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BYOB Etiquette Question

Here's a question for all you BYOB regulars. I'm planning on bringing a special occasion bottle to a NYC Steakhouse. However, since there will only be 2 of us and my wife hardly drinks, what would be the most appropriate way to handle what remains in the bottle? Even after offering the sommelier a taste I'd imagine we'd still have a 1/3 remaining. Sure I could finish it off, but I'd rather not due to the circumstances. Would it be poor etiquette to take it back? It's a reasonably expensive bottle ($1,000).


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  1. Absolutely not poor etiquette to keep what is yours.

    8 Replies
    1. re: CarrieWas218

      While I enjoy my wines, I feel better sharing, and especially if those, with whom I have shared, might never get to taste those wines. Maybe that is just me.

      Yes, it is mine, but then I usually have others in my cellar, and the servers probably do not, and many never will.

      I seem to be in the vast minority, but so be it.


      1. re: Bill Hunt

        I always leave what's left in the bottle at the restaurant and, especially if it is a very fine wine, tell the server that i am intentionally leaving it for him/her.

        to me, it seems petty or haughty to do anything else.

        1. re: westsidegal

          We just returned from a trip to Blackberry Farm, and besides the fabulous Schrader wines in the event, bought many wines from the list on the "off nights." With each, we offered our sommelier (there were three, out of five, working with us on that trip), plus sent a glass to the chef. We retained left-overs during the stay, and they purged and stored them for us. On the last night, we had several bottles, that were partially filled, and upon completing dinner, donated all to the staff. Now, during that stay, we had been gifted a wonderful Shiraz,. We shared that with Fred and Carol Schrader, plus their guest at another table. After we each had our glass, we passed it onto the staff, along with about 4 partial bottles. Heck, I still had to navigate our golf cart back to the cottage, and the trail twists and turns, plus has major hills. I had already reached my limit.


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              All I know is that I really hope to end up sitting next to you in a restaurant someday, in hopes that my longing looks and drool will result in a taste of something my school teacher salary will never, ever, allow!

              1. re: alitria

                Signal me, and I will do my very best to make it happen. There is little more in life, than to share a nice wine with great folk, who will appreciate it, or at least offer their critique of it.

                I am the balding old dude, with a white beard, and probably a double-breasted blazer with a pocket square, sniffing and swirling.

                Just introduce yourself, and we will make it happen.


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  And alitria, Hunt means it! I took him up on the same offer in Scottsdale and we had a splendid time and a nice lunch. But the rascal arranged to have it paid for without me having a chance to grab the bill.

                  1. re: Veggo

                    There are few things in life more satisfying to the soul than dining with a person who loves food and wine as much as you do! My husband and friends like good food, appreciate a good dinner, but don't feel compelled to spend three hours debating the finer points of the exact spice blend or savoring every sip of a good wine while trying it with little bites of everything on the table! Such a delight!

                    And I'm easy to spot, I'm the professionally dressed woman with pink hair and a nose ring. Trust me, there aren't too many of us!

      2. Does local jurisdiction allow you to take the wine back off the premises? If so, then no reason not to take it. Just be nice and tip more than you normally would for good service, as they are providing the wine service and stemware.

        A way to avoid even having to pack any wine off is to decant it at home, and have a glass or so then. When you return the decanted wine back to the bottle and take it with you, you can inform the sommelier or server that you've pre-decanted.

          1. re: wineglas1

            Haven't fully decided yet, but at this point I'm almost mulling over just leaving it at home...

            1. re: vision20

              From my reading, you're planning on a glass or so, your wife probably won't even have a 1/2 glass. I'd probably leave the wine home, order something from the resto's wine list, and have the $1000 wine at home another time with a wine-loving friend. Sounds like too much wine for this outing.

          2. Eugene is absolutely correct to point you to the law books!

            I forget the law of New York State, but here in California, it is perfectly legal for you to take any remaining wine in the bottle home with you -- regardless of whether you BROUGHT it or BOUGHT it -- as long as it's stored in the trunk (or in the far back section, for example, of a station wagon or SUV). If it is in the passenger compartment of the car, you can be arrested for violating Section 23225 and/or 23226 of the California Vehicle Code (CVC).

            OTOH, this is *not* the law in every state, and so I advise you to check first . . . .

            4 Replies
            1. re: zin1953

              As far as the law goes...according to http://www.winedoggybag.com/statelaws...

              NEW YORK – A WINEDOGGYBAG STATE – Approved by State Liquor Authority
              SLA 588 allows the removal of one partially consumed bottle of wine if (i) the restaurant has the appropriate wine or liquor license, (ii) the bottle of wine is purchased in connection with a full course meal, (iii) the patron consumes a portion of the wine with the meal, (iv) the wine is securely resealed, placed in a one-time-use tamper-proof transparent bag which is securely sealed and, (v) a dated receipt for the full course meal and wine is provided to the patron.

              I'm assuming all of the above points need to be met? Strangely it doesn't seem to allow for byob wine...?

              1. re: vision20

                What a silly country we live in! In my state, we have lots of BYOB restaurants, and it isn't unusual to see people simply putting the cork back in and walking out with what is left - no hermetically sealed bags, etc.

                1. re: jmoryl

                  Well, it is not just a state, but can be a county, or even a municipality. For county, think of Maui, which has totally different laws on this, than the other Hawai`i counties, like O`ahu.

                  Gotta' check closely,


                2. re: vision20

                  BYOB in New York can be an iffy proposition in and of itself. In some states, you can bring BYOB to ANY establishment; in others, only to those which do NOT sell alcoholic beverages; in others -- like NY -- only to those establishments that DO sell them . . . and, of course, only when and where the specific establishment permits . . . but then -- since it wasn't purchased *there* the question remains: can you take it home?

              2. You should check to make sure that the bottle you are going to bring is not carried on the restaurant's wine list. Give them a call and ask. This would give you an opportunity to inquire as to whether you will be allowed (by law) to take your leftover wine with you.

                5 Replies
                1. re: jpc8015

                  Yes -- speaking of etiquette -- that is a BIG no-no . . .

                  1. re: jpc8015

                    The establishment definitely does not have what I am bringing

                      1. re: vision20

                        Just do take out and don't worry about it.

                        1. re: vision20

                          Depending on the local laws (state, county and municipality), that might not make any difference, or might only be an element of etiquette. Check first.


                      2. I am anything BUT a BYOW expert, though I have a deep cellar. With similar, I always invite the sommelier, and often the chef, to join us in a glass. If that does not finish it, then the service captain, and any one of the crew, that he/she chooses.

                        Just did a major Montrachet (not a BYOW, but one that we nursed for a few nights at the resort), and invited the "crew" to share with us.

                        I have done the same with some rare DRC's, and have enjoyed the comments from the staff. Many never get to taste such wines, and if I can help them, then I have done my part on Earth. All that I ever ask is for them to give me their impressions.



                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          I'd be happy to give you my impressions! How generous of you. As you said, most of us will never get to taste any DRC's...

                          1. re: ChefJune

                            Well, certainly not NEW ones . . .

                        2. I'd leave it for the staff. I doubt many of them can afford $1000 bottles of wine and it might really make their night.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Fowler

                            I am in the wrong business if they can afford these.

                          2. Count me among those that would leave the remainder for the staff.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Brad Ballinger

                              Leaving the remainder for the staff is a great gesture. Local laws may very well prohibit you from taking it back out. If its an issue I would just take something else.

                            2. I'm a great believer in sharing what I bring and leaving whatever is left to the staff. I generally make sure that my server gets a taste of the wine if it is something special. Recently I took an '05 Kosta Browne Kanzler PN with me to dinner and offered a glass to the manager. He shared it with a couple of the other asst. managers. When I asked my server if he had given her a taste, she was shocked that I thought he would even think to. So I asked her to bring a glass and gave her a 3 oz pour for her. (She shared it with one of the other servers.)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: dinwiddie

                                Always depends (for me) upon the restaurant, and the server's/sommelier's/chef's interest in wine. If they are "into" wine, I *always* pour them some. If not . . . more for us! ;^)

                              2. Are you BYOB'ing without being charged corkage fee? If so, then I go along with those that say tip extra generously for the wine service.

                                However, NYC restaurants, and almost all steakhouses in town, are known for steep corkage fees that, imho, takes appropriate account of the wine service that will be provided. Even in cases, almost often, where I paid corkage fees, I still add the same tip percent to my bills that includes corkage fees.

                                Leaving 1/3 of the bottle is your call. I won't fault you if it was your only bottle and it's special to you, and would like to study how it evolves with, say, additional day in your home refrigerator. Or, you may just leave it for the servers. I've done both.

                                Important things to consider is that if corkage-free BYOB, then tip very generously and at the very least, offer tastes to the sommelier and your immediate servers.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: RCC

                                  Tip generously anyway. Corkage fees go to the house, not the server.

                                2. Here is a question for all those saying give it to the staff. What about in those states (such as Virginia) where a restaurant can lose it's ABC license if any employee on duty is caught consuming alcohol?

                                  17 Replies
                                  1. re: mojoeater

                                    You leave it for the staff and assume it is their responsibility to wait until their shift is over before tasting...

                                    1. re: mojoeater

                                      There is a similar law in Indiana. But the restaurant isn't going to lose their license because of a single infraction. They would get fined and perhaps have to appear before their local board. I have seen restaurant staffs taste wines dozens of times.

                                      1. re: mojoeater

                                        As I have said, every state's laws are different . . . that's why, among other things, people in other countries are often disappointed (or disillusioned) when they try to sell wine in the US. It *seems* like a great idea -- the US is a BIG country -- but you not only need Federal label approval, but you have, in fact, 51 different sets of state laws that one has to meet . . .

                                        In terms of wine laws, Virginia is one of the more -- um, "awkward" states one has to deal with, and the fact that a restaurant *can* indeed lose its license if an employe is caught consuming alcohol on premise . . . not only can you not buy your favorite bartender a drink, but you can't give your server or the sommelier a taste of your wine . . .

                                        Think about it: you dine early, and you bring a treasured bottle to the restaurant -- 1962 Romanée-Conti -- and you give the sommelier two ounces in a glass to savor and enjoy . . . but it's 7:00 pm and the restaurant doesn't close until the last customer leaves, sometime around midnight. Oh, yeah -- that Burgundy will be wonderful at 12:15 am . . . NOT!

                                        And -- as a sales rep -- you go into the restaurant to sample the wine buyer on your wares, but the restaurant is open for lunch, and . . . yeah -- you're f***ed!

                                        1. re: zin1953

                                          The wine and beer reps I know in VA make a point of either setting a time before the restaurant opens or after the owner/buyer ends a shift. Sure, you will see staff in some places taking a drink on the clock, but the places that have extensive wine and beer lists generally don't take the risk.

                                          1. re: mojoeater

                                            Yeah . .. that doesn't really work on "ride-arounds" -- meaning when a winery representative, or the national sales manager for an importer, comes into town . . . Tuesday in Richmond, Wednesday in Charlottesville and points nearby, Thursday in the DC suburbs, and so on . . . .

                                          2. re: zin1953


                                            As you well know, besides the states and DC, there are county variables to fight too. Like Hawai`i, where most counties have fairly liberal wine laws, but then there is Maui, which is different.

                                            Gotta' be fun to be a distributor, doing a road trip. One needs about 3000 law books in the trunk - with little room for the wines.


                                          3. re: mojoeater

                                            In VA, with the exception of The Inn at Little Washington, I am most often doing B-T-G, so that has never come up.


                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                              Bill, you and others here have summoned up memories of my days as a busboy at a fancy french resto during my senior year at Penn in Philly. I was an eager learner transitioning from a rural CT youth where tuna casserole reigned supreme, to fancier urban stuff. I had my chance to sample remainders of many fine wines that I bussed from tables, straight from the bottle I swilled them just past the swinging doors to the kitchen. The experience provided an early running start to one of life's nice pleasures. Which lead to another...and another.
                                              It has been a good life.

                                              1. re: Veggo


                                                Unless you were at Le Bec Fin, back then, or Murimoto's later, those were most likely not MY leftovers, but I am glad that you had those experiences.Now,when my lovely, young wife was at Wharton, she might have contributed, but being a poor student, I would guess that they were drinking cheaper domestic Chards?


                                            2. re: mojoeater

                                              you just gave me a new reason to avoid going to Virginia.

                                              1. re: mojoeater

                                                pretty simple answer:
                                                the staff waits until their shift is over and then pours themselves a glass.
                                                even without such a law, many find a good wine to be much more enjoyable when they can sit still and savor it. also, many reds will benefit by another few hours of breathing. . .

                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                  But then again, many wines will fall apart by then . . .

                                                  1. re: zin1953

                                                    if someone is taking their legally mandated break, it would seem to me that they are not "on duty."
                                                    i'd expect that most breaks take place before most wines fall apart.

                                                    in office environments it's fairly normal for folks to leave the premises briefly to have a smoke during their break time.
                                                    if one works in a restaurant, couldn't one leave the restaurant premises to take one's break with a glass of wine?

                                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                                      I've never had a break in 15 years working in restaurants. They make you sign some paperwork to legally waive it.

                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                        a) I doubt it; but more importantly, b) I am not an expert on Virginia State laws . . . all I know is what has confronted me EVERY time I've been in Virginia on a sales trip . . .

                                                        ---> if I have an appointment with the wine buyer of a restaurant, EITHER the appt. is set for mid-morning or afternoon (before the restaurant is open for business), OR I meet the wine buyer on his/her day off. This seems CRAZY to me.

                                                        ---> if we (the local sales rep and myself, in town from California -- representing a winery or an importer) show up somewhere without an appointment, EITHER it's "nice to meet you, but I can't taste anything until after my shift/after we're closed," OR it's "nice to meet you, you can pour me a glass, and I'll try it after work."

                                                        Drove me CRAZY!!! A wine buyer's job is to taste wine, and they couldn't! It's nuts!


                                                        1. re: zin1953

                                                          Some local laws (not saying that VA has any, as I have only been their to drink, dine in, or judge a wine event) are throwbacks to the dark ages. Now, I feel that I can make that statement, coming from Mississippi, where once there were three laws, regarding wines, beer and liquors: no one may consume alcoholic beverages; if one does consume, sell, or purchase alcoholic beverages, they must be 18 years of age; and then, if one purchases, sells, or consumes alcoholic beverages, a "black market tax" must be paid to the tax collector (read the County Sheriff here). That did change in the late 60's, and County-Option took over, with ABC stores, and all sorts of laws.


                                                        2. re: westsidegal

                                                          Virginia is a wonderful state with wonderful aspects. ABC laws are not among those.
                                                          A) as invino states, most restaurant workers don't get breaks long enough to leave the premises.
                                                          B) even if they did, where would they go? It is also illegal to drink alcohol in public locations such as sidewalks, parking lots, in your car, etc.
                                                          C) a location with a license to serve alcohol cannot have workers on the clock under the influence of alcohol. While an ABC agent doesn't carry a breathalyzer, if they have any reason to believe a worker has had anything to drink, they could make trouble. Granted, they would have to be insanely anal, but it is not worth the risk.

                                                  2. I would save the bottle for another time when you can share such a special bottle with someone who will also enjoy it. That said, if you choose to bring it when dining alone with your wife, I'd drink liberally of the bottle, and leave the remainder for the staff to enjoy. Sure, if the laws of your state allow you to take it home, it is within your right to do so. Nevertheless, I think the gracious and kind thing would be to leave it for the staff.

                                                    1. by the way, i recommend 11 Madison where they charge 35 dollars for corkage and have appropriate wine glasses. For an excpetional bottle, i would want Riedel or their equivalent glasses

                                                      1. It's not poor etiquette at all to take it back. I've done this myself in NY, although not often--usually just with Madeira.

                                                        Having said that, consider whether it's likely to still be good by the time you drink the rest of it, especially if that's going to be the next day, and if it's a place you go to often, whether the gesture of offering it not just to the sommelier but for the chef, other somms, waitstaff, etc. is likely to help you towards "friend of the house" status.

                                                        1. I would save it for another occasion, when you and a wine loving pal (or just you) can finish the whole thing.