Ripe Sauvignon blanc grapes.
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We’re in the habit of bringing our own wine to restaurant, all kinds of restaurants in terms of cuisines, and price ranges. We’ve been doing it for a while.  Our motivation for doing so is to save money.  A perfect illustration of benefits of bringing your own wine (B.Y.O.W) happened when we went to a very nice restaurant in San Francisco for my wife’s birthday, the Waterbar, a seafood-centric restaurant with spectacular views of Bay, and Bay Bridge.  We took a look at the menu ahead of time, and decided to take a  bottle of  2009 Merry Edwards Russian River Sauvignon Blanc, one of our favorites.  (Click here for my review).

We were advised there would be a $25 corkage fee (A corkage fee is the amount a restaurant charges the customer to open and serve a bottle of wine brought to the restaurant. The fees can vary greatly depending on the restaurant, but they typically start at about $10).  Wow!! –  The corkage fee was almost as much as the wine, which was $30.  So you might ask, didn’t I just turn a $30 bottle of wine into a $55 bottle of wine …well yes, but as fortune would have it, when I looked the wine list, I saw another Sauvignon Blanc that a) I recognized (it was one of three memorable Sauvignon Blancs we’ve enjoyed over the last 12-18 months), and b) I considered to be comparable to the bottle of wine we brought to the restaurant.

The comparable wine (price-wise, and how much we enjoyed it-wise) was the 2009 Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc.  It was $67 per the wine list.  So, even paying the corkage of $25 we saved $12 on a bottle of wine we know we would have enjoyed as much as the wine we brought along.

Generally, when your order a bottle of wine in a restaurant, it’s 2-3 times the retail price.  The Duckhorn, for example retails for $27 on their website  (I also checked – the best price I found there for a bottle was $23).  I also saw another bottle of wine we’ve enjoyed on the wine list for $37.  I bought a bottle for $14 at  K&L Wine Merchants.

In my experience, the B.Y.O.W. philosophy works even better at more moderately price restaurants because the corkage tends to be less, and their wine list is worse, meaning you’re more likely to be charged 2x-3x for what is likely to be lower quality wine ( think White Zinfandel for $10-15/bottle, you know you can buy at your local grocery store for $5).  On the other hand,  you’re also more likely to have the wine mishandled at a moderately priced restaurant  so don’t expect a table-side bucket of ice keeping that white wine at the proper temperature to be automatically made available – you may have to give some “guidance”).

With the expensive vs. moderately priced restaurant trade-off between the lower corkage fee vs. the risk of mishandling in mind, we tend to bring wines more moderately priced wines to moderately priced restaurants, and more expensive wines to more expensive restaurants.