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Corkage fees in New Orleans restaurants?

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.


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  1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        7 Replies
        1. re: montuori

          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!

          1. re: karendor

            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!

            1. re: sanglier

              we are going to get moderated again.. just wait! and I think it is your NOLA wine party feasts I want to seek & find, right?

              1. re: karendor

                Is this the lineup you're bringing?! And have you settled on your choices that are wine-friendly to patrons?

                1. re: sanglier

                  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.

                  1. re: karendor

                    Expect a stealth approach from sanglier...

                    1. re: sanglier

                      Ok, could be fun or amazingly awkward. Or both!

                      Hey, are you related to these folks?

                      I do not know their wine:


                      Or perhaps this is just your nom de plume?

        2. 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.


          1 Reply
          1. re: Bill Hunt

            Thanks, Bill.

            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!

          2. 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!

            7 Replies
            1. re: karendor

              >>> . . . 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 . . . .

              1. re: zin1953

                Thanks, zin.

                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.

                1. re: karendor

                  <<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?

                  1. 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

                    1. re: karendor

                      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.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Thanks, Bill.

                        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....

                        1. re: karendor

                          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.


            2. Perfect timing! I'm in the midst of packing and deciding whether and how much wine to take for our two week trip. One week in NOLA and one in Rhode Island. (As an aside, there are virtually no fine restaurants that allow BYO, corkage or otherwise). I couldn't help but note that brought a 2011 Pinot Noir. I must say that my reason for bringing wines when dining out is not only the mark-up, but primary because I've cellared and aged my wine, and most restaurant lists feature young wines with a few collectibles that are exorbitantly priced to cover their investment and storage costs!

              Any add'l NOLA feedback you have will be much appreciated!

              14 Replies
              1. re: SB foodie

                wine markup is a long established part of the business. just me but i would never bring wine just to avoid paying restaurant retail...the only time i could conceive of would be bringing something very rare for a special event.

                1. re: kibbles

                  Depending upon geographic locale, BYOB is *also* a long established part of business. Were it not, restaurants wouldn't a) list a corkage fee on the wine list; b) list a limit to the number of bottles a patron could bring into the restaurant; and, in some establishments, c) offer on the wine list to drop corkage fees on one bottle brought for every bottle bought.

                  That said, I generally only bring wines into places that either have a crappy wine list, or if I'm good friends with the chef, the owner, or both.

                2. re: SB foodie

                  SB, more details on the county/terroir of your 2011 Pinot? LOL.

                  Most midscale places here in Sonoma County have corkage fees posted on their menu so it is something I will take note of, particularly if it is a low fee OR if they have free corkage on certain nights. It is likely common cuz folks go out wine tasting and regardless of how long they have had the wine, they may want to bring it so many restaurants post $15 - $20 fee. I would not do it in a very high end place, either, unless it was something special.

                  The feedback I got from the manager at Sylvain was to go to R'evolution, sit at their bar and talk to them about wine while tasting. She says their celler is stellar. Ha Ha.

                  By the way, if you have not done Sylvain, do! One of my faves over the T-day trip!

                  1. re: karendor

                    R'evolution is excellent, and their wine list *is* outstanding.

                    1. re: zin1953

                      On my 2014 to-do list, thanks zin!

                      1. re: zin1953

                        We found the same thing, but then the "wine service" was very lacking - however, it was not THAT long after they opened. The sommelier on duty was trying to work with the servers (not sure why she was not as directly involved), but I did take the young lady aside, and instruct her on some of the "finer points" of wine service. That might well have changed, as they have now been open for quite some time.


                    2. re: SB foodie

                      >>> (As an aside, there are virtually no fine restaurants that allow BYO, corkage or otherwise) <<<

                      Where? That is, to which state or states are you referring?

                      According to a 2011 article in the Wine Spectator -- see http://www.winespectator.com/webfeatu... -- Louisiana¹ has NO state laws governing BYOB and/or corkage, and it is up to each individual parish to regulate (or not) the practice. In Rhode Island, corkage is permitted ONLY in establishments with *no* liquor license.²¹

                      Just to round things out, of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, 25 states permit corkage; 15 states ban it completely; and two more are just -- well, odd.³

                      ¹ Illinois and Nevada are in the same boat.
                      ² Rhode Island is not alone in this. Arizona, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont *also* permit BYOB only in non-licensed establishments.
                      ³ According the the Wine Speculator, "In Oklahoma, restaurants that wish to allow corkage can apply for a special “bottle club” license, but only in counties where by-the-glass service is illegal. Similarly, in North Carolina, restaurants can apply for a “brown-bagging” permit—but only in counties with laws forbidding the service of mixed alcoholic beverages."

                      1. re: SB foodie

                        Personally, I would rather enjoy my "cellared prizes" at home, with a wine dinner, than ship them across the US. Even if nothing breaks, the travel is not a good thing, and many of my wines would need to "rest," more than my travel time would allow.

                        I have a good friend, who ships two cases of average wines to Hawai`i, rather than buy the same at Costco, or a wine shop. That is his choice, but would not be mine.

                        Now, and in NOLA, I would stop by Martin's Wine Cellar, and pick up a "special bottle" there, if I were doing BYOW. Still, I would most probably do those in my room, or on the patio, or balcony. However, that is just me.


                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          >>> Personally, I would rather enjoy my "cellared prizes" at home, with a wine dinner, than ship them across the US. Even if nothing breaks, the travel is not a good thing, and many of my wines would need to "rest," more than my travel time would allow. <<<


                          1. re: zin1953

                            You remind me happily of my late father with whom I flew back from France on a few occasions as, essentially, as "mule" to meet the customs regulations for a case of Chateau Lynch-Bages,

                            1. re: hazelhurst

                              "What, Cuban cigars are not allowed into the US? You have got to be kidding... "


                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                My father rebuffed Pierre Salinger's efforts to corral his Dunhill stock for JFK immediately prior to the embargo/ I was able to have his vintage stock 10 years later as aboy in boarding school

                                1. re: hazelhurst

                                  Lucky guy!

                                  I still sneak a few back from London, but nothing too great. I always figure that I can call John Kerry to post my bond... or, perhaps Bill Clinton?

                                  I am down to about 12 Cubans, but we're back in London in April, so will likely chance it, and bring back a few. I will not tell you which US entry-point I am flying, as you might sell that info... [Laugh]



                                  PS - best cigar of MY life was a Dominican Cohiba in NOLA, on a typically foggy evening. The humidity, the temp, the company, all contributed to the pleasure. Just flat perfect!!!!

                                  1. re: Bill Hunt


                                    Gee, I admit to having a charmed life when it comes to Flora de Tabac. I could tell stories of my father's directions, laments, complaints and outrages when it came to his cigar deliveries after You-Know-Who showed up. A friend of 40 years' standing is native Cuban and left in 1960 as an infant. He states, with reason, that I betray him if I give C----o money. So I cut a deal and am allowed a few Cubans per year in order to criticize, with evidence.

                                    While some Cuban cigars---far from many--are good and even great, Domenican Republic is putting out the best stuff day-in-day-out. I can almost taste the one you describe. And you are quite right:place, time, and company contribute to the delights of cigars, wine, food....everything.