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Jun 29, 2007 06:45 AM

OK to bring my own wine from Trader Joe's? [moved from LA board]

Thanks for all the helpful responses. One ancillary question here. I am not a big wine drinker; in fact I didn't drink at all for five years and now do only slightly. I'd like to enjoy some wine with this meal, but don't want to spend an arm or a leg. I'm considering bringing in a bottle from Trader Joe's and paying the $20 corkage, but I'm a little embarrassed about the thought of bringing in two buck chuck. Any ideas on how much I should spend on my own bottle?

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  1. Well, if you spend at least $20, you won't feel like the corkage is ripping you off. Truthfully, you can get a good wine for les than $20. I reccomend a reisling, or non-california chardonnay, maybe a gwurtz-you want maybe a mid-range white or lighter to atch with whatever may come.

    Dr Loosen has some good reisling.

    i also like a wine called St. M by loosen and Chateau san Michelle. Lietz Dragonstone is good and affordable.

    Alma Rosa has some very nice wines-organic!

    Go to a good wine shop like Vendome, Red Carpet, Winehouse, Silverlake Wine or such, tell them where you're eating, what you'r willing to pay, what you like to drink-and they'll find you something nice for a price you can afford-and no one will look down on you for drinking what you LIKE! That is the truth behind true love of wine-drink what oyu like, price isn't aways an indicator of flavor!

    Also, you CAN buy wines by the glass at Providence, and just ask the very knowledgeable sommalier to pict one or two wines to go. this costs more than a bottle, looking at the percentage of $$ to amount of wine-but it can be a good option.

    1. Very bad form to do something like that. Think about it from the restaurant's perspective. They put a lot of time into a well-thought wine list. They hire competent staff and train them. They use nice stemware and then you decide to go to Trader Joe's to buy a $10 bottle of Perrin Cotes du Rhone just to save a few bucks with the corkage?

      My suggestion would be, tell the waiter or wine person your story: I don't drink that much but I do enjoy some wine with the meal. Can you suggest something in the lower price range that would pair nicely with what I am ordering?

      Corkage is a privilege not a right. Some restaurants in other parts of the country don't even allow it... at any cost.

      The flip side is that if you have a special bottle that you would really like to enjoy at a great restaurant, paying the corkage is fine. Your bottle cost isn't of much concern. You might have gotten a great deal on a top-notch Bordeaux close-out. Who would know...

      17 Replies
      1. re: sebi

        I have brought in my own wine, all cositng less than they sell wine for (considering the huge bottle mark up) and the sommalier and staf were only too thrilled to have me drink it they even tasted bottles they had less experience with.

        Heck, we once brought a bottle of my Husband's Home Made beer, and they took some back to the kitchen.

        Corkage is offered to patrons so the restaurant makes some money off your consumption of wine there. Bring whatever you like.

        Nice stemware and trained staff are grea, but you can feel fine bringing your favorite plonk to any place. Any sommalier who looks down on you is NOT a good sommalier.

        In fact, anyone who feels bringing what you want to a fine restaraunt and paying corkage is worng is in bad form themselves.

        1. re: Diana

          Sorry, but you are wrong, Diana.

          Buying a cheap bottle at Trader Joe's, which is what the poster wrote, is not cool. I too bring my own wine to restaurants when it makes sense and often go to wine-friendly corkage restaurants. But buying a cheap bottle and bringing it to a nice restaurant to avoid their markup is pathetic.

          How would you like it if everyone did that and then your favorite restaurant no longer allowed corkage?

          1. re: sebi

            Sebi, we have to agree to disagree totally.

            Now, I rarely buy2 buck chuck, but I have brought wines of a lower price range to places. I have brought very expensive wines places.

            Why would any restaraunt stop allowing corkage? restaraunts amrk up wine so much, they make bundle off those who drink a glass or a bottle in house.

            It isn't Pathetic. Some top rated wines cost less than $15. they may not eb the "in" brand or varietal, but they are solidly good wines. Most sommaliers are wine lovers, and interested in good wines. Most restaraunts dedicate themselves to giving the customer a good time.

            Also, I don;t see how it is a financial loss- Say the OP DOES bring in two buck chuck. he paid $2. Providence charges $20 to open and pour it. IF the OP was mainly looking to have wine but save $, and could not bring a bottle, he would buy a good but inexpensive few glasses, and they may not make $20.
            Cheap bottle or no, whatever the cost of what the OP brings in, Providence has made $20.

            heck, they don't charge corkage on Mondays, how worried are we they'll stop over cheap bottles?
            I think you're looking at this the wrong way.

            He's already buying a tasting menu for two- thats over $200 without tax and tip he wants to bring his own wine and give his girlfriend a good time. He's not avoiding markup so much as saving a little money for himself so he can spend more on the meal. I KNOW Providence has no problem with this, I've been there a few times. They love to provide good service and a great dining experience, and like catering to their customer's needs.

            If my favorite restaraunt stopped allowing corkage because people were bringing in what they wanted, it would not be my favorite restaraunt any longer, because I'd feel their action was silly, unporfessional, and uncalled for. They're getting wine money, anyow.

            In fact, they've figured out how to get someone to pay an extrea $20-$30 to drink a wine that cost less to buy! Now who do you think is really ripping off whom?

            1. re: Diana

              Sorry Diana but again you miss my point. I like bringing my own wines to restaurants. And I do it but my reply was to the person who posted that he wanted to buy something from Trader Joe's and he mentioned being embarassed by Two Buck Chuck. So here is my my argument, please read carefully: to buy an $8 Cline Zinfandel at Trader Joe's to avoid paying restaurant prices for wine is wrong.

              And what do you know about restaurant business? The wine markups were originally put into place for a restaurant to have a chance at survival. The failure rate for most is over 50% in the first year. It is very difficult to actually make money with their overhead, small margins and staff.

              So when someone touts the idea of buying and bringing a cheap wine to avoid markups, this is like a slap in the face. Please understand, you may think that Providence has no problem with bringing in wine but I'm 100% sure that if you asked any restaurant person privately if it was cool to bring an $8 Trader Joe wine to avoid wine list markups, they would say no.

              1. re: sebi

                " to buy an $8 Cline Zinfandel at Trader Joe's to avoid paying restaurant prices for wine is wrong."

                no it isn't. he pays $8 plus the corkage. the restaurant gets the full corkage fee. THAT'S WHY THE INSTILLED A FEE IN THE FIRST PLACE. he ends up paying $28, $30, in some places more-for an $8 bottle of wine.

                Corkage is so the customer can bring their own bottle, and the dining establishment gets paid.

                Let's think bout this. Say the OP was given an expensive bottle of Chateau La Fitte Rothchilde or Chateau la Tour as a gift, and brought it to Providence, paying $20 for corkage. HE SPENT NOTHING on the bottle, but the corkage. heck, that's even cheaper than two buck chuck. Would you still object?

                If the restaraunt cared how much the original bottle cost, they wouldn't charge corkage in the first place! They don't know, and don't care how much you paid for the wine you bring in.

                Providence and otehr places didn't charge corkage for "survival" Restaraunts make money more from the food than the wine/bar. they charge corkage because they can allow the customer to bring in hi or her own wine, and still make money off of it, as the diner is not buying wine from them they do miss out on a sale. ut they let you go in and drink just water, for free, no problem.

                I have asked The sommalier at Providence, as well as the ones at Il Tiramisu, Spago, Cafe Bizou ($2, corkage, no limit!) If I could bring in beer my husband made, wine our friends made and wine from my cellar.

                NOT ONE PLACE HAD ANY PROBLEM. I just got off the phone with Providence (I asked the host and manager, the sommalier isn't in till four. he laughed and said "How absrd! Of Course we wouldn't mind you bringing in an $8 bottle from trader Joe's. Why We've had people (and this makes me giggle) bring in two bcuk chuck. we have a corkage policy, $20. bring whatever you want."

                Their number is (323) 460-4170. Call them yourself, if you don't believe me.

                1. re: Diana

                  I'm bored of this. You are wrong. Your statement that restaurants make more money off of food is also wrong. Do some research. Food markups do vary based on overhead but they will never be better than wine markups.

                  As far as calling all of these restaurants to poll this idea of bring Two Buck Chuck. Of course they will tell you that. It's their business to please the customer.

                  There will always be people like you who overreach and take advantage of a situation. And then the rest of us will suffer when you burn it out.

                  1. re: sebi

                    Sebi, what are you so angry at, or rather whom? There is validity in both arguments here. I know for a fact Providence doesn't care whether you bring in a bottle or not. If you do, they make their $20.00, great. If you don't, then odds are you are going to order some alcoholic beverage off of their menu and thus they are making money.
                    Providence is NOT like a lot of other restaurants in that they are clamoring to up-sell their patrons on top shelf liquors, beers or wines. Providence is doing just fine. In fact, I think they respect their clientele enough to offer them the 10% discount on the worst table, the no-corkage Mondays, and some flexibility in their tasting menus that they offer.
                    I do agree with you, however, that smaller restaurant operators and start-ups don't have the capital backing of a Michael Cimarusti and thus are more prone to live by the sword, die by the sword of alcohol sales, and not only that but the alcohol-to-food sales ratio.
                    I also agree with you that restaurants do make more money off of alcohol vs. food...that's correct in terms of the % of net profit to the operator, but in most instances, that's not correct in terms of the overall volume of dollars generated by alcohol vs. food.
                    Just my two cents.

                    1. re: peanut112

                      I'm just having fun with Diane.

                      But it does bother me when someone tries to avoid restaurant wine lists with a cheapie bottle. It is not a question of what one can do or what cannot do. Or whether the restaurant encourages it when asked. Or even if their policy were to specifically state "we don't care, even if you bring Two Buck Chuck."

                      To me it is more of a common decency thing. It would be like if a restaurant offered a free dessert but instead of accepting the generosity you then asked for some free 1977 Port as well.

                      1. re: sebi

                        Fair enough...a little Friday fun is good for a laugh.

                        I totally see your point of things at smaller covers, maybe more casual restaurants, and yes maybe it's a little double-edged sword of me to say, but I know Providence doesn't care, and maybe they should, maybe they shouldn't....but why should I be forced to drink their wine when I happen to have a fabulous bottle I'd like to enjoy with Michael's cuisine, or Adrian's desserts...or even if it is two-buck chuck, it's my $20.00 corkage and my $200+ dinner, so it's my privilege...not my right, but my privilege.

                        1. re: sebi

                          i fail to see the logic of why it would be better in any way for the restaurant if i showed up with an expensive bottle of wine and paid $20 corkage than if i showed up with a cheap bottle of wine and paid $20 corkage.

                          obviously, many restaurants don't feel you 'owe' them more than their corkage fee on wine served or they wouldn't have instituted that particular corkage fee.
                          if the restaurant needs more money from alchohol, they can either raise their corkage fee or raise their markup on wine, or paradoxically, they might be able to raise the volume of wine sold and possibly raise the total amount of markup gained, if they lowered their markup on wine.

                          in any case, whatever wine you bring won't make a difference in terms of restaurant survival--the corkage is the same bottle for bottle.

                          1. re: sebi

                            Suuuure you are, sebi. :)

                            Listeen to what Westside girl and I are saying. Providence is above hoding your wine against you, unlike some.

                            "But it does bother me when someone tries to avoid restaurant wine lists with a cheapie bottle."

                            What bothers me is when an honest guy wants to get a good meal for his girl, and is more into the food than wine, and wants a little good, less expensive wine (not a cheapie bottle, as any wine person knows, great things can cost very few dollars) and gets dressed down for it by someone with a wine-snob attitude.

                            Jono, bring whatever you want to Providence, you will be welcomed with the open arms and good service of a truly fine restaraunt! They will treat you right and not be "holier than thou" by holding your wine chose against your. Fear not!

                            If some other odd diners are there. and turn their noses up at you as the one above, shake your head and relaize just how silly they are.

                            II hope you and your girlfriened have the most marvelous time!

                        2. re: sebi

                          Hee hee, sebi, you didn't call, did you? go on, call. :) Call Spago, too. Call any place that has a corkage policy! I'm ot worried. They'll all tell you the same thing. Be as bored as you want.

                          Restarant make more off of food because they sell it mostly as a product. every customer buys food. Not every customer buys wine, or even an alchoholic beverage (or pays corkage).

                          "As far as calling all of these restaurants to poll this idea of bring Two Buck Chuck. Of course they will tell you that. "

                          I din't bring up the two buck chuck. I didn't metion it to providence. They mentioned it to me as an example of things customers bring in all the time.

                          "It's their business to please the customer."

                          My point exactly.

                          "There will always be people like you who overreach and take advantage of a situation."

                          Of course I take advantage of the generous offer to let me bring whatever I want for $20 corkage. They put that offer there for the customer to take advantage of.

                          "And then the rest of us will suffer when you burn it out."

                          Why ever would a place rescind a program they set up to satisfy the customer. they figured what the least they could charge for a customer to bring in whatever wine they wanted, and set that price as corkage. They make $20-pure profit, as they don't lose any wine from their own cellar.

                          remember my "OP brings in a bottle of expensive wine he got for free" scenario? remember, that bottle cost NOTHING, yet he brought it to the restaraynt. they didn't know. they don't care. they know they'll make at least $20 of whatever bottle the customer brings in, without depleting their own wine supply. That's pure $20 profit, bub.

                          1. re: sebi

                            Sebi, Sebi, Sebi... If a restaurant charges you $20 for a corkage fee, that restaurant is more than pleased to not have had to inventory the wine, think about if the customers will like it, take responsibility for over servng a customer, deal with corked wines, deal with losses that incur from having inventoried wines like breakage, theft etc... To make $20 on any wine is great. If a customer wants to bring in a bag of grape juice and pay $20 for the priviledge of drinking it in a restaurant, so be it. If the restaurant has a problem with people bringing in their own beverages, they should charge a corking fee. Oh wait, the restaurant in question already does? Case dismissed!

                  2. re: Diana

                    Diana, you are soooooooooooooooo wrong.

                    The very idea, the concept, of corkage is NOT to avoid buying wine off a wine list, but rather to permit people -- where it is legal and permitted by law (not true of all places and all countries) -- to bring in that "special," meaningful bottle for that special occassion.

                    Let's forget the idea of a blatantly cheap bottle such as 2BC ("Two Buck Chuck," aka Charles Shaw), and talk about something else: would you bring in a bottle of Pellegrino water because you don't want to pay the restaurant's high price for a bottle of sparkling water? What about bringing in your own thermos of coffee or tea to avoid paying for that?

                    The markups on both water and coffee are MUCH HIGHER than they are on wine. So, too, the markups on cocktails -- why not bring in your own Martini???

                    Now then, I frequently bring wine into restaurants -- not each and every time, but often enough that sommeliers, the waitstaff and even the chefs know that when I do, they are generally in for a taste of something special.

                    And THAT is the purpose behind "corkage" -- to pair that special wine you have been looking forward to enjoying with the cuisine of a chef that you equally enjoy.

                    To examine the SPECIFICS of the OP:

                    >>> I am not a big wine drinker; in fact I didn't drink at all for five years and now do only slightly. I'd like to enjoy some wine with this meal, but don't want to spend an arm or a leg. I'm considering bringing in a bottle from Trader Joe's and paying the $20 corkage, but I'm a little embarrassed about the thought of bringing in two buck chuck. <<<

                    He SHOULD be embarassed!

                    By his own admission, he is not much of a wine drinker. Why not buy a glass or two of wine to accompany the meal? Why buy an entire bottle, regardless of what it may be, when you won't finish it? Even if the restaurant DID open the bottle (and remember that the restaurant can always refuse to do so!), and you paid $20 corkage + $1.99 for the wine, you could get some much nicer wines for $10-12 a glass . . . or less!

                  3. re: sebi

                    Sebi, totally agree with you. As someone who takes Quality wines into restaurants regularly I can assure everyone on this board that none of them are "happy" to have to allow corkage!
                    Did anyone see the comment from Sal (Il Grano) in Zagat last Dec-Jan about his most least favorite thing? People bringing their own wine into his restaurant! He charges 35- corkage to discourage the practice, besides the 2 bt limit and there are several others with the same policies.
                    Corkage in LA has become a necessary evil over the years because of competition.
                    La Botte, Georgio Baldi, Ivy don't allow any "Outside Wine" ever!
                    Most of my friends who own Restaurants have voiced their displeasure about not making the profits that they feel are deserved considering their costs to provide a Cellar, Stemware, and Staff. Alcohol Profits are a large part of the overall Profit picture.
                    On the other hand some of the Markups on Wine Lists are ridiculous which makes it hard to want to purchase from some lists.
                    We have noticed a rise in Corkage Charges over the last couple of years. What used to be $10-15 is now $20-35 w/bottle limits.
                    Providence has been more than fair with their Wine Policy(No corkage Mondays and 20- per bottle) and deserves our support!!

                    1. re: sebi


                      not to get in the middle of this but if the resto has done all that you describe, why would they allow anyone to bring in a bottle. once they open the door hard to close unless they have a"the resto reserves the right not to serve any wine which it feels would not be in line with the food." do you think many custos would feel upset about that?

                      1. re: jfood

                        I don't know how sebi would answer, but I feel a restaraunt has the right to define whatever corkage policy they wish.

                        Some allow no corkage.
                        Some allow corkage on some nights, and free corkage on others.
                        Some provide corkage for only wines not on their wine list.

                        If a place will only allow corkage on certian wines, that is their call, their policy to set.

                        But I know Providence in particular allows you to bring in pretty much any alcohol and will charge you $20 to open an pour it. Wine, Beer, probably liquor-but I'm not sure on that. They also kep it poured, darn it. Even if you bring in a bottle, you never get the chance to touch it. They open it, and are vigilant in keeping your glass full.

                        In fact, last time, I had to ask them to stop so I could walk out upright.

                    2. you've gotten some opinionated responses here already but i can understand where you're coming from. not everything from trader joe's is crap. if you're only bringing one bottle, i would go with champagne as it is the most versatile to pair with a seafood oriented multi-course meal. I know TJ carries 2003 Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs, a quality sparkling, for less than $30. fyi, on monday nights the corkage fee is waived.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: zack

                        Champagne is a good idea, or prosecco, too!

                        Good thinking, Zack!

                        TJ's actully carries some rather good wines at a great value.

                      2. I would say if you are only going to drink a couple of glasses, let Drew (the sommalier ) pair something for you.
                        He'll talk to chef & have a much better idea of what will be served & what will complement the food than something you might be bringing.
                        Plus he might offer you something that you would never think to order, but could be a wonderful surprise !
                        Between whatever you would buy, plus corkage, you could have a couple of really nice glasses of wine.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: alison

                          OMG, are you so stressed out about going to this restaurant now?!?

                          for the benefit of the OP having an optimal experience comfortably with few regrets, i'm with sebi, russkar, and alison on this one. i cannot articulate it any better than alison already has.

                          having drew pair for you is a wonderful way to discover something you might have never tried before. he is a good sommelier and he won't take you to the cleaners. explain your situation to the waiter or drew and they can be creative about how they address the situation. no one bottle will honor michael's food.

                          we order bottles from the wine list, order a paired tasting (my husband and i usually share a wine tasting) and bring our own wines to PROVIDENCE. of course, when we share a tasting or bring our own wines, we show our appreciation to drew and his staff by tipping as if we had ordered the bottle. it's only fair.

                          the restaurant biz in l.a. can be so much less profitable than in chicago or NYC as most drive and as a result, don't drink as much. this means fewer revenue streams for restaurants here. i don't mind paying corkage, but certainly resent a restaurant with high or no corkage with a poorly selected list or sky high mark-ups.

                          now for those who actually believe that PROVIDENCE nets $20 on corkage, well, that's just ridiculous. they pay for high quality stemware which breaks often, they pay for drew and the other staff and with other diners willing to buy from the restaurant, and a table that brings wine is less profitable table for them than a table that doesn't. this is why i am less apt to bring more of my own bottles on weekends. during the week we, at least, try to order a bottle and we tip well when we bring our own wine.

                          i'm glad donato and matthew are answering your questions appropriately, but having some industry background, sebi, russkar and alison are advising you well and you would be wise to heed their counsel.

                          think karma. and have a great time.

                        2. Not sure why you'd want to bring a bottle if you don't drink much wine. Why not order a glass or two. Since it sounds like they have a great sommelier and wine list, that way you can sample something you may not know to buy yourself. Value wise it may be better to bring the bottle, but if you're not a big drinker and don't finish it, then you gotta recork that TJ bottle, figure out where to put it in your trunk so it doesn't spill, etc and so on.