Dining Out, BYOW-style
Heading to a restaurant for dinner with friends? You can give it a personal touch by bringing your own wine. In exchange for giving your bottle a place at the table, you'll be charged a "corkage fee."
While it may seem odd to walk into a fine dining establishment with a bottle under your arm, it's actually quite common. Wine collectors are familiar with the practice, and so are restaurants where fine wines are served.
Corkage fees here in California range from $2 at Café Bizou in Sherman Oaks, to $25 at our etoile Restaurant and $50 at the celebrated French Laundry in Yountville. La Cachette in Los Angeles waives their corkage fee on Sundays. In other cities, the fee is usually in the $15 to $25 range.
One note of caution: make sure the charge you're going to pay is calculated by the bottle and not by the person.
Call in advance. Ask about the corkage policy and tell the maitre d' you'd like to bring your own bottle.
Don't be cheap. Avoid bringing bargain-basement bottles, and anything that's on the restaurant's own wine list.
What about bringing wine home?
Many states have laws to encourage restaurant patrons to drink in moderation. The so-called “Merlot-to-go” laws encourage people to take their wine home rather than try to polish it off at the table. Wine Doggy Bag is a company that manufactures sealable bags for wine bottles. According to their website, there are more than 40 states that allow you to transport a bottle of wine that has been opened and partially consumed during a meal, with certain restrictions.
*Please contact your state and local government for the latest information and obey all laws regulating the sale and transportation of alcohol in your area.
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