© MINERVA STUDIO / SHUTTERSTOCK
BY ANNETTE ALVAREZ-PETERS
ONE OF LIFE’S great
pleasures is a perfect
pairing of food and
wine. I often write here
about the multitudes
of wines produced
throughout the world
and the limitless
potential for enhancing meals. So what
happens when you’d love to enjoy food at a
fine restaurant with a special bottle of
your own wine?
This is a situation that many restaurants and wine lovers face, and the answer
depends on the restaurant’s corkage policy. I have experienced this many times as
I have made plans for special occasions
when I want to drink a special wine from
my personal collection in a special place
(especially where I don’t have to do the
cooking). It’s the best of both worlds.
I have my own feelings on corkage policies, but as a wine buyer I have a certain
bias. So I reached out to a very quali;ed
friend, Sara Floyd, for her perspective.
Sara is a Master Sommelier and co-owner
of Swirl Wine Brokers, based in the Bay
Area, and part of the partnership behind
Luli wines. Here’s her advice:
First, start with calling the restaurant
in advance to ask if patrons are allowed to
bring in their own wines, if there’s a limit
on the number allowed and what the corkage fee is. Every restaurant has a di;erent
attitude about corkage; it’s actually illegal
in some states. You may find out right
away that a certain restaurant’s policy
doesn’t ;t what you’re looking for.
Even if restaurants have a corkage
policy, many don’t really like the practice. Sure, making guests happy is the
most important goal for a restaurant
owner. But running a restaurant is a business, and eliminating a signi;cant part
of a table’s revenue is a tough thing to
accept. That’s especially true with minimum wages going up in many parts of the
country and the price of running a restaurant higher than ever.
That said, many restaurants understand there are appropriate times to
accommodate guests with their own wines.
Say, for example, you have a vintage wine
you’ve been saving for a very special occasion, such as a key birthday, retirement,
etc. In these cases, it’s clear that your motivation is to enjoy a truly special bottle of
wine and meal, rather than cutting costs
at the restaurant.
It’s a very meaningful gesture, and recommended practice, to buy at least one
bottle from the restaurant’s wine list. And
be sure to leave an extra-generous tip. That
way you show appreciation for the time
and e;ort the restaurant sta; has spent on
making your visit truly memorable.
I think these are smart and
fair ideas. Here’s my take on
corkage policies: I have a select
number of wines in my collection
that warrant special treatment and
have memorable meaning for me.
That’s my motivation as I begin to
make plans for a nice meal out. At
the same time, I want my favorite restaurants to continue to
Tips on bringing
your own wine
to a restaurant
FOR YOUR TABLE
be successful, and I appreciate everything
they do to make such delicious meals.
When I choose a bottle, I try to be sure the
wine is not carried on the restaurant’s
wine list, and I feel it is important to support the establishment by ordering
another bottle of wine or an after-dinner
drink. In addition, I always o;er the server
or chef a taste of my wine.
Corkage fees can be a sensible gauge
for determining whether to bring your own
wines. These fees range anywhere from
;;; to ;;;; per bottle and can clearly indicate a restaurant’s tolerance for opening
and serving a patron’s personal bottle.
As with most e;orts to navigate policies, communication is key. Asking restaurants about their corkage policy is the best
approach to achieving the best ;t for your
special occasion. In the right circumstances, bringing your own wine to a nice
restaurant can be a win-win situation. C
Annette Alvarez-Peters oversees Costco’s beer,
wine and spirits program.
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