A Simple Guide To BYO Restaurants and Corkage Fees

You can say what you want about New Jersey, but there is no better place to go out for a meal. No, it’s not because you may run into Pauly D or JWOWW at your favorite restaurant (although that’s a pretty solid reason). New Jersey laws have made it very difficult and expensive for restaurants to obtain a liquor license, so most of them will allow you to bring your own wine, beer or booze without any corkage fees!

Unfortunately that is not the case for most restaurants in NY, although there are a handful of BYO spots out there (ex. Buon Gusto in Irvington and Juniper in Hastings). However, almost all restaurants will allow you to bring your own bottle as long as you pay a corkage fee. Most of the higher end steakhouses and fine dining establishments will charge so much that it ends up not being worth it ($30-40 a bottle), unless you are bring a particularly expensive wine. For example, if you want to bring a bottle of Far Niente Napa Cab that cost you $100, it is certainly more cost effective to pay the $35 corkage fee than to purchase it off the wine list for $200-300.

But there are a number of places that will charge a much more palatable fee ($10-20) making it very cost effective to grab a bottle from your cellar or even your local wine shop to take with you. For example, Acquario in Silver Lake only charges $8 per bottle! So when you consider a typical mark up on any given wine in a restaurant can be 2-3 times what you would pay for it in a store, bringing your own is an absolute no brainer. This is especially genius if you have a magnum you wanted to open. This way you are basically paying one corkage fee for two bottles. Is that being a little bit too frugal? Probably, but whatever man…aren’t we still in a recession?!

So my recommendation is this… the next time you are going out for a meal around town, give a call first and ask the restaurant if you can bring in your own wine and what corkage fees are associated in doing so. Be aware, there is some etiquette involved. The most important is not to skimp out on the tip. The server will have to serve the wine just the same as if you purchased it at the restaurant, so remember to factor that into the final tally. Lastly if you are out with a big group and know you will be doing some drinking, you may want to bring a couple of bottles with you but still purchase one or two from the restaurant’s wine list. It is a sign of good patronage and who knows, in doing so you may even get that corkage fee waived.






Some Last Minute Valentine’s Day Picks

Yes… I realize posting a blog actually on Valentine’s Day is a little last minute. But what can I tell you, better late than never? Whether it is my skeptical view of these “Hallmark” holidays or just having a little less time these days… it just didn’t happen. Don’t get me wrong, any reason to tell the one you love how much they mean to you is absolutely something to celebrate.  But the materialistic hoopla that follows it is not my favorite aspect of any holiday.

What IS my favorite part of Valentine’s Day is that it usually involves a romantic candlelit dinner at home or a quality meal at your favorite restaurant. So while I am sure you already have made your dinner plans for the evening, the least I can do is offer up a couple of good wine recommendations for your celebration.

First things first…Champagne! Typically I would say there is no reason to spend the extra dough on Champagne and just stick with a sparkling from California or a nice Prosecco. However there is something about Valentine’s Day that screams Champagne. Maybe it is the romanticism that comes along with region, or the yeast and acidity that can only be captured by the traditional method of making Champagne, but sometimes there is no substitute. My favorite is always Piper Heidsieck Brut Cuvee ($30-40), although the most romantic bottle of bubbly has to be a vintage Perrier- Jouet Fleur de Champagne ($140-160) if you’re feeling extra saucy!

If you want to stay on the value side and are looking for a good red, then the 2007 Red Splash blend from St. Francis is a perfect way to follow in the Valentine’s Day motif. At around $10-15 a bottle, this is one of the more original concoctions produced in Sonoma. It’s a fun blend that includes Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Zin and a couple of other varietals. Lots of supple fruit and spice makes it a perfect pairing to everything from pizza and pasta to steak and potatoes.

A lot of wine bloggers put the “Bitch” Grenache wine in their top Valentine selections for all of those V-Day haters out there. While that is a great value wine option, I am going to buck the trend and vie for Hope instead of spite. After all, if we can’t find Hope for love on Valentine’s Day then when can we?!? This makes the 2009 Austin Hope Grenache fromPaso Robles the perfect pick for your romantic evening. Not only is it loaded with ripe and concentrated fruit, but the aromas of rose petals (seriously!) will keep you in that Valentine’s Day spirit. Plus it’s perfect for your roasted lamb or veal dish.

However you decide to celebrate and whatever wine you choose for your meal, keep in mind today is for celebrating the ones you love and to make sure you let them know. Flowers, candy, presents… they are all well and good. But without genuine emotion and passion behind them, they just don’t mean the same.


Some Fun Ideas for your Super Bowl Party!

Check out this post I wrote for the Wine Enthusiast blog page. Some cool and fun additions for the big game blowout you are throwing this Sunday… or ANY Sunday really 😉  Just click on the link below.