Crazy Over Corkage

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winerestaurant.jpgBy Robert Farmer

Recently my wife and I ventured out for an increasingly rare night on the town for dinner without our new baby. To us, such an occasion is special, so we set out for one of our favorite special occasion restaurants in San Francisco.

Though the place isn't one of the high-voltage restaurants that most people in SF correlate with a special occasion, it is a local favorite, which consistently earns high marks with critics and area foodies alike. Also, they have an exceptional wine list to match their gorgeous menu.
But in this case, we decided to bring in something from our own cellar - a bottle of Schramsberg's J Schram, 1999, whose beautiful notes of crisp green apples, pineapple and puff pastry suited the moment ideally. We of course knew that a corkage fee would ensue, and so were therefore braced for impact. But $30? Even in spite of our good-natured enthusiasm for the evening, this hit us with a pronounced sting at evening's end.

This started me thinking: how much is too much for corkage? If a restaurant is going to charge so much to open your BYOB bottle, might they be better off simply doing away with the service? Perhaps not. And I do know that many restaurants in hot visitor destinations can charge as much as $60 per bottle. I understand that something ought to be charged for corkage and that certain etiquette applies when you bring your own bottle to the party (offer the server a taste; buy a bottle from the restaurant, too; don't bring in cheap wine). But how about a little sanity here? When you add the corkage fee to the price of the sparkling wine we brought to dinner, the overall cost of the bottle went up by 30 percent. While I realize that makes me sound a bit like a penny-pinching bean counter, I just couldn't help but consider it--at least momentarily--in those terms. 

Happily, the corkage fee didn't dampen the evening, and we'd do it again in a heartbeat. Still, I wonder, what is your tolerance level for corkage fees?

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I agree with Mr Farmer's comments regarding high corkage fees. Many restaurants do not have very good wine lists or wines that most people even have heard about. I do a lot of wine tasting and I can tell you that these lists need some help. That is why people bring their own wine. The cost to eating out has gone up considerably. If restaurants continue to charge high corkage fees they may be looking for new customers.

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