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Apr 27, 2014 11:54 AM

Baumé (Palo Alto)'s exotic wine policy?

I didn't see this discussed, to speak of, in mentions of Baumé found here. I have still not been to this restaurant, which is in my part of the Bay Area. Yet some very food-and-wine-savvy friends had dinner there recently, much enjoyed the food, but came away describing an aspect truly eccentric. I'm curious if this has always been true, or if anyone knows of exceptions. (Note, I'm only concerned here with the policy for _dinner._)

They said the tasting menu was some $198 p/p, but the only wine option was by-glass pairings: two formats, smaller and larger. No corkage option and more surprisingly, NO wine list for ordering bottles. The larger pairing format that they opted for was very pricey, hundreds of dollar per person. From my friends' description, it seems even one diner going for tasting menu and requesting the full wine pairing would pay $198 for food, $398 yes $398 for wine. Basically 600 p/p.

I checked the web site: all I saw is the "recommended" wine pairings and no BYOB. I'm a bit of a wine geek, and would hope to have some options to order bottles at dinner -- that was what my friends assumed too, but they were surprised.

Anyone else have experience with this?

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  1. The prices include service charge and tax.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Thanks, I've accordingly edited out the "++" from the prices quoted above.

      Do you have experience at the restaurant, and this unusual dinner wine policy?

    2. Let's see, I think I ate there about 2 years ago. Maybe 2.5. I remember getting a pairing, and my dining partner getting a glass. There's no way I would have paid $400 for wine pairings, I remember an option that was $100 or $150 or something. I do not remember if there was a bottle list or not.

      1. Do they disclose what the pairings will be on the menu? If not, there's no way I'd ever do this. I use either the pairings list or the wine list to identify whether it's a good wine program or not. Without either indicator, I would be loathe to walk in so blind.

        1 Reply
        1. re: goldangl95

          I don't believe they have a menu. What I've seen posted on the front of the place is a grid of maybe around 50 ingredient names.

        2. They had a great wine list when we were there, though we went with the pairings. I find it hard to believe it would be gone. I don't recall anything about corkage. But why not call them and ask rather than have us speculate?


          23 Replies
          1. re: mdg

            As far as corkage, it says right on their web site, "No outside wine permitted." It's a recent change in policy, it was previously $68.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              So no matter matter how astronomical the corkage, they won't let you bring in your own favorite wine? Maybe there should be a Bay Area Hall of Fame for Restaurants with an Attitude and Baume could be the second inductee after Saison.

              1. re: nocharge

                @nocharge "Maybe there should be a Bay Area Hall of Fame for Restaurants with an Attitude and Baume could be the second inductee after Saison."

                LOL ... I nominate French Laundry with their $150 corkage fee as charter members too.

                1. re: nocharge

                  Hey -- to be fair, restaurants, including Saison and TFL, must make tough business decisions, under constraints far outside the daily consciouness of many customers or online commentators. If someone thinks that they can do better, and avoid these wine policy compromises, then I'll applaud their demonstrating it, and will be among the first to try out their own new restaurant, once it opens.

                  1. re: eatzalot

                    I totally understand restaurants wanting to make money from serving wine, but Baume banning any outside wine no matter the corkage seems a little over the top. Just charge enough for corkage, goddam it! And the general eccentricities of the chef at Saison, including blasting Phil Collins in the dining room, are well documented and have little to do with running a profitable restaurant.

                    1. re: nocharge

                      Oh come on. Plenty of restaurants (lower end) allow no outside food or drink. A high end tasting menu - where you don't know the food that will be served - is a very reasonable case for banning outside wine. As to the Phil Collins, in my dining at Saison 2.0, I wouldn't call it "blasting" but did find it odd. NoCharge, what was your experience at Baume?

                      1. re: bbulkow

                        "NoCharge, what was your experience at Baume?"

                        I was wondering that too.

                        1. re: eatzalot

                          Never been to Baume, so I have absolutely no opinion about the food or anything. My problem with the whole thing is the general concept of a restaurant preventing a patron from bringing that unique bottle of wine that the patron had saved for a special birthday. Makes absolutely no economic sense for the restaurant to do so given that it can crank up corkage fees arbitrarily. Just creates bad will rather than goodwill. A matter of irrational eccentricity on part of the restaurant. Nothing to do with Baume specifically. It's a matter of "the customer is always right" vs. "my way or the highway" attitude on part of the restaurant.

                          1. re: nocharge

                            In this case, they've just made the wine match what they've been doing with the food for a while. No menu, no choices, you just get what they give you.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              My definition of an arrogant restaurant. Do they give you salt if you ask for it?

                            2. re: nocharge

                              What if that special bottle of wine doesn't match well with the food being served that day? Then it will have been -- to some extent -- wasted. Better to save it for a different restaurant where you know you can order food that will be complementary. There's no shortage of special occasion restaurants where you can bring a bottle of wine.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                Two comments on that:

                                1. It's your decision. You bring in a bottle that doesn't go well with the food and it's your problem. People have different tastes in wine just like they have in sodium. Banning people from bringing in their own bottle of wine, no matter how hefty the corkage, shows ridiculous hubris on part of the restaurant on par with refusing to provide you with a salt shaker.

                                2. There are some types of wines that go with a wide variety of foods. Champagnes come to mind. Or maybe you just want to have that 1979 Pol Roger Cuvee Winston Churchill from your wine cellar for a toast before dinner in which case the food pairing issue is irrelevant. (I actually have a bottle of the 1979 purchased from Beltramos in the 1980s. Still has the $69.99 price tag on it.)

                                Bottom line: Let patrons do what they want whether it's doing the restaurant wine pairing or bringing their own special bottle and paying corkage!

                                1. re: nocharge

                                  I guess I just don't find it that outrageous. As has often been noted in BYOB discussions, there's almost no other consumable that a restaurant will allow you to bring (the other major exception being a celebratory cake) -- you wouldn't feel justified in bringing your own food to a restaurant and asking them to plate and serve it.

                                  Allowing people to bring wine is traditional courtesy, but not an obligation.

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    I agree that it's not an obligation. Restaurants can have whatever policies they want. But those policies can also be a factor in judging a restaurant. Having an attitude? Arrogant? What not.

                                    1. re: nocharge

                                      1. This subdiscussion has been mainly among people without experience at Baumé; none of us has pursued this deeper, heard from the restaurant, investigated informal exceptions to the policy, etc etc., so we don't really know. California restaurant corkage policies often entail nuances and exceptions, a perennial Wine-board theme http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8942... .

                                      2. nocharge, if your "definition of an arrogant restaurant" is Ruth's "No menu, no choices, you just get what they give you," then many modest local restaurants in Europe will also strike you as "arrogant" because their custom is to offer a daily special, called "le menu" or whatever, which changes day to day by what's fresh and available. That format helped inspire the fixed daily offering at Chez Panisse (the original, the restaurant, downstairs) in 1971 at a time when many more Americans ordered from diverse restaurant offerings built on frozen ingredients. Many people who have enjoyed that daily-menu format in countries where it's the norm find it to be humble and effective, not arrogant.

                                      1. re: eatzalot

                                        I heard from the restaurant through their web site, which includes the message, "No outside wine permitted."

                                        Chez Panisse publishes the week's menu in advance, so you can cancel your reservation if it's not appealing.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          "I heard from the restaurant through their web site..."

                                          Yes -- as I said, but maybe I wasn't clear enough. None of us distant observers of Baumé has explored the wine policy as a customer. Which is how I usually hear about flexibilities, unwritten rules, policy exceptions, back stories to policy -- all the sorts of unknowns I alluded to earlier, and that are found, in my experience, in the diverse landscape of Bay Area restaurant wine policies.

                                          1. re: eatzalot

                                            I think a lot of the discussion was meant to be generic about allowing outside wines and not too much specifically about Baume, although it inspired the discussion.

                                        2. re: eatzalot


                                          I lived in Europe for pretty much exactly 25 years. Never ever went to a restaurant that didn't offer menu options. Even if such restaurants exist, I would consider them arrogant.

                                      2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                        Giant's Stadium doesn't allow you to bring in outside wine. I don't consider them arrogant.

                                        1. re: bbulkow

                                          A very flawed analogy. There is no way a stadium could charge corkage fees for over 40,000 spectators making their way into the stadium if they were to bring their own wine or beer. So the stadium just forces people to buy the overpriced stuff sold inside. But what's stopping a high-end restaurant from allowing outside wine with a corkage fee that can be set high enough to compensate the restaurant for the loss of wine sales?

                    2. re: mdg

                      Thanks mdg, I will check directly with the restaurant. Was curious if anyone reading here had observed the policy evolutions there, and be able to comment independently about them. You, bbulkow, and Robert have shed some light.

                      1. re: eatzalot

                        I can see the appeal to the owner of selling wine only as pairings. The margins are better and you would not have to stock as many wines or keep the list up to date (which is way more work than one might imagine).

                    3. Was planning to go back to Baume until I got this inane message: We do offer only an 8 course seasonal tasting menu and wine pairing options. No Outside wine allowed.

                      Their wines may pair perfectly and may miss my taste entirely...not to mention the champagne and pinot I brought last time humbled anything in their cellar. It's like half a restaurant, no sommelier and cellar access.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: MoceMada

                        I wasn't planning on going back because I didn't like the food that much. For the price and pretention, the dishes never came together for me. I'd prefer to eat at any other tasing menu place in the bay area ( I haven't eaten at ALL of them, but those I'd rather do than a second time at Baume ).

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          It is particularly upsetting to me since I live in Palo Alto and have another reminder why I *still* have to drive to SF, the Wine Country or Manresa to enjoy a great restaurant. You would think with all the wealth that's developed in the area, that there would be awesome choices...but, perhaps, it's because the 20 somethings prefer fajitas at Palo Alto Sol.