them know ahead of time. Be prepared to pay significant corkage understanding that you will get excellent glassware and service of your wine and that the importance of the wine to the two of you exceeds the price of corkage-- even in this case.. AND, from multiple visits to FL under all kinds of circumstances, I feel confident in saying you will have a extraordinary experience. Any percieved "porblem" with bringing in a bottle will not be reflected in the service. As some one else said--they are simply above that.

                                2. Please do stick around the board. I am new to the board as well though not particularly new to the wine business. But you are the reason some of us still can pay our mortgages and will be the reason we can do so in the future. So please hang out and keep drinking!


                                3 Replies
                                1. re: ellaystingray
                                  clayfu RE: ellaystingray May 19, 2007 02:08 PM

                                  out of curiousity, not just at FL but any restaurant you may bring a wine in... what exactly happens when the wine needs to be decanted? especially if your wine is 10+ years old not too many people want to be drinking it straight out of the bottle...

                                  or do they?

                                  1. re: clayfu
                                    rickym13 RE: clayfu May 19, 2007 03:45 PM

                                    the nice establishment will always offer to decant the wine for young and old bottles

                                    1. re: rickym13
                                      whiner RE: rickym13 May 21, 2007 08:05 AM

                                      Agreed. And for young wines, I have been known to decant for a few hours at home, pour the wine back into the bottle and bring that.

                                Show Hidden Posts