Corkage fees in New Orleans restaurants?
- karendor Nov 4, 2013 09:08 PM
Visiting in November (finally!) for T-day with the family. I am bringing several bottles of Sonoma County wine on the plane with me - cheaper than shipping -- and may want to take one or two out to eat.
I know NOLA has a few BYOB places, but do the fine dining establishments have corkage fees? What do they generally run? Should I just call around?
(In Sonoma County it is usually $15 - $20 per bottle although sometimes restaurants will have a "no corkage" special on certain nights.)
I did not do a search, so I apologize if this is covered in other NO posts.
It varies damnably. Everyone used to allow it. About twenty-five years ago policies became more confusing. One restaurateur told me that too many people, mostly her regular customers, were abusing it, bringing in bottles regularly to avoid the markup and she was thinking of banning it altogether. Antoine's started one that that draconian..almost. We had a couple who wanted to bring a bottle they'd been given for their son's birthday, 21 years before. We were told that we could ask the restaurant to find the same vintage and mark. If they could find it then we had to buy the other bottle from them. If they couldn't find it, we would pay what the restaurant THOUGHT it would charge if they could have found it. This completely missed the point and we had a bit of a chat with the owners.
It used to be that some patrons took a case or two of stuff to a place and left it their for personal use or the use of friends who had been clued in. The restaurant was given half the case to sell on its own for its courtesy in providing storage and convenience.
I'd call around and check anywhere you plan to go. I am sure that if you are nice you can get away with a reasonable fee. Obviously, after travel you would want to take the bottle down to the restaurant in advance and let it sit.
Hey Karen, glad to see you're heading back down! In addition to the Besh Restaurant Group's great 3-6 daily happy hour, they have a "no corkage" policy, including at August! So I routinely bring in 1 or 2 bottles and order something, even if some glasses of sparkling wine, to not be more obnoxious than I already am. Beyond that, most places I frequent charge anywhere from nothing to 25 bucks on the high end, and they often waive it if a bottle is ordered from their list.
You're in good shape! Have a fun visit, looking for your usual detailed report.
My experience has been that a second bottle -- for the staff -- helps "relax" whatever policies are in place. I suspect that my penchant for this move is motivated by an internalization of the question "Did you bring enough for everyone?" so often asked when I was a child (and bringing treats to school was not discouraged for crazy allergy reasons).
Offering the person who uncorks the bot a glass does always seem to be in order though. I've made lasting friends in the industry that way.
I am so happy that you three responded. What pros!
hazelhurst as always wonderful only in New Orleans anecdotes, the story of patrons stowing "a case or two of stuff to a place and left it their for personal use or the use of friends who had been clued in" is classic!
sanglier, thanks for being so warm and welcoming and cluing me in on the Beshy policies - we are for sure going to Domenica.
montouri, what a great idea to share with staff, particularly over the holidays... and CLEARLY I am not bringing enough wine.
Here is what will be in the cargo hold:]
Bevy of 2011 So Co Pinots including the Don & Sons mentioned in this piece: http://bit.ly/178XMVz
[I am the Pinot girl in the family!
Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2011
Balletto Russian River Gewurtraminer 2010
Scharffenberge Anderson Valley NV Brut
I will let you know what transpires. So excited for this trip. [Also have JazzFest 2014 and a birthday 2014 trips in the works.]
Cheers to you three!
Aren't you sweet! Ok, you have to tell me know where you're going to be for one of your meals. You then have the challenge of guessing who in the dining room is the one who is going to approach the table of festive Sonoma red drinkers and announce that here he is, sanglier in the flesh!
Partial line-up that ended up being many of the historic Italian family So Co wineries - Balletto, Seghesia, Don & Sons (Sebastiani family), however DD has invited 50% more guests to T-day than originally anticipated so I think all wine will be devoted to the potluck table.
I think I had only one Besh restaurant (Domenica) on the list for an early Sunday night HH on 12/1 -- but plans are fluid right now (hahah) so I will post a running trip report (with planned spots) when I get situated on 11/25. I will certainly be scouting So Co wines on Coquette's menu for our group gathering the night before T-day. Upstairs, party of 6/7pm.
[Hubby is slightly freaked out by the dinner food quantity so he told me he will opt for liquid lunches. I need to start a new post for that, too.]
Back to work - so little time for NOLA food musing.
Interesting. In over 40 years of fine-dining in NOLA, I have never thought of doing BYOW.
Now, I DO seek out great wine lists, but would only be tempted to bring my own, with perhaps a rare Bordeaux, a DRC Burg, or maybe an older Vintage Port.
While I have a very extensive cellar in Phoenix, I just do not fly with my wines, unless it is something very, very special, and then, only with prior contact with the restaurant.
To be honest, there is very, very little from Sonoma, that you can find equal to, or better, at many NOLA restaurants. There are but a few from Napa, maybe a '76 Inglenook, or an '01 Screaming Eagle, or perhaps an '04 Staglin, that will not be represented.
Personally, I would save the space in my luggage for other things, and go with the wine list offerings.
re: Bill Hunt
You probably drink finer wine than I do, and I am pretty partial to my < $20 (retail) Sonoma County Pinots & Zinfandels.
Although my hubby thinks it silly, it is now a tradition that I bring So. Co wines for home cooked NOLA Thanksgiving, so I ask about corkage fees in case I've overpacked. Unlikely.
Since it is only $25 to bring a 9-pack of wine --and I am a light packer -- it saves me having to wine shop in NOLA, so I like the strategy.
One of the nicest discussions I had with a chef/owner in NOLA was with Aaron Burgau @ Patois. I recall he had recently visited So Co for a wine tour and we had fun dropping winery names.
I really like the idea (presented above) of bringing a bottle for the party and bringing a bottle for the staff and/or ordering a glass of champagne while taking advantage of Besh's free corkage. Classy!
I will keep my eye on all the menus and let ya'll now if Sonoma County is as well represented as Napa --or some of the other West Coast "upstarts."
Thank you for your feedback!
P.S. I think you meant there is very little I "can't" find equal to or better than Sonoma. And on this side of the Mayacamas we are *quite* competitive with our Napa cousins!
Sadly two of my So Co Pinots (brought from my local very reputable wine shop!) had turned the corner, and had to be tossed.
Everything else was fully imbibed by the Thanksgiving krewe. As noted on my other posts, neither Sylvain nor Peche had Sonoma County wines on the menu. An industry insider recommended I sit at the bar @ R'evolution and see what we could find in their extensive cellar. Sounds good to me!
>>> . . . two of my So Co Pinots . . . <<<
Southern Colorado??? ;^)
Though I certainly understand the desire to serve that special bottle at a special meal, I've rarely felt the need to fly my wines to New Orleans, save for my first visit shortly after Katrina (when everyone's wine cellars were destroyed by the heat). Then, I *did* ship ahead and had them waiting for my arrival.
In general, I've always been able to find great wines at a great price on the wine lists here -- in other words, I've always been satisfied with the value-for-money I've spent on wine there.
Just my 2¢; YMMV.
/ / / / /
Now, having said that, I often travel with wine from California to New Orleans, but that's typically as presents for the chefs I've come to know over my years of either traveling to New Orleans, or with the chefs in Europe . . . .
Sonoma County, silly.
Yes, it did not play out quite as I would like however a) we did have a couple of Bayona cooks (not chefs yet) in our T-day party so they got to sample the wines that had not turned which, coincidentally, were some very nice Seghesio Zinfandels!
I think the NOLA wine lists are fine, and reasonable, but of the spots we went to, this visit, there were very few glass/bottles of quality wines from Sonoma County --and I like to promote my little corner of the wine country.
I really like the idea of bringing some to the chefs and may do that in May.
We had a wonderful trip, and some of the dishes prepared for the T-day meal (corn pudding! chess pie!) were outstanding.
<<I think the NOLA wine lists are fine, and reasonable>>
Once, I would encounter many gaping holes in NOLA wine lists. A lot would have "entry-level wines," say K-J, then jump to "collectibles," such as 1er Cru Bdx, and CDR's from Burgundy - little in the middle.
As Jason points out, many restaurants' cellars were lost, mainly due to lack of electricity, with Katrina.
Lately, I have seen more sommeliers doing much better lists - deeper, and broader, though still probably not perfect.
We fancy a lot of wines from Sonoma (drinking one now), and I have not observed a real dearth of Sonoma offerings in NOLA - but maybe I am digging into the white and red Burgs a bit too much?
Thanks for reporting, and on the next NOLA trip, I will dig around the various wine lists a bit more, and if needed, talk up a few Sonoma producers. We are still trying to get the wines of one of our friends into a great little resort in the Smoky Mountains - Blackberry Farm. Maybe I will become his "agent," and travel back there, with a few cases of his wonderful PN's?
re: Bill Hunt
Thanks, Bill, for your responses to this subject, and so nice to know you are sipping something nice right now!
++Do tell about your friend's PN++
Our local paper noted that this Siduri 2012 PN just got picked up at a White House event:
Back to the New Orleans subject: we may not have carefully scoured each restaurant's full wine lists-- as we often get stuck on the "by the glass menus" -- but we recall zero notable California reds at Peche, Sylvain, Herbsaint or La Petite Grocery on this last visit.
It is apparently a new personal mission, but I think I need to focus on my own modest cellar first! Cheers and Happy New Year to you and yours.... K
The friend is Joe Anderson, and his Benovia wines. He does a couple of Chards, several PN's, and normally a Zinfandel. http://www.benoviawinery.com/
We know Joe and Mary from healthcare in Phoenix, and now, that he is a "gentleman farmer," do not get to see him often enough. His property is great, as are his wines. We buy all that we can (though my cellar is overly full now, and we are about to do major renovation to our home, so not as much lately).
If you have not had the opportunity to try his wines (so many from Sonoma, that one cannot know them all), please do.
In SF, I know that Campton Place does offer a PN, or two, and we have had those.
I understand the "cellar thing." My 3700 btl. cellar is now holding about 8K btls., staked to the ceiling. In the renovation, I get about an extra 500 btls. in the house, but have to drink down the cellar, to please my wife - I am doing my best, and have ceased to buy anything other than "daily wines," until all is completed.
Too much interesting wine, and too little storage space, with too little time. Just furnished wines for a dinner last night, to work on my Sauternes, my Loire and a handful of white Burgs and Rhöne reds. Gonna' get it down to a manageable level, if it kills me...
As for the NOLA restaurants, I have not yet dined at those (except for Herbsaint, some years ago). We do know what Chef John Besh has done with Restaurant August's post-K list, and it seems quite good. The list at R'Evolution was good too, but have only dined there once. Galatoire's has a nice list, as does the Grill Room @ Windsor Court.
I liked the wine list at Cochon, as there were some "bigger" Central Coast PN's, that went well with the Cajun Pork dishes. Some complain about their prices, but I thought they were quite good, since we are often in resort areas, and the prices are going to be a tad higher.
I think that some of the old NOLA wine lists, might be a thing of the past. Back then, NOLA was really not a "wine city," and cocktails ruled. Then, it was the basic, usual suspects, then jumping to rare, great wines, with prices to match. I mean, if one was not then Gov. John McKeithen (with the State picking up the tab), or John Mecom, Jr., who could afford a US $ 10,000 btl. of wine with dinner? I know that I could not.
re: Bill Hunt
Will make an appointment ASAP to go taste at Benovia, that is just the type of winery I love. I am one of those nuts who often cycles through those lanes in west Santa Rosa on the way to Russian River/Healdsburg region. I am sure I have biked past their tasting room many times. Perhaps I could be their new wine "ambassador" to Brightsen's?
Your history of wine and cocktails in New Orleans is spectacular, and much appreciated on this lazy New Year's Day. It makes perfect sense that it was a cocktail city and that prized wines were for those who ruled the room. Must have been a spectacular time at the "grandes dames" restaurants.
I have not been to August in a few years and I would assume Besh's wine list is lovely. However at Domenica he names the varietals but not the region/winery on the by the glass list. Weird.
I may need to do a full dinner @ R'Evolution(with a foodie buddy) rather than just sit at the bar, but who knows. Do love sitting at the bar.
Your cellar sounds amazing and I can't wait to try Benovia. You know what they say about how to make a small fortune? Start out with a large fortune and become a winery owner!
Best to you and yours....
The Benovia Winery is a bit aways from the vineyards, which are mostly right by the airport in Sonoma. Joe's home is just to the north, and many of the vines (especially those gnarley Zin vines in his front yard) are there, with a few more down at the winery.
Besides his winery, he has an "air force" at the airport. For his 50th birthday, his pilots did a flyover, that was impressive. When he flies back to Phoenix, it's usually in a very modern jet, but he has some interesting WW II ships in his collection. If you get by there, please tell him that Linda & Bill say hello to him, and his lovely young wife, Mary. We seem to only see them at events, and those are usually so busy, that we seldom get to really sit and talk any more. Great people.
We have done Domenica, but I really do not recall the wine list that clearly. It was a very busy, and stressful night, but the staff came through, to save, what could have been a disaster. The wines were good, but again, I cannot even recall what I ordered.
As for R'Eveloution, the wine list was very good, and I would assume that the wine service has finally gotten on track. The potential was there, BUT they had just opened, so things were a bit rough.
Just post-K, we did August, but had major issues with the "Sommelier's Wine Pairings." That review is probably still around on CH. Almost immediately, things changed, and there have now been two, or possibly three sommeliers. We were fairly recently there, and things were great. Since we had guests, I did the wine pairings, but the list was very good, and made my "job" easy. We turned several friends onto Burgs (both white and red), then some great Rhöne wines, that paired well with Chef Besh's food. Going back to that earlier review, the food was great, but the wines were not great accompaniments to it - the sommelier was off by about two courses, and it was obvious, as we keep a bit of all wines, to try with each course. That has changed for the better now.
As for that quote, I know many, who feel just that way - Joe included. OTOH, I know many, who devote their lives to producing the best wines possible, and Joe is included there, too.
I could never be a winery owner, as I would never release any wines, until they were perfect, by my palate. It would be a struggle, as I would always think that we could do even better. I know a few winery owners, who struggle with the same issues, though most find a way to succeed. I envy them.