5 Simple Rules of BYO

With more and more consumers reluctant to pay the high markups that are inherent to many wine lists, BYO has become more prevalent than ever. Restaurants tend to mark up wines anywhere from 2-4 times the retail price that you will find at your local wine shop, not to mention the mark up from their cost. While the convenience and selection is well worth the price to some, others prefer to select from their own collection then the restaurant’s wine cellar. Below are 5 simple rules to help determine the appropriate scenario to bring your own bottle and some guidelines for restaurant etiquette if you choose to do so.

  • Free is for me! – If there is no corkage fee, than there is no reason NOT to bring your own bottle. Even if restaurants charge a nominal (under $10) corkage fee it still makes all the sense in the world. You could choose to bring a moderately priced bottle and it will still be a lot less at your local wine shop then at the restaurant.
  • Big names = Big Corkage Fees – If you are going to a top tier steakhouse or a popular French bistro, you are probably looking at a corkage fee of $35-75. For these eateries you’re probably better off sticking with their wine list.
  • Make it worthwhile – You certainly could bring an inexpensive bottle, but that would defeat the purpose. Mark ups are typically higher on the reserve selection wines, especially from older vintages, so the better bottle you bring the more you are saving.
  • Tip on the service – The server should provide the same service on the bottle of wine whether it is purchased from the restaurant or not, so be sure to include something in the tip for that bottle. A good rule of thumb is to multiply the retail cost of the wine times 2 or 3 and add that to the total bill before calculating the tip.
  • Buy an additional bottle from the wine list – If you’re dining with a large group, doing this shows you appreciate their hospitality and would like to thank them for it…that is of course if you are enjoying the meal and the experience!



The Westchester Magazine Wine and Food Weekend is HERE!!

This is more of an informative update than a post… lots of great events happening this whole weekend starting tonight! Tickets are still available for some of the events….I’ll be there all weekend and hope to see some of you there! Check out the kick ass restaurants and wines to be featured:

Westchester Magazine Wine and Food Weekend

A Hopping Good Beer Pairing Dinner at The TapHouse Featuring Lagunitas!

If you’ve ever dined at the TapHouse in Tuckahoe, you know that the food is generally very good with flashes of brilliance. Well if you take all of those flashes of brilliance and offer them in one meal the end result ends up being one of their beer pairing dinners. This installment featured the brews of Lagunitas, a California craft brewery that is not afraid to get aggressive with their hops! Those that have had the pleasure of sampling their well known IPA know exactly what I mean.

For the first couple of pairings they served the Lagunitas Czech Pils which was the least hoppy beer of the night. First they paired it up with a sushi grade tuna wrapped around crabmeat roulade with a caramel soy sauce. The pairing worked pretty well but they immediately followed it up with a blood orange and hamachi ceviche that paired perfectly. The citrus zest in the dish brought out all the coriander and bright acidity in the beer, almost to a point of it feeling effervescent. Great way to start out the meal.

The MC for the night was Mark Sljukic from Lagunitas who was kind of a cross between Sam Adams and The Big Lebowski. He was super passionate about the brew and while he came across as a bit of a stoner, he was a salt of the earth kinda guy who knew his craft, and represented Lagunitas, very well. The next few pairings featured some seriously hoppy brews including their popular IPA, the Hop Stoopid (named for the ridiculous, or stupid, amount of hops used in the brew) and the Maximus which was like their Double IPA. The Hop Stoopid went a little over the top on the hops and didn’t maintain the balance whereas the sweet, malty character in the Maximus smoothed out the hops as to not leave you with that bitter beer face.

For these selections, Chef Kevin went right to the meats serving a spiced pork belly in a lo mein noodle bowl with the IPA, braised veal cheeks over a spiced waffle with vanilla parsnip puree and caramelized oninon syrup with the Hop Stoopid and a smoked lamb loin in a lacquer sauce with the Maximus. All pairings worked out well, with the latter being my personal favorite. However, I feel like the food was really the star of this event as by the third beer I could see some of the people at my table getting a little overhopped. But they didn’t stop there…

The desert course was maybe my favorite pairing of the night as they matched up a chocolate marquise (like a very rich chocolate mousse) and espresso ice cream with the Soco Stout. Both were dark, rich and creamy and really worked lovely together…amazingly even the stout had some noticeable hops but not as aggressive as the previous three brews.

So the moral of the story is this…if you like a hoppy brew, than Lagunitas beers are definitely something to look out for. If you like to eat some creative and really delicious dishes served by an excellent staff in a lovely restaurant setting, than the TapHouse beer dinners are not to be missed! And if you only like to pair your meals with wine, then check out some of my other posts as this would all be a complete waste of time ;)


Thanksgiving Wine Pairing Made Simple…

With Thanksgiving being such a food focused holiday, you are going to hear a lot of different opinions on what wines to pair with your Turkey and various trimmings. The truth is they are all probably right! There are few bad pairings for this meal since there are so many variables involved. However when it comes down to the basics the three most simple and effective wine pairings for your basted bird are Riesling, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the most important is the weight and the natural acidity of these wines play off Turkey quite well allowing the food and wine to enhance one another. Since the Holiday craze seemed to start a little early this year, I’m guessing that you have about as much time to read this as I do to write it. So to keep it short and sweet I thought I would just offer a list of some delectable and accesible wines for your holiday feast.


Dr. Loosen Dr. L Estate QbA 2011 Mosel, Germany (Under $15)

Eroica 2011 Riesling, Columbia Valley, Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen ($16-29)

Dr. Pauly Bergwelier Bernkastler alte Badstube am Doctorberg Spatlese 2011 ($30 and up)


Castle Rock Sonoma Pinot Noir 2009 (Under $15)

Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2009 Chanson Pere et Fils ($16-29)

Etude 2009 Estate Pinot Noir, Carneros ($30 and up… this will be on my table!)


Ravenswood Lodi Zinfandel 2010 (Under $15)

Terra d’Ora Zinfandel 2009 Amador County ($16-29…again, on my table!)

Turley Pesenti Vineyard Zinfandel 2010 Paso Robles (Just named in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2012!)

And the Double Secret Probation Westchester Wine Guy Surprise Thanksgiving Wine is…
Mollydooker Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz 2009 South Australia…Since there are some newer vintages of this wine out you can find it for around $35 instead of the $60 retail price…great deal! And Syrah/Shiraz is definitely a classic Thanksgiving pairing too.

Lastly, the most important thing is to drink what you like as that will really enhance the enjoyment of your Thanksgiving meal.

Cheers….and have a Happy Thanksgiving!