Tuesday, June 16, 2009

BYOB ... To A Restaurant

My first date with my husband was at a wine bar. To which he brought his own wine. Yes, it's like bringing coals to Newcastle, but it was a great bottle of wine - a Pride Viognier - that was a lot better than any of the other wines on the menu. That experience introduced me to the concept of bringing my own wine to restaurants. Now I categorize restaurants in one of two ways - those that are open and friendly to patrons who bring their own wine and those that are not. And I pretty much only go to the first type.

Like anything else in life, there are a few rules that you should follow if you bring your own wine to a restaurant:
  • Check out the wine list in advance and make sure your wine is not already on it. If the restaurant has your wine on their list but it's a different vintage you are probably OK, but you might want to bring a back up just in case, or call and ask to see if it's OK. You don't want to end up paying the restaurant's price for your wine.
  • Expect to pay corkage. This can be zero (Yes, it happens! Especially here in wine-friendly Sonoma County), but usually ranges from $10 to $25. The highest I have seen is $85.
  • Bring something nice or unusual. Don't bring a $10 wine and expect to fool anyone. You won't. The point of bringing your own wine to a restaurant is to be able to enjoy a special or unusual wine with a meal that you don't have to prepare yourself.
  • Bring a back up bottle for optimal food pairings. We typically bring two reds - a lighter one such as a Pinot Noir, and a heavier red such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Syrah. This allows some flexibility in pairing our food and wine since we may not know in advance what is on the menu. If we want a white with our starter, we order by the glass or order a second bottle and figure we will be bringing some wine home (that's legal here).
  • Use a nice wine carrier, NOT a paper bag. We have a leather-like bag that holds two bottles of wine. It has a little ice pack in case we need to keep something cold. That bag is well-recognized among our friends, prompting one to comment, "I always get excited when I see that bag because I know there is something good in it." And there usually is!
Stay tuned for some of the good and not-so-good experiences I have had with bringing wine to restaurants.

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