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Dec 9, 2013 07:48 AM

Random thoughts re: ***out-of-town*** BYOB

A post on a city-based Chowhound board got me to thinking about BYOB with a twist . . .

I completely understand those who, with varying frequency, bring in their own wine (where legal, of course) to LOCAL restaurants -- presumably ones they've been to before, and know they aren't bringing something that's already on the list. Whether it's for special occasions, or on a regular basis -- I get it.

But what about when you visit another city? Go to restaurants where you've never dined before? Do you pack up wine in your suitcase (or a separate travel case especially built to carry wine safely), and head for the airport? Do you buy wine at retail in your travel destination city just to bring into the restaurant? Or do you just buy off the list? Or -- maybe -- you forego wine altogether and just have cocktails (or iced tea)?

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  1. I often end up having "off-lines" with folks from other cities when I travel. These are folks who I met on various winecentric boards that invite me to join them when I am in their city. I usually take a couple of bottles with me when I travel for that very reason. On the other hand, when I visit a city with great BYO restaurants, like Montreal, I make sure to bring something special.

    2 Replies
    1. re: dinwiddie

      Offlines are a different, "specialized" sort of event --> EVERYONE is bringing stuff! I know I do, but then that presents its own problems -- how can you bring something old(er) and ready-to-drink, something that's thrown a bunch of sediment, and have it present well after you've flown across the country?

      I was thinking more of visiting SF/LA/NYC/NOLA/Chi, etc. on a vacation -- you and your family -- and hauling wines with you, when it's just you, your significant other, and (possibly) your kids . . . no offline involved.

      1. re: zin1953

        I agree with you about off lines. However, I don't always fly when I go on vacation, so if I am driving, I take wine with me as a matter of course. In late Sep/early Oct. of this year, my wife and I took a 12 day driving trip through the northeast (following the fall colors) to Montreal and back. I took a case with me and managed to BYOB six nights of the trip. Of course, I had to fib a bit when we crossed into Canada, but the BYO that we went to was excellent and the'07 Kosta Browne Kanzler we drank was perfect with the meal.

        When I fly, I don't normally take wine with me unless, like you, I am leaving it as a gift for someone. Wine just doesn't seem to fly well without a lot (weeks) of rest when it gets to its destination.

    2. I'm fine with long-distance BYOB, I've definitely done it, especially when a) I had a certain restaurant target in mind and b) I didn't know my way around local wine shops and/or c) there's a very special bottle available at home but not away that really matches the cuisine at the target restaurant.... otherwise I can pick the wine up locally....

      Haven't done it for quite a few years, Come to think of it, I've BYOBd at out-of-town Chowhound meetups back in the day... it really just depends on how excited I am about the meal, and how confident (or not) I am that I can find the right wine locally...

      As for how-to, just carried it in on-board luggage... and these were mostly all post-9/11 events, didn't have a problem...

      3 Replies
      1. re: TombstoneShadow

        Thank you for the response. It's appreciated.

        I guess part of my problem is that, despite my cellar (approx. 50 cases or so), I never know *today* -- while packing for my trip -- what I'm going to want for dinner in three days. ;^) It's one thing, I suppose, if I know I'm going to, say, Le Bernadin, a restaurant that specializes in seafood, or if I know we're dining at Peter Lugar's and having steak, but for places with a broader menu . . . this is *especially* true for cities and/or restaurants where I've never been before.

        It's interesting -- maybe it *is* just me -- but I've always found it VERY easy to find great buys on wine lists, from (e.g.) Gary Danko's to Le Bernadin, from Canlis to August . . . let alone places with a generally more affordable menu (say with a "$$" or "$$$" listing, rather than a "$$$$" one).

        I actually OFTEN travel with wine when I fly, but -- UNLESS it's for the aforementioned "offline" type of get-together -- it's usually as presents for friends I'm visiting, or chefs I've come to know through my travels; "deliveries" of samples on behalf of a winemaker friend of mine here, or of purchases made on behalf of friends there . . . I can take an many as 16 bottles with me, if need be.

        1. re: zin1953

          Have you actually BYOBed at Le Bernadin? I thought that was impossible?

          1. re: zin1953

            Most of you have probably seen these Wine Skins, but I'll post it anyway because they work brilliantly:


            I've never had a problem using these in my checked luggage, and I usually bring a couple of empty ones just in case I find something interesting to bring home. The only problem is if you have an unusually thick or long bottle.

            Personally. I think "travel shock" is not really worth worrying about. It's just wine. If you are carrying an old and valuable wine, I'd be more concerned about my luggage being stolen.

            BTW, I agree, meeting up with some wine lovers from the city you travel to (just post an inquiry on an online wine board like wineberserkers) is a great way to get to know a new city.

        2. I take wine to a lot of cities with me and on less frequent occasions buy at my destinations. I take to restaurants and often tote my own stuff to meet up with fellow wine-board denizens. I find restaurants in NYC and Chi (eg) have even more expensive winelists than those I'm familiar with in LA, so why not bring a bottle there if it makes sense to bring a bottle here at home. Ther's a little extra hassle involved, but I don't make much habit of buying $200+ bottles off lists though I own those bottles myself. So I drink better with byo.

          9 Replies
          1. re: john gonzales

            In the FWIW mode, John, I don't think I've ever purchased a bottle of wine that was $200 on a wine list EVER!

            At all of the restaurants I've mentioned so far (save Peter Luger, where I've never been), I've found truly GREAT wines for under $100 -- often under $60 . . . like I said, maybe it's just me.

            The other issue (aside from never knowing what I'm going to want to eat well in advance -- even if I have an idea, menus are subject to change, there are the nightly specials to consider that never make the menu, etc., etc.) is not knowing what's on the wine list. I don't want to bring something into the restaurant that is already on their list.

            Admittedly this is more of a concern if I'm bringing something young and immature, and less of a consideration if I'm bringing in an older wine that's ready-to-drink . . . but in the latter case, I'm then back to worrying about the wine getting bounced around in my suitcase, the sediment getting "up-shook" and the wine not showing as well as it would if I either opened it at home, or drove down the hill to Chez Panisse (or elsewhere in Berkeley/Oakland), or across the bridge to a place in San Francisco.

            As I've said, maybe it's just me . . .

            1. re: zin1953

              It's not just you. I never seem to have trouble finding the "gems" on a wine list. Unless I'm going to an off-line, or to a restaurant on its no-corkage night, I rarely bring a bottle. Not worth the schlep.

              I make an exception when I'm bringing a winemaker-friend's wine, either for the chef or sommelier, or to share with friends for that meal.

              1. re: ChefJune

                I agree that you can find some gems, but when you have "great wines" you want to drink, why bother when you can have them with a great meal at a good restaurant? And remember, there are some great restaurants where BYO means there is no wine list (some states prohibit BYO if there is an alcohol license.) I've had some fantastic meals in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Quebec (notably Montreal and Quebec City), to name a few where the only way to have wine was to bring it with you.

                1. re: dinwiddie

                  >>> I agree that you can find some gems, but when you have "great wines" you want to drink, why bother when you can have them with a great meal at a good restaurant? <<<

                  Well, that's easy, actually -- my wife is an amazing cook. She's not professionally trained, but she *has* taken any number of classes with chefs like Gary Danko, Ron Siegel, Susan Spicer, and others. And just as I know and am friends -- some, close friends -- with a good number of winemakers and/or winery owners around the world from my 35+ years of being in the wine trade, she (and I) also know and are friends -- again, in some cases close friends -- with a fairly large number of chefs. Many have come to dinner at our home, and it's a heck of a lot easier to open the wines at home, decant them properly, give them time to open, etc. than it is to -- however carefully -- bring the wine to a restaurant, have it hurriedly decanted there, huff-and-puff (rather than slow, steady breathing) . . . .

                  But, *again* this is all about BYOB when one is OUT of town, not local.

                  >>> I've had some fantastic meals in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Quebec (notably Montreal and Quebec City), to name a few where the only way to have wine was to bring it with you. <<<

                  Yes, well, let's not get into a discussion of the absurdities of how various states treat BYOB -- instead, can we just agree that is a completely different conversation entirely? ;^)


                  >>> (some states prohibit BYO if there is an alcohol license.) <<<

                  Yes, while other states PROHIBIT bringing in your own bottle if they don't!

                  1. re: zin1953

                    OK, I was just trying to say that there are times and reasons that I take wine with me when I travel. I don't normally do so if I am going to fly, but when I take a 2000 mile driving vacation, there is always at least half a case of wine in the car at the beginning of the trip.

              2. re: zin1953

                Damned, you are have an "accepting" palate and/or are a wizard at wine list perusal if yoy are finding GREAT wines on lists at places akin to Gary Danko. I took at look at their list and Penfolds Bin 389 is $135. We are just talking about drinking different wines. It's a matter of the cost of the wines and/or the age. For example Danko's list has one Barolo bottling older than ten, and it's a $900 bottle of A. Conterno. I know you don't drink cab but as a reference point there's almost nothing under $100 and the few in the $70-90 range are both pedestrian and young. There are cru bojos for 60-80 and Haut-Medoc for $60-90. I'd drink them but they aren't going to wow me and at a great place I'd rather drink better.

                I noticed a 2001 Montebello which is the sort of thing I might tote, and it's $600. There's an 86 Canon for $166 that I think is a decent price but not what I'd consider great and a lesser wine than I would typically tote. I saw a 95 Lafon Rochet for $200 and I am buying some of that today for $42. On Danko's list the type of bottles I'd bring are in the $200-700 range.

                People mightthink it's gosh but in addition to the fact that I have some aged wines, the byo strategy IS ADMITTEDLY a money-saving strategy. I am comfortable, but not rich. I don't have the means to drink some of the wines I love and own off of lists. I can definitely spring for extensive menus at fine restaurants and a bottle of white or bubbly at $75 to start. But I just can't afford to also buy $150+ bottles of red. So then I have to decide whether to drink acceptable but not great (IMO) reds at $70-140. Or the option is to bring a better bottle of red that would be well over the $150 mark and pay corkage. To me that provides a red wine that is consistent with the quality of the setting, food, and the white. I had a heated debate with a local resauranteur over a wine that ended up being on their list though they misinformed me. He suggested that I should just buy it off the list. But it was $400 and this was 7-8 years ago. The point is that I couldn't responsibly afford to buy that bottle. My overall experience is enhanced by eating as far up the ladder as I can and bringing a red.

                1. re: john gonzales

                  I don't have an "accepting" palate, John -- certainly not in the way I believe you mean it. Rather, it's when I *do* buy off lists like at Gary Danko, I don't waste time looking at things like Bordeaux and/or California Cabernet, or Grands Crus from Burgundy.

                  >>> I know you don't drink cab but as a reference point . . . <<<

                  I actually *do* drink Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux, but a) far less often than I used to when I was in my 20s and 30s, and b) almost NEVER do I purchase them off a restaurant wine list.

                  Gary Danko's wine list in online -- -- and there are at least two dozen red and white Burgundies -- maybe more -- the I would quite happily enjoy and are under $100 on the wine list. Some of them will indeed "wow" me; others will just be truly and deliciously perfect with our dinner. And while -- quite right -- I wouldn't go near the Barolo or Barbaresco offerings, there is a reason there aren't any more Douro table wines on their wine list: I (think I) ordered the last one. But there is still (e.g.) the 2004 La Rioja Alta Reserva on the list for $85 . . .

                  Now, keep in mind, Gary Danko is within driving distance, so sometimes I will bring a bottle with me; other times, I'll buy of their list. The point of my starting this thread was to talk about what one does ***out-of-town*** re: BYOB. San Francisco is "just across the Bridge," as it were; it's local.

                  Clearly, or so it seems, I'm in the minority. OK. I'm fine with that. But -- and again, John, it's just me (and maybe ChefJune) -- I *still* have NO IDEA how a) I know what I'm going to want to eat in a restaurant where I've never been¹ in a town/city across the country; b) how I can possibly pull bottles of wine that will go with and compliment the meal, when I have no idea what I'm going to eat; and c) how I can prevent travel shock and/or the stirring up of sediment in the wine, since I now must pack it in my suitcase, rather than a carry-on².

                  ¹ Even when the menu is online, it's typically a "sample" menu and not the "real" one. Even when it is the real menu, and I figure out -- what? two weeks in advance? -- the entrée I'm going to order, what about that really interesting special that wasn't on the menu???

                  ² Carrying wine in my luggage is easy. As I said, I do it all the time. but have you ever watched those baggage handlers fling suitcases around?!?!?

                  1. re: zin1953

                    What I meant by you having an "accepting palate" is that if you find GREAT wines at $100 or under on Danko's list, then great means something different to your taste. I don't mean that they aren't enjoyable as you said in your reply. On that list there are a lot of great wines, But they all can't be great wines. If the best 25% of the list are great wines, how many of those are in the lowest 10% of pricing? I am not an expert on burgundy but it's pretty safe to say that the great burgs are going to be found in the GC and PC levels and not many amongst the 4 yr-old bourgognes. I'd rather not be limited to that level and be totally priced out of cab, bordeaux and barolo.
                    Like you said, it's a preference thing. But I think the gain from byoing is similar between hometown and out-of-town. You can bring wine you bought for $50 and aged yourself as opposed to paying $300 on the list. The effort is just a little more when traveling. I can see the factor of travel shock, but i usually try to get drink the bottle(s) a day or so after arriving and uprighting and just haven't noticed shock worth worrying about.

                    1. re: john gonzales

                      Group? Sorry for the thread drift . . .

                      / / / / /

                      John? I would respectfully describe (e.g.) the 2009 Méo-Camuzet Bourgogne Rouge as "great." IIRC, it was $85 or $95 on the wine list at Canlis in Seattle. Now, would I prefer -- and, more importantly, can I appreciate the difference? -- Méo-Camzet's Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux? The answer to both questions ***in the abstract*** is certainly "Yes." But in the real world where you and I both live, I cannot see that the Cros Parantoux is worth the HUGE difference in price. Better? Sure! No doubt. So much better as to actually be worth the $800 retail price tag (admittedly, for the 2011 vintage) at Premier Cru in Berkeley, CA? No. Not to me, it isn't. So whether or not I pay corkage on top of the $800 is irrelevant -- I won't be buying any in the first place!

                      As with all things, John, "YMMV" is the order of the day. I've coveted, owned, and/or consumed wines like the 1962 DRC Romanée-Contri from magnum (still the most outrageously excellent bottle of Burgundy I've ever had); or La Tâche from 1945, 1959, 1961; Vogüé Musigny Vielles Vignes from 1945, 1947, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1971 . . . and other such gems. And when the '71 Musigny was $20/btll., I bought two mixed cases of '71 Vogüé -- loved every bottle! But would I fork out $525 for the 2011 vintage that Premier Cru is asking? Not on your life . . .

                      We can turn this around, and make it about Bordeaux if you want. The same applies to, say, Chateau Latour, as but one example. I've had vintages of Latour going back to 1900, and the '45, '49, '53, '59, '61, '66, '70 all still stand out in my mind as extraordinary wines. Here, too, I bought the 1970 for <$20. But I wouldn't buy it today at retail, let alone off a wine list -- the price is simply outrageous to me, and certainly not worth it. Again, that's "to me" and other people may (and clearly do) differ -- after all, the $#|+ still sells! ;^)

                      >>> You can bring wine you bought for $50 and aged yourself as opposed to paying $300 on the list. <<<

                      And I *do* exactly that . . . locally! Believe me, John, I do understand the concept behind, and the advantages of, bribing in one's own bottle and paying corkage. I've been doing it for almost 40 years.

                      >>> I can see the factor of travel shock, but i usually try to get drink the bottle(s) a day or so after arriving and uprighting and just haven't noticed shock worth worrying about. <<<

                      And here -- no offense -- is where you lose me. I *have* noticed the effect of traveling; and I *do* see and taste the difference when the wine has thrown sediment which gets "unsettled" back into the wine.

                      Again, YMMV.

            2. If I am travelling on the west coast, I assume I will find something on the wine list, or BTG. If I am in NYC I will be drinking cocktails. In London, my family are notorious for their bad taste in wine so I drink cider, beer and whiskey. My last trip to Paris was 2000 and I was too intimidated by French wine at the time to enjoy the opportunity.

              7 Replies
              1. re: budnball

                You know, they actually DO have wine lists and BTG offerings in NYC, too . . .


                1. re: zin1953

                  I do, however i find the cocktail scene more active and interesting in NYC.

                  1. re: budnball

                    interesting response. I've never found hard liquor or cocktails to pair well with food. I know they're supposed to, but I also don't like chocolate with red wine. ;)

                    1. re: ChefJune

                      Agree with one exception, love margaritas on the rocks with many Mexican dishes (or the occasional Negra Modelo or Pacifico).

                      1. re: ChefJune

                        I'm not usually paring with meals. At home or nearby, I do 75% of the driving in my family, when in New York I never drive and can enjoy drinking to more excess in a social setting. Not that I don't drink wine in the Big Apple, but it isn't my focus. I'm saving my alcohol credits for the hard stuff.

                        1. re: ChefJune

                          June, you should know this.

                          Hard liquor anaesthetizes the palate.

                  2. Well, when I travel in US I visit wineries to taste and end up buying more wine than I can take back.

                    So, if the restuarant doesn't have a good wine list I ask if they allow BYO. If so, I pop out to the car and bring in a bottle.

                    No problemo in California or Oregon, didn't know about Missouri but had no problem in Ruby Tuesday - and their computerized system didn't have a button for corkage so there was no charge :)
                    Done it in Ruby Tuesdays