Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Crazy about Corkage: Bringing (Y)Our Own Wine

G is a wine enthusiast. So much so he had this cellar-cooler-thing built into a hall space in our home...

...and that's in addition to this old industrial refrigeration unit that he purchased from a restaurant supply company years ago.

We regularly drink from this collection (and obviously need to restock)...even when we go out. We purposefully look for restaurants that offer corkage. Corkage (aka BYO--bring your own) refers to the fee charged by a restaurant to serve wine that the diner has provided. It usually ranges from $15-$40 a bottle (it should be the margin on the least expensive bottle the restaurant offers).

So why bring your own wine?

Because of value. You can often drink better wine for a better price. Restaurants typically charge up to three times the wholesale cost of a bottle. (And what if they don't have a great selection?) It's really worth it; because for the cost of one of the house's mediocre wines, you could have a really nice one!

In Washington, it varies by establishment whether or not they allow corkage. I think with the exception of Montgomery County, Maryland allows corkage. Pennsylvania--Philadelphia in particular--has a whole culture around the "BYO" restaurant. And Virginia does not allow it at all. But at the Homestead (our wedding venue in Virginia) corkage is accepted (I'm not sure why--but I'm not going to look a gift horse...).

Sweet music to G's ears.

Though they have a very nice wine selection, the mark-up at the Homestead is nut-baggery. Plus, there are some bottles that we'd like that they don't offer (although if we asked, they would probably get it for us for an extra cost, bien sur). So G went out and sourced several of our favorite types/varietals to complement our reception menu.

His main rule of thumb was to find highly-rated wines within our price range ($15 to $40 per bottle). That's where the value comes in. For example, a 92-point wine for around $30 isn't too bad! Though he has had these wines before, having a 90-plus point rating serves as great validation. So he purchased cases full of each and we're storing them in his parents' basement and garage.

Along with serving our own wine, we decided to have a wine-and-beer-only bar for the cocktail hour. The resort will supply the beer and we will supply all the wine. We'll have a couple a vintage and non-vintage Champagnes (and a special bottle--probably a Grande Dame--for our table), two reds and two whites to choose from. The corkage is a reasonable $18 per bottle.

For any of you who is interested, following is a description of our choices. They are very good wines that are not outrageously expensive:

COCKTAIL HOUR (Fun, less expensive selections)

Nicolas Feuillatte Premier Cru Rose
"A distinctive rose Champagne that smells like potpourri or Christmas punch with its cinnamon and clove accents. There's depth and intensity to the berry and whole-grain bread notes, matched to a raw silk texture and vibrant structure."

92 points, Wine Spectator

2006 Pierre Andre Bourgogne Chardonnay Reserve
"This blend of wines from the Puligny and Meursault areas are aged in new oak, have a lot of fruit, is well-balanced and exhibit a stylish finish."

-from the producer-

2004 Monteviejo Festivo
"This wine is a 100% Malbec aged for 6 months in new French oak. The 2004 Festivo is dark crimson-colored with a fragrant nose of mineral, blueberry, and black cherry. Medium-bodied, it is plush on the palate with plenty of ripe, forward fruit, light tannin, and a sense of elegance."

91 points, The Wine Advocate

DINNER RECEPTION (Very good, reasonably priced selections)

2000 Piper Heidsieck Brut
"An opulent, energetic bubbly, this compelling 2000 vintage Champagne has a concentrated essence of vanilla, honey, apricot and citrus notes, with a long finish. The firm structure offsets its richness. This vintage Champagne is a blend 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, fermented in stainless steel and put through full malolactic. It is very, very toasty and rich given its age."

93 points, Wine Spectator

2007 Melville Viognier
"Exotic fragrances of several white nuances such as peaches, apricots, currants, chocolate and oily flowers emanate from the glass. Aromatics also drift toward dried tropical fruits, fresh coconut, hazelnut oil and sake. The wine has excellent viscosity and verve ending with both weight and a minerally-driven vein. Extraordinary minerality and precision, despite its enormous power, are what sets it apart from most blowsy, loosely constructed Viogniers. It possesses copious quantities of nectarine, mango, and orange blossom aromas as well as a hint of lychee nuts, but it is the wine’s well-delineated character that is so remarkable."

94 points, Robert Parker

2003 Tudal Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
"Deep opaque color, elegant perfumed nose of cassis and blackberries with loads of lush berry fruit give an opulent round mouthfeel. This wine, 100% Napa Valley Cabernet, is an equal blend of four Napa Valley Vineyards. The Oak Knoll District of the lower Napa Valley provided a wine from very small yet intense berries that added a concentration of color and flavors. Grapes from a small hillside vineyard on the east side of the Valley rounds out this delightful wine with suggestions of cherries, spice and earthy aromas."

-from the producer-

2002 Penfolds Shiraz St. Henri Shiraz
"St Henri is a highly successful, alternative expression of Shiraz. It is unusual among high quality Australian red wines as it does not rely on new oak. Penfolds St Henri is rich and plush when young and gains soft, earthy, mocha-like characters as it ages. It is matured in old, 1460-litre vats that allow the wine to develop, but impart no oak character. A classic effort, the 2002 Shiraz St. Henri (91% Shiraz and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon) was aged 14 months. First introduced in 1953, the St. Henri offering is considered to be a quintessential old Southern Australian-styled red. This 2002 vintage is a stunningly rich, distinctive Shiraz that offers up scents of Provencal herbs, bay leaves, blackberries, black currants, new saddle leather, and loads of meaty characteristics. Rich, texturally opulent, and soft, this heady offering should drink well for 10-12 years."

92 points Robert Parker

Have you ever done corkage?


SBIguy said...

Yes, I LOVE BYO but have only done it in Philly and Pittsburgh. How about providing a list of DC restaurants that allow the practice? We've also found restaurants around the country that are connected to wine stores. You can select a wine in the store and bring it into the restaurant at near-retail prices. Know of any of those fine establishments in or around DC, oh wise and wonderful Roganista?


SBIguy (aka Andy the guy in the next cube): stop stalking me. but to answer your question, no, i don't know of any stores attached to restaurants. would that defeat the purpose of corkage?

also, i must note: there's a dc law that prohibits corkage in excess of $25!!!

Title 23, Chapter 7 of the DC municipal regulations regarding alcohol state that “the holder of an on-premises retailer’s license shall be permitted to charge a corking fee not to exceed twenty five dollars ($25).”

Diners who find restaurants charging fees in excess of $25 can submit complaints to the chief investigator of enforcement, Johnnie Jackson, at! Yey Johnnie!!

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