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Jan 12, 2009 12:43 PM

Restaurant to take a very old bottle of wine

I recently came in to possession of a 1979 premier cru Bordeaux. All indications are that the wine is at or slightly past its "peak." Assuming and hoping the bottle is still good (the former owner is a wine nut and has been storing meticulously in his cellar for years), does anyone have experience with calling up a restaurant (I'm thinking steak, maybe Strip House?) and asking if they will let you bring such a bottle and pay a corkage fee. Is there a procedure for doing this? I assume they will decant for you. Where would people recommend going?

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  1. most restaurants will allow you to bring a bottle, but the corkage fee may vary a search here under "corkage fee" and you'll find many threads...if in doubt about a particular place, simply call them and ask if you can bring a bottle and what the corkage fee is...

    if you want it decanted nicely, i'd suggest an upscale place w/ a good sommelier...e.g. a good French restaurant. or top-notch American..and since you really want to focus your meal around this bottle, i would ask to chat w/ the sommelier, let him decant the bottle, and even ask him to suggest some things on the menu that might go particularly well with it...(you may want to have an apertif w/ your starters while it breathes a bit, and a good sommelier will be delighted to help you structure a meal around such a nice bottle of wine -- he can become your de facto waiter)...

    but as for the fun part of the question, where would i go if i were in possession of such a bottle?...not sure, but here are few suggestions:

    -- Keens would be a fun choice: it'd probably go great w/ some prime rib or lamb chops...

    -- Gramercy Tavern...i've not been there recently, but i had a wonderful meal there years ago where we spent a lot of time chatting w/ the sommelier...

    -- personally, because i like low-key places, i might go to a great bistro...i've never to Le Gigot, but maybe there...

    Oh, and remember to tell all us Chowhounds where you are going so we can reserve adjacent tables and bring very very long straws to reach into the decanter...*joke*

    1 Reply
    1. re: Simon

      I agree with Simon. I think this bottle would be wasted at a steakhouse. When I think of old Bordeaux, I think fine french restaurant, and a superb lamb dish as the main course. Also, I second the idea of calling before hand to speak with the sommelier.

    2. this blog (not mine) has a helpful list of corkage fees at a number of good nyc restaurants:

      you know this already, i'm sure: bring a backup bottle. :)

      favorites of mine on the list (all of which have robust red meats on the menu to accompany the wine if it's drinkable):

      Balthazar- $30, great service, great glasses, good wine list
      Blue Hill- $25, good service, good glasses
      Blue Ribbon- $25
      Compass- $20
      Craft- $45, great service, good, sometimes very good list
      Craftbar(new location- 900 Broadway)- $25
      Eleven Madison Park- $20, great service
      Mas- $30- good service and glasses
      Ouest- $15- good service and attitude- stems not great
      Picholine- $50, nothing from the list
      Smith and Wollensky- no corkage as long as the wine is not on the all American list
      The Modern- $45- used to be $25

      According to the blog, Keen's has a $20 corkage fee. I've found the sommeliers at Compass, Craft, EMP and the Modern particularly helpful in the past.

      4 Replies
      1. re: cimui

        The list above is out of date as far as some of the restaurants are concerned. For example, Smith and Wollensky does not allow BYOB anymore and there is a new corkage policy at Eleven Madison. Make sure you call and ask when making a reservation.

        As per my experience calling Keens about corkage, depending on who answers the phone, I have been told anywhere from $20 to $30 to no BYOB allowed ("as we have all the good wines available"). I decided not to bother going.

        Finally, either bring a back-up bottle or be prepared to order from the restaurant's wine list, in case your bottle is not drinkable.

        1. re: RCC

          yes, thanks for pointing that out. AOC Bedford is also no longer open. the places i listed in my post are open, though the accompanying notes are not mine (they are from the blog -- sorry if that wasn't clear!) and i don't know whether they are all accurate.

        2. re: cimui

          We did corkage at EMP in May '08, and it was $35 per bottle. I'm not sure that's still the case, so it's best to check.

          1. Just did this at Chanterelle - brought 2 bottles of champagne and 2 bottles of red wine that I'd been saving forever for a special occasion. $50 per bottle and the sommelier was wonderful...highly recommend it.

            1. Thanks for all the advice. I will update everyone with the results. May be a month or so, but thanks!

              1 Reply
              1. re: jasonnyc

                You may want to double decant.. stand it up at home for a few days and then carefully decant to get it off the sediment. get the sediment out of the bottle and pour it back in. Most old wines don't need much air so you may want to drop the bottle off at the restaurant in advance so it can settle and decant it there.

                A good Somm would know what to do

              2. Keep in mind that most restaurants will not allow you to bring a bottle that is on their wine list.