Corkage Three

“My wife and I are about to celebrate out 10th wedding anniversary. We have been saving a bottle of wine that was given to us as a gift for our wedding. We’re hoping to take it with us to the restaurant, but I’m not sure what the protocol is on this sort of thing. Any words of advice?” - Chris in Portland

We are fortunate to live in an area that allows people to bring their own wine to dinner. However, there are some good rules of thumb to follow when doing so.

Rule 1: Call ahead. Every restaurant has its own set of rules, regardless of the state’s. Just because the state and the city say it’s ok to BYOW, it’s not always the case. Since most restaurants are privately owned and operated, the management has the final word on whether to allow patrons to bring in their own wine or not.

Also, keep in mind that the places that do allow their guests to bring their own wine typically charge a corkage fee, ranging from around $10 to $50 a bottle. It’s good to know what to expect, and a quick call ahead of time could save you from an awkward moment at the restaurant when the bill comes. 

Rule 2: Don’t bring in just any bottle of wine. It’s usually considered bad form to bring a wine that the restaurant already has on their list. It’s sort of like bringing your own steak and only ordering à la carte. Check online; most restaurants have a relatively updated version of their wine list on their website, or simply inquire when you call ahead (see Rule 1).

Rule 3: Tip your server. When buying a bottle at a restaurant, you tip your server on that wine (or at least you should) so follow the same protocol when bringing in your own.

The same care and attention goes into serving the wine, sometimes more so in the case of special and older wines, regardless whether it comes from the restaurant’s cellar or yours. Estimate the value of the wine you bring in and tip accordingly, generally 15 to 20 percent.

The more we support the establishments that allow us to bring our own wines to dinner, it’s likely more places will open their doors to the same policies.

Take care of your restaurant and take care of your server and they, in turn, will take care of you.


- Jenni Cossey

E-mail me at to submit your questions, and I’ll see you next month!

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