Corkage at a restaurant

The do’s and don’ts – Corkage at a restaurant

can you bring cheap wine to a restaurant

Can you bring a bottle of cheap wine to a restaurant?

Can you bring a bottle of inexpensive wine to a restaurant?

It is okay to bring an inexpensive bottle of wine to a restaurant under certain conditions. First, ask yourself why you’d want to bring in a bottle of cheap vino to a restaurant. It is a bad idea if the thought is to save money. Most restaurants take pride in preparing their wine lists. They want to match their food menu with a selection of wines with a broad price range.

The reason you bring a bottle of wine to a restaurant is that it has a significant meaning to you. Examples: A wine you purchased on a wine country trip where you met the winemaker. A wine that is a vintage of a year you are celebrating, as in a wedding anniversary.

Corkage guidelines for bringing an inexpensive bottle of wine to a restaurant.

  • Your wine is not a mass-produced wine. Examples: Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma or Meomi Pinot Noir are high production wines (over a million cases made).
  • Your wine is not a second label wine as in Trader Joe’s, Kirkland or Cameron Hughes.
  • Your wine is made by a boutique winery. Example – Terra Savia Chardonnay
  • Your wine has been aging in your wine cellar for one or more years*
  • The restaurant has a meager wine list **
  • The fancier the restaurant (Michelin star), the better idea it is to choose from the wine list.

Additional thoughts on corkage

  • Always call ahead to find out what the corkage policy is a restaurant. Often in a restaurant’s corkage policy, they will charge you the restaurant wine list price for your wine if it happens to be on their wine list. If the corkage fee is high, $20 or more, your inexpensive bottle of wine becomes high priced.
  • Of course, you can try bringing any wine to a restaurant. Manners are manners! I once witnessed a party bring in Two Buck Chuck to a Calistoga restaurant.
  • One of the downsides of bringing wine to a restaurant is it doesn’t make sense if you are into pairing food and wine.  It limits your choices. If the special of the night is a seafood pasta and you have a big Cabernet, forget about having the special of the night. Get the ribeye

* Each year I try to purchase a case of Napa Valley Cabernet from some of the big names. Robert Mondavi, Charles Krug, Conn Creek, and others. As long as I know the wine is just about 100% Napa Valley, I believe it is age-worthy. I recently brought a 2005 Robert Mondavi ($15) to a nice restaurant. The wine was beautifully aged and outstanding in quality.

**We love going to a small neighborhood Chinese restaurant. The owner has one red and one white wine on his wine list. We always bring in a bottle of good cheap vino, and he never charges us a corkage fee.

2014 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet
2014 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet – great Cab for your wine cellar