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bringing wine

What is the attitude among Chowhounders regarding bringing your own wine to restaurants? Do you do it sometimes/often/never? What dictates whether you do or don't? Do you ever get outright refused by the restaurant?

For me, since I have more wine than I will ever drink, I'd rather drink special bottles in the presence of food cooked better than I ever could! I bring no more than 2 bottles and make clear from the outset, charge me whatever corkage you usually do, no sweat. Often if I bring 3, 4 or more other diners, they appreciate the big table and waive the corkage. I also make sure to order at least one thing from their list, unless it's a positively dreadful wine list.

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  1. BTW, what prompted me to post this is seeing a thread where the poster was not allowed to bring the wine in. That seems an extreme reaction to me and not one that is common among New Orleans restaurants.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sanglier

      Bringing in one's own bottle of wine may be a time-honored tradition in some parts of the United States, but it's flat-out illegal in others.

    2. BYOB, or BYOW policies differ. Some by state, some by counties, and some by cities. Also restaurants can dictate.

      Though I have an extensive cellar, unless it's a very special occasion, and I know that the restaurant does not have bottle X on the list, I seldom even bother. As we would be travelling to NOLA, I would not bring wine. When we travel down, we might pick up a case at Martins, but never think to even ask about BYOW in any restaurants.

      Now, if I had a very special bottle, and the dining event was worthy, say wife's 50th b'day, then I might be tempted to inquire, but would never just bring anything, until I had discussed it in detail with the sommelier, or GM.

      Just my personal feelings,

      Hunt

      22 Replies
      1. re: Bill Hunt

        Thanks Bill. The main thing I wondered was if N.O. restaurants, in posters' experience, were unhappy to see diners bring in a bottle, which is to say, one worthy of being lugged in, not one you'd reasonably see on the list. I've had almost universal good luck, but was surprised that some flat out don't allow it, no matter how much you'd be willing to pay. Philadelphia was the weirdest city I've been in on that front, but as the trip went on it was explained to me why, i.e., the city's laws regarding BYOB and the exorbitant cost of obtaining a liquor license. Cheers!

        1. re: sanglier

          the late Miss Yvonne (Wynn) lamented the "abuse" of corkage priveleges..she said that some customers would constantly bring in bottles that she could get or had on hand. She did not object to a special wine or perhaps something that one had been given for an anniversary. Antoine's went to a ridiculous policy: if you wanted to bring in that bottle of Cheval Blanc 1970, that you had nursed through storm, flood, wars and rumors of wars, they'd look around for one and buy it "for you" then mark it up. This way you got to keep your special bottle and pay them $3,000 for the honor. If they could not find the exact wine, they'd guess at what it would cost, then mark up and you could enjoy your own bottle for slightly less cost than a bang-up weekend at the Waldorf-Astoria. The idea, of course, was to stop the practice altogether. This whole thing was more honored in the breach, though

          1. re: hazelhurst

            That's a great story hazel, thanks for sharing it!

            1. re: hazelhurst

              I have seen similar.

              I have also run afoul of BYOW, in some locations, Sedona, AZ being the most recent one. I wanted to bring a Dom '85 from my cellar, but could not - AZ laws. I brought a Dom '92 and we had it in the room - brought our own Riedel flutes.

              Had some major DRC red Burgs on Maui. Unlike every other county of Hawai`i, Maui has strict anti-BYOW policies. We shipped the DRC's back to AZ, and were done with it.

              Now, I would never, in my right mind, ask to bring a bottle of Yellow Tail, Vintage August, to any restaurant. That would not be cool. [BTW - I would only drink Yellow Tail with maybe McDonald's burgers.]

              I've done BYOW, and in some states/locals, where it was not legal, with very special bottles of wine. For my lovely wife's 50th, I had a 1948 Taylor-Fladgate (please do not do the math, or she'll kill me), that I wanted to be served. I contacted the restaurant, and spoke with the sommelier. As we were very frequent guests, there was zero issue. I wanted him, our guest, plus the owner and his father, to join us. Even with the age, we got 20 Port-pours. No questions asked.

              Call first, and explain the wine, plus its significance. If the laws are not horrible, you might be surprised. Just do not ask if you can bring that US$6 bottle of Yellow Tail, please.

              Enjoy,

              Hunt

              1. re: Bill Hunt

                I have a horror story about Blue Nun that shall not pollute this space....sme kids out on the Prom Night. The restaurant did not humiliate them, which was gratifying. That boy, who is now probably 45, must think on it with a cringe, though.

                Wm F Buckley used to take his own wine to New Haven when he went there for speaking engagements.

          2. re: Bill Hunt

            OPs and others can rarely go wrong listening to Hunt. Wine knowledgeable and etiquette knowledgeable.

            1. re: c oliver

              You are making me blush. On this particular subject, I am anything but knowledgeable, as I seldom do BYOW. Yes, I do know the ins and outs of some states, counties or cities, but not that many. I just seldom do it. Maybe it's because we are usually so far from home, and from my cellar, plus Phoenix has strict rules against BYOW in most cases.

              Hunt

              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Blush away. True nonetheless. If YOU don't BYOW very often then I doubt many need to. Just an unknowledgable person's opinion.

                1. re: c oliver

                  That's actually kind of insulting.

                  Because some guy I've never met doesn't bother to bring his own wine then I shouldn't? There is a BYO policy at every restaurant. If they allow it then they have their corkage fee. It's as straightforward a transaction as any on the menu.

                  Here in NYC there are even restaurants that thrive because they are known as BYO places. Should those restaurants close?

                  1. re: MRich

                    My apologies. I was unclear. *I'M* the "unknowledgeable person." *I* frequently defer to more knowledgeable people on many, many issues. I've learned a lot that way. YOU should certainly do what YOU want to.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Oh no worries, and sorry if I seem snippy. I've just felt this undercurrent in this thread that if you follow the restaurant's policies and BYO then you are somehow less noble. Where I live that is not the case at all. I have restauranteurs actively seeking to bring me and my bottle back, both as an individual and as a part of a wine tasting group I participate in.

                      OTOH perhaps I'm being oversensitive.

                      1. re: MRich

                        I've never heard of an oversensitive Chowhound!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) I guess because I know so little about wine and have NO cellar I'd probably never bring a bottle but I do like learning how and when it's done. The first Chowdown we went to was a free corkage night and the 'hounds brought some real winners. But we also ordered lots of food. Fun all the way around.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Well here are some rules I live by when I BYO:

                          1) Call ahead and ask. Even if it's a place I BYO all the time I call ahead to check every time I go.

                          2) Don't bring cheap wine. It's not about saving money, it's about enjoying your own fine wines, which in my case I've spent years aging. Bringing a cheap bottle and paying corkage probably isn't cost effective anyway, might as well order off the list.

                          3) Offer a taste. To the owner, wine steward, or whoever. They almost always decline. i almost always insist.

                          4) When going with a large group make sure it's an off night. I organize my groups on Monday or Tuesday nights. I would never dream about doing a large group BYO on a weekend night.

                          5) Tip as if you had bought a bottle off the list.

                          6) Tip a little more on top of that.

                          This is just my personal list. Obviously things differ from restaurant to restaurant. Here in NYC there are some very inexpensive ethnic restaurants (Indian, Chinese, Thai mostly) that have an open BYO policy and serve no alcohol of their own and I tread a little less lightly at these places since BYO is a daily thing for them.

                          I didn't mention "make sure the wine isn't on their list" because I have never run into that situation, since anything I'll bother bringing to a restaurant is vintage and not current release. But that might be another one to consider.

                            1. re: MRich

                              MRich,

                              Sounds like good reasoning to me. I have no issues - other than where I happen to live.

                              Just wanted to bring a bottle of Dom P '85 for a major anniversary. No go, but I brought it for "in-room" and the resort furnished flutes (glad that I packed my own!), but that is life. I live in AZ, so have tried to learn all of the "ropes," and play by the rules, whether it's BYOW, or shipping to me - I keep a Napa, CA address, just for part of my wine.

                              At least I do not have to buy all of my wines through an ABC store.

                              Hunt

                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                Bill, you know *I* have a CA address so feel free to have all that wine shipped to ME! If a bottle here or there goes missing, I'm sure you'll understand :)

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  [Grin]

                                  I have had similar offers, and in one situation, two cases of Jos. Phelps Insignia "went missing." Oh well, that is life.

                                  Hunt

                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    Ah well, gotta give this girl credit for trying. :)

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      I do. But you are not the first... [Another grin inserted here.]

                                      BTW - we need to do a bottle, or two together, though maybe not from my missing Insignia.

                                      Hunt

                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                        When's that hospital visit going to happen? Or maybe meet in Rio? My port glasses were bought thanks to you.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          Have had three West Coast trips canceled, or moved elsewhere. Other than to connect at LAX, or SFO, have not been in some time now. That will very likely change. THEN, we'll hook up.

                                          Hunt

                      2. re: MRich

                        I think that you might be "over-thinking" things a bit too much.

                        Let's look at my situation:

                        I live in Phoenix, AZ, and the BYOW laws are very limiting. They preclude many BYOW opportunities.

                        I travel a great deal (too often for my blood), and to ship wine with me, is seldom an option, without a very good reason. Even if I am traveling to a location, where BYOW is embraced, what are the chances that I will tap into my cellar, package the wines, and then handle the extra luggage? Well, I can answer that - almost zero.

                        Now, as you live in NYC, and have many BYOW opportunities available to you, plus a cellar of great wines, then things are very, very different. What affects me, does not affect you. You have motivators, that I do not have.

                        Still, when I lived in a BYOW environment, I seldom did so, unless I had a good reason to.

                        For me, saving a few $'s was never a motivator. It was always about that one (or two) special bottles of wine, for a special dinner.

                        Hope that makes you feel a bit better.

                        Hunt

              2. sanglier: Although I do not do it often, I have no scruples about phoning a restaurant and politely asking a manager if they will waive corkage for a special bottle and occasion.

                I do try to reward the courtesy by, e.g., leaving a bottle for the sommelier or GM as a token of my thanks. Or sending them more customers.

                1 Reply
                1. re: kaleokahu

                  I'm prepared to pay corkage, even as high as $25.00, if 1) the bottle is special enough, or 2) not particularly special, but as Mr. Hunt says, if it's a restaurant with good food but a horrific wine list. I don't ask them to waive the corkage, though they often do if it's a place that "knows" me, i.e., a place that I spend a lot of money in, turn other people on to, etc. And it never hurts to share the wine with the waiter/sommelier/owner! Thanks for the post!

                2. one of the restaurants on my regular rotation, despite having a beer and wine license, only actually stocks beers.
                  i almost always bring a bottle of wine for myself , from that bottle i share a glass with the chef, i also bring an exactly matching bottle of unopened wine for the chef to take home.

                  i've never been charged corkage at this restaurant.

                  1. I bring wine to restaurants as often as I can.

                    I call ahead to find out their policy and if the corkage fee is reasonable, which I consider $15 in most cases, then I bring my wine. I tip big and always offer the waiter or host a taste. I go to restaurants that allow corkage more often than I go to those that don't. I don't do it to save money, I do it because I have a lot of good wine I want to enjoy. I don't bring inexpensive wine I just bought from the store, rather old bottles I've been saving.

                    I'm not sure I understand those who bring a bottle for the owner of the restaurant. Isn't that a very hefty corkage "fee"?

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: MRich

                      MRich: "...a bottle for the owner of the restaurant. Isn't that a very hefty corkage "fee"?"

                      Not if you made it.

                      1. re: MRich

                        the goal here is not to minimize corkage fee.
                        the goal is to bring my own wine AND to continue to be in the category of 'VERY VALUED REGULAR CUSTOMERS."

                        this has benefits to me over and above saving a couple of bucks on corkage, both in terms of financial benefits and the way i'm treated there.
                        i will only do this in restaurants that i consider to be 'special.'

                        1. re: westsidegal

                          Believe me, I'm not trying to save money by bringing my own wine.

                          But usually I only find it worthwhile to bring wine if it is special, frequently a bottle worth $50, $100 or even more. if I were to pay the equivalent of my bottle as a corkage fee then the entire exercise would be pointless. To bring two bottles and give one away as corkage "fee" is not an option. Not only would I rather pay some nominal cash fee, but I'm sure the restauranteur, who gets his wine wholesale, would prefer it as well. Home made wine notwithstanding.

                          1. re: MRich

                            I had not considered the "give one away," concept, but that is probably because I seldom do BYOW. Still, when I have, I make sure to try to bring enough for all - my guests, the sommelier, the chef, the owner, the owner's dad (for wife's 50th with a wonderful Taylor '48 Port), and such. In all cases, if I needed more than one bottle, I provided it, and shared it all around. In these few instances, I never inquired about any corkage, and none was ever charged. I stated my intentions, in details, and inquired..

                            Maybe I just never really thought about it.

                            Hunt

                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              bill, in my experience, your behavior is exactly what will get you catapulted into the VERY SPECIAL VIP REGULAR CUSTOMER category.
                              lots and lots on on-going benefits being in that category.

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                Based on this, and several similar threads, I have tried to recall a time, where I paid a corkage fee. I just cannot think of one, though my tips probably covered all but the most extreme corkage fees. Maybe I have conveniently forgotten an instance, and if so, I apologize.

                                It's like the "tasting fee" in Napa. I can never recall having paid one, though I have handed my AMEX card to an employee many, many times. They always waive the fee, even if I do not buy directly from them that day. We taste, we talk, we have great fun and then they waive the fees. Maybe they can tell that I love their wines, as much as they do, and know that I will be buying them, when back in AZ, and through their distributors? I cannot say.

                                Hunt

                      2. I would never attempt to bring in a bottle the restaurant has on its list. And I would never bring in any bottle without clearing it first with the restaurant.

                        The Antoine's story is positively ridiculous. Who are they to presume you have $3000 to spend on one bottle of wine, no matter what it is?

                        Last Spring in Portland, we chose our restaurant (between two we really liked) because they did NOT have the bottle I had carried from New York on their list. the restaurant (Castagna) was really gracious, and made us extremely welcome, bringing out special flutes for the Krug.

                        We also purchased a bottle from their list.

                        1. I have brought wine to a restaurant. But it was a special bottle of $200 Champagne that my friends brought in for my birthday (FYI they'd managed to find it for $100). And i have brought a lovely french wine in (also a gift). Neither were on the wine list.

                          But overall, I rarely bring in my own wine.

                          1. l guess l am confused here. If a restaurant allows you to BYOB, with or without corkage charge, and you have special stuff you wish to drink, why would you not ? l have felt a corkage fee of the profit on the wines near the bottom tier of the profit structure is reasonable. The restaurant is making the rules, not me. Guess l agree with MRich as l tend to go to restaurants that allow BYOB more than those that do not, if l intend to drink wine.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                              It seems like they're setting the price so why feel bad about doing it? Or why not do it? If they want $20 for a steak I'm not going to argue that I should be paying them $25.

                              My one hesitation is that I feel bad for the server, who is not sharing in the profit of the corkage fee. I make up for that by tipping as if I had bought a good bottle from them.

                              I guess what I'm saying is that I agree with me too.

                              1. re: MRich

                                Went to a Manhattan restaurant about a week ago that was open but it's liquor license was lost in paperwork. They allowed, encouraged, you to bring your own. All were tasted, poured, and evaluated by the sommelier. We left her a nice tip at the end besides the food check, as of course, you should.

                            2. I bring wine with me to restaurants about half the time if I'm dining in DC. In Montgomery County MD, where I live, it is not permitted. I bring it for a couple of reasons. First, many places have ordinary, to say the least, wine lists, and I have lots of wine, so why not. I also tend to collect small production wines, the kind that you are never going to see on a wine list on the east coast. Since I want to drink them, I take them with me. There are quite a few places where I dine regularly that I am encouraged by the owner or manager to bring something from my cellar because he knows I'll share it with him.

                              I have no problem paying a reasonable corkage fee (in DC they tend to run from nothing on certain days, to $25) and never, never take anything that is on the list or that I can buy at a supermarket. I want good food with my wine, and I want good wine with my food. So I'm a snob, sue me.

                              We regularly have wine dinners when anywhere from 6 to 12 of us will go to a restaurant and bring one or two bottles each. There are quite a few restaurants that will bend over backwards to make sure we are happy because they know that all of us are the kind of people who dine out often, and well, and if we are happy with someplace, will return and tell our friends.

                              1. My preference for BYO is driven primarily by two things: a desire to drink wine that is interesting to me, and a desire to avoid feeling cheated. Where I live, restaurant wine lists feature two things: current releases of American-style wines and industrial plonk from Italy, Australia, Chile, etc. I'm not really interested in drinking those wines with my dinner, regardless of price. Plus, local restaurants mark wine up two or three times retail, which means that if you do find a what should be a nice $30-50 bottle, it will cost you $80-100 or more. If you find a "special" wine that you'd pay $80-120 for at the wine shop, you'll be asked to pay $200 or more off the list. I'm sorry, but I feel cheated at those prices. I don't pay $80 for a $30 steak, so why do you want me to pay $80 for a $30 bottle of wine? Put fairly priced, drinkable wines on your list and I'd be glad to buy a bottle or two. Until then, I'll either bring my own or stick to water.

                                T.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: TThomas

                                  I don't know where you live, but I can count the number of times on one hand when I have NOT been able to find a bottle of wine that I was a) interested in drinking, and b) reasonably priced on a restaurant's wine list . . .

                                  This is not to say I don't bring in my wine -- there are certainly times when I do -- but I've never felt "cheated." Astounded sometimes, but never cheated . . . .

                                  1. re: zin1953

                                    I'd say I've felt cheated. Sometimes I just drink beer when a wine list is really bad.

                                    1. re: MRich

                                      Perhaps I am focusing too much on the word "cheated." But I still don't know how one feels "cheated." Some -- indeed, many -- wine lists are overpriced to the point of being offensive, but my original point was that, even on THOSE wine lists, I've often found gems, bargains that offered great QPR (given the fact you're in a restaurant to begin with).

                                      "Cheated" implies -- at least to me -- that someone "tricked" you, that (for example) the wine was on the list for one price but was on the bill for another . . . or that (for example) the 2014 Chateau Cache Phloe is on the list (a phenomenal wine, from a great vintage), and they bring you the 2015 instead (crappy wine, weak vintage), telling you it's the same thing and just as good . . . and just as expensive.

                                      Like I said, I can count the number of times I've NOT been able to wine a good wine at a good price on one hand, and never cheated. That said, however, I've also been know to order beer . . . .

                                      1. re: zin1953

                                        Well I've certainly been the near victim of cheating as you describe it with switched vintages.

                                        But I've also "felt" cheated by prices. If I see a bottle that I know is available for $9 retail, which the restaurant gets for probably $5 and has on their list for $40 then yes I feel cheated. Doesn't mean they are pulling a bait and switch. One can certainly "feel" cheated without being cheated.

                                    2. re: zin1953

                                      Jason,

                                      Interesting comments, and ones that I rather agree with (especially when I factor in your next reply).

                                      I have encountered rather drab wine lists, but with few exceptions, have found an interesting bottle, or two, somewhere on it.

                                      Now, there have been a few, where there were ONLY the "usual suspects," which were marked up through the ceiling. The Plantation House on Kauai (Pouipu Area) was one such instance. Wish that I'd sneaked in a bottle, but lived with that list - never to return.

                                      The lists that I find offensive are at some of the mini-chain steakhouses, like Morton's. There are interesting wines, but the markups are obscene, even to me, and I am NEVER paying, though often am pressed by the host/hostess to choose the wine. Luckily, I seldom darken those doors, that often.

                                      In very general terms, I encounter tons of very interesting wine lists, with all sorts of wines that are new to me - either the sub-AVA, the producer, or even the varietal (love when THAT happens), and I seldom bother "doing the math." If the wines pair wonderfully, I just flat do not care. It's all about the ultimate enjoyment of the wine and the food.

                                      In the recent past, it does seem that more sommeliers are working hard to find new, interesting and even affordable wines, to accompany the fare from the kitchens. That always brings a smile to my face.

                                      Now, I have often found that the real "value" wine might be a $100 one, that pairs beautifully vs a $40, that is marginal, at best. As we're talking wines in restaurants here, it's about the ultimate pairing.

                                      Hunt

                                  2. We, like many of the above, usually choose off the wine list unless it's something special. Our one exception is our favorite Chinese and Thai restaurants have wine lists that leave *much* to be desired, so we will always bring our own.