Cheap restaurant, great food & lousy wine. Is it OK to bring your own wine?

Let’s talk corkage.

Certain restaurants can’t serve alcohol, but allow you to bring your own wine and charge you ‘corkage’ for opening it for you. Others do serve alcohol, and in general I find that they offer one or more wines I consider to be acceptable in quality, though they may also permit you to bring your own. A few restaurants in my neighborhood have arrangements with a local wine shop by which no corkage fee is charged to diners who bring wine from that shop.

But what if it’s an inexpensive establishment that does serve wine, but it’s all fairly lousy? Is it an affront to the proprietor if you bring your own? Does the law require him to allow customers to supply their own wine? I’m in California by the way.

Actually come to think of it, I’m not sure I should risk it. In the particular restaurant I have in mind, I doubt there’s even a corkscrew on the premises.

Unless the restaurant explicitly states that patrons are welcome to bring their own wine, assume you aren’t welcome to.

In GA the law requires the owner get a version of a liqour license to allow patrons to brown bag it.

So if he has gone to the trouble and expense to do so, he’ll be expecting it.


We have a friend who is a wino, err… winie. Uh, really enjoys fine wines. He routinely brings wine to restaurants, even when they have a good cellar. If he doesn’t know the proprietor, he will usually just say that the wine is a special, celebratory gift bottle that he wants to share. I’ve never seen anyone give him trouble over it. Sometimes they charge corkage, sometimes not. He also typically orders amazing amounts of food and tips well, too, though.

Most restaurants in this area will charge a corkage fee. Some are as high as $50 a bottle. That’s extreme though. The average seems to be $15-$25 a bottle, and most restaurants list their corkage fee on their menu or website.

I’d call ahead to ask what the policy and/or fee is. Never bring a wine that’s on their list. The law (in CA) does not require a restaurant to allow a patron to bring their own. Consider it a privilege.

No corkscrew? No problem, bring something in a screwcap! If there is a sommelier, you might let him taste the wine. If he really likes it he might not even charge a corkage fee.

There actually is a winery in California called Tin Roof that is marketing good wine in screwcap bottles. On a 36-hour train journey earlier this year, they had afternoon wine tastings, and their Chardonnay was one of the wines they poured. It was certainly more than acceptable, and who’s to say that a screwcap with a cork interior is any worse than those rubber “corks” that are now common?

Regardless, the inertial resistance to screwcaps is largely yet to be overcome.

This is starting to occur. Screw caps are have become quite common on wines from Australia and New Zealand. A fellow wino told me recently about the emergence of high quality boxed wines. If you thought there was resistance to screw caps…

The other thing about corkage that hasn’t been mentioned…if you want to bring your own, it should be somthing special. It is considered rude to bring a $10 bottle of “that zin you’ve always liked.” I believe this is the main reason behind corkage fees in the first place. I would think that in the OP’s case though, where there is little or no wine selection, this rule would not apply.

Go ahead and bring your wine. Although as a server I prefer for people to buy wine from me, I do not consider it offensive and neither does my restaurant. We’ve sometimes added wines to the menu that guests brought in themselves. If the restaurant has a poor selection of wines, that’s something they need to work to correct.

One thing I’ve loved about China is that we can almost always negotiate ahead of time for us to bring our own beer/wine/hard alcohol in as long as we spend a certain amount.

It’s gotten to the point where we don’t even ask anymore.

I was being quite serious. There are plenty of wineries out here now putting exquisite wines in screwcaps, and some pretty decent wines in bag-in-a-box. I’ve tried Tin Roof’s Pinot Noir Rosé (took it to the mountain play in Marin, convenient!) and enjoyed it.

I look forward to both packages becoming more mainstream/accepted.

So was I being serious.

I’m less impressed with the bag-in-box packages. I’ve tried Hardy Cabernet, and a Chardonnay that I can’t remember, and they both seemed to be too sweet, which is generally my complaint about the bottom end boxes like Almaden. Overall the impression I got was of Welch’s with a shot of vodka in it–but perhaps I just got a bad batch or something.

Oh, I knew you were. Wasn’t sure if you knew I was is all. :smack:

I wasn’t impressed with Hardy’s either. I have found a few very drinkable, and a couple very enjoyable. I really like the package though. Very convenient. And I don’t mind the taste testing. The few I preferred not to drink made perfectly fine cooking wines that could sit around for a month or two with no spoiling.

Some of mt favorites: Black Box Cab Sauv, Delicato Shiraz, Bliss Cab Sauv, Wine Block Chard, dtour Chard.

I’ve got quite a list of favorites in various screwcapped packages as well - Pepi, Bonny Doon, PlumpJack, Downing Family, etc . I’m a fan of alternative wine packaging, what can I say. OK, I’m just a fan of wine. OK, alcohol. :wink:

I’d call and ask about corkage fees before going to the restaurant.