By 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
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?