Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Corkage vs. bottle vs. half-bottle vs. by-the-glass

Amongst many of my wine drinking friends and family, when we decide to go out to dinner, I am often left with the ongoing dilemma...bring a bottle and suffer the corkage fee or rely on the random offerings on the 'by the glass' (BTG) list which I know will be a limited version of what I really want or like. There are several factors that play in to this scenario and I'd like to lay out a few things to consider when faced with this potential quandary.

1) First and foremost, what IS the corkage fee or the stipulations of bringing your own wine? Many places have policies in place that waive corkage for every bottle purchased or the fees are such that it just does not make sense for the bottle your bringing. Sometimes, you can even order just a 'split' of wine to start and the corkage is waived. Obviously, you do not want to pay $20-$25 for a $30 bottle of wine or the like or if they charge full price for half-bottles.

2) Who and/or how many are you dining with? When you have a larger group or more than 4-6, you know there will be various dining decisions being made that greatly affect what you may want to bring if any. If everyone will agree to absorb the corkage fee, then bring something nice everyone will want to at least try and then let the rest order as they wish. Trying to please a lot of palates is challenging to say the least.

3) Do you have a good idea of the menu or style of food? I'm not hard-line fan of exact wines wine and food pairings, but I think it is an important consideration to overlook. For instance, if you are going to traditional French, strictly seafood or steak, or say a northern Italian type restaurants, you will want to pair appropriately. When I know I am going for that big fat traditional rib-eye steak dinner, I know exactly what type of wine I want to enjoy and the price-point is usually such that it warrants bringing my own even with the corkage fee.

4) Is the wine list available to view online? Many times you can preview what the current BTG list offers and see if it is something you can live with. I recently brought a half-bottle to new restaurant and the BTG glass list was quite good and had no reason to open what I brought...saved me the $15 on the half and was quite pleased with the wine along with trying something new that I really enjoyed.

5) How much will you be drinking? When my wife and I go out, sometimes she'll only have one glass and prefers to just order off the list for convenience sake. In addition, her tastes are different and may want the flexibility to order per the tastes of the evening. Here in CA you can re-cork and take it with you, but again, is it worth a couple of glasses on yourself? Also, if you are going somewhere afterward, you don't want to be lugging a bottle around or have an open bottle in the car.

6) Do you want to explore and try some new wines? When ordering BTG, you are almost assured you will be getting the latest from the industry. I have discovered some great wines that I would have not otherwise know about or tried. By committing to BTG, you will have the opportunity to "wing it" and try something new. Don't go for the 'ol standby that you know and like...experiment with something new or what the server recommends.

I may be over-thinking this scenario for most, but here in wine country, it is an ongoing saga. Plus, these days, I am trying to drink more from my cellar to save money and it gives me an opportunity (OK, excuse...) to break out some gems that just need to be drunk by now.

Until the next sip, swirl ya' later!

Chief Wino

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