How Much Should You Pay for a Corkage Fee?

Written By Scott Joseph On October 21, 2014

CorkscrewHow important is a corkage fee to you?

If you’re not sure what a corkage fee is, then it probably doesn’t matter much at all. Corkage fees are what a restaurant charges a guest who wishes to bring his or her own bottle of wine rather than order one off of the restaurant’s wine list. Why would someone want to do that? Usually it’s because the guest has a special bottle of wine he’d like to enjoy for, presumably, a special occasion. Sometimes, less frequently, a guest wants to bring a bottle from his own cellar as a way of saving costs.

The better question is why would a restaurant, which is in the business of selling food and drink, allow this?

Some don’t. Many years ago I was on the phone with Paul Bocuse and I asked him what he says when guests ask if they can bring their own wines to his famous restaurant near Lyon, France. “I tell them, ‘Fine, why don’t you bring your own chairs, too,'” he replied through an interpreter.

Many restaurants grudgingly allow guests to bring a bottle of wine from home. And most that do will impose a corkage fee for the service of the wine, the use of the glassware and the cleaning. The fee may run anywhere from $15 to $20 typically, although as this article, which is curiously titled “The Etiquette of Navigating a Corkage Fee,” states, some restaurants, such as Thomas Keller’s French Laundry and Per Se, charge $150 for each bottle. That’s presumably to discourage the practice, but given the price point of those two restaurants a guest might come out ahead with the corkage and a bottle brought from home.

It’s possible that a restaurant would charge nothing for guests who bring a bottle with them, but those will usually be establishments without a license to sell alcohol.

If you’d like to take a bottle of wine to a restaurant, be sure to call ahead and ask about the restaurant’s corkage policy. Never take a bottle that can be found on the restaurant’s own wine list, and it’s also bad form to take an inexpensive vintage (or nonvintage) just to save a few bucks.

What do you think? Have you ever taken a bottle of wine to a restaurant? What’s the most you’ve paid for a corkage fee? And restaurateurs: What is your policy about outside wine? Or dining room chairs, for that matter? Leave a comment below.

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Tacos, Tequila and Foolish Choices

Written By Scott Joseph On August 1, 2014

Blue Nectar

I did something foolish on my trip to Mexico City. Well, actually, I did several foolish things, it being a major birthday celebration/avoidance trip, but I’m only going to tell you about one of them. And for the record, I was not thrown out of that bar; I was ready to leave anyway.

Mexico City is full of street vendors selling all manner of foods. Many of them set up ramshackle tents and tables with crude seats for people to sit at. It all just looks like such a wonderful experience, and the food looked and smelled so tempting each time I passed one.

But those not assimilated to bacteria found in Mexico may eat at one of these street vendors only at their own peril. Even in established restaurants where it’s safe to eat it’s best to avoid foods not fully cooked — salads, for example — and even drinks with ice cubes. Montezuma, it turns out, was a very vengeful dude.

But there’s another type of eatery that seems to fall between established restaurant and pop-up street vendor. They’re technically brick and mortar businesses — they’re under a roof, but they’re typically wide open to the street. Their sanitation practices are a bit hinky.

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The Psychology of the Wine Glass Hold

Written By Scott Joseph On March 6, 2014

wine glass holdThe way you hold your wine glass has a lot to say about you. At least that’s what this photo collage from the Savory suggests. I’m not sure I buy into it, but I’ll confess that I’ve used different methods shown here at different times. I guess I’ll have to start keeping a diary about how I feel and how I’m holding the glass, along with the notes on the winetasting, and trying to hold a conversation with the other wine drinkers. Maybe I’ll just put a straw in the bottle.

One thing the article doesn’t mention is that one really shouldn’t hold a wine glass by grasping the bowl, as the young man in the photo here is doing. Why? Because the heat from one’s hand will warm the wine. Sometimes, however, a wine is overchilled and needs to come up to the proper temperature. In which case such a grasp is called for.

Placing it under your armpit is never acceptable.

 

Which type are you?

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Helpful Hints for Ordering Wine

Written By Scott Joseph On January 6, 2014

This article from Business Insider is titled “A Top Sommelier Reveals 6 Things Not To Do  When Ordering Wine,” although I think a more positive title might be more effective. Maybe something like “Some Tips To Help You Enjoy Wine with Your Meal More Often.”

Still, there are some good points from John Ragan, wine director for Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, for people who may still feel intimidated by wine lists and the attendant ritual of ordering a bottle. I think the best advice here is telling the sommelier how much you want to spend. I must say, however, that I’m surprised there are still people who think they’re supposed to sniff the cork. I thought we’d evolved beyond that.

What do you think? Are there elements of the wine ordering ritual that intimidate you? And you wine stewards: What other advice could you add to Ragan’s list?

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Can’t Finish That Bottle of Wine at the Restaurant? Take It Home with You

Written By Scott Joseph On June 22, 2012

This week on WMFE-FM, Scott chats with 90.7’s Nicole Creston about a little known law that allows restaurant patrons to take unfinished bottles of wine home with them. You can hear the segment at 5:45 p.m. Friday; it’s repeated Saturday mornings at 9:35. Or, click to listen to the podcast anytime.

Wine Doggy BagsIt’s been seven years since the Florida legislature enacted a law that allows patrons to take an unfinished bottle of wine home with them if they are unable to finish it at the restaurant. The law went into effect on July 1, 2005, and when I first wrote about it for the Orlando Sentinel, in September of that year, few people knew about it.

Few people know about it today.

But it’s a terrific little way to free yourself from the confines of the list of wines by the glass.

Here’s some of what I wrote back then that explained the law:

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Vertical Tasting of Freemark Abbey Cabernets with Winemaker Ted Edwards

Written By Scott Joseph On October 31, 2011

 

TEdwards

Freemark Abbey winemaker Ted Edwards

Update: Attendees are not required to pay a parking fee to attend the tasting. Simply tell the attendant at the entrance gate that you are attending a wine tasting at California Grill. This is also true any time you have a lunch or other business at one of the resorts inside the parking gate entrance.

 Here’s an extraordinary opportunity: a vertical wine tasting spanning three decades of Freemark Abbey cabernet sauvignons, hosted by winemaker Ted Edwards and local master sommelier John Blazon of Jackson Family Wines. Part of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, the tasting will be held at California Grill in Disney’s Contemporary Resort Saturday, Nov. 5, from 1 to 3 p.m. Cost is $225 per person, plus tax. Gratuity is included, and because it will be outside Epcot’s gates, no admission fee is required, although parking rates apply because it is necessary to pass the Magic Kingdom parking attendants.

 

But those who know fine wine, and the reputation of Freemark Abbey’s cabernet, will appreciate this as a bargain.

Here are the featured vintages:

1987 Cabernet Bosché
1987 Sycamore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
1991 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
1991 Cabernet Bosché
1991 Sycamore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
1995 Cabernet Bosché
1995 Sycamore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
1999 Cabernet Bosché
1999 Sycamore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
2003 Cabernet Bosché
2003 Sycamore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Freemark Abbey, one of the first 16 wineries in Napa Valley, was founded in 1886. Ted Edwards has been the winemaker since 1985. Edwards and Blazon will also be in downtown Orlando on Sunday as judges for the Battle of the Parks.

For more information about the Freemark Abbey vertical tasting or to purchase tickets, call 407-939-3378.

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Rioja Street Fare Festival with Scott Joseph and Wine on the Way Tonight

Written By Scott Joseph On September 22, 2011

Rioja_Festival

Tonight’s the night for the big Rioja Street Fare Festival with Scott Joseph and Wine on the Way. Here are some details for those of you attending:

  • The event is sold out — I have no more tickets I can sell — however, as happens sometimes, people who have bought tickets find they cannot use them. If you are one of those people, post a notice on Facebook or Twitter and I can guarantee the tickets will be snapped up before you can say Vibrant Rioja! Those transactions are between you and the buyer or seller.
  • With our event sold out and the Winter Park Chamber’s Sip & Stroll on Park Avenue, parking is going to be at a premium. Therefore I’ve secured the services of One Way Valet through Events by Grace to provide complimentary valet parking. Yes, tipping makes it not-so-complimentary, but this is a whole lot better than trying to find a space nearby. By the way, don’t park in the bank across from the Winter Park Farmers Market — you will be towed. Just pull up to the Farmers Market on New York Avenue and the valets will take over. And don’t be concerned with the name of the valet company — they assure me they will return your car when you request it.
  • Please print out your tickets and bring them with you. Or, you may display the ticket on your smartphone as long as the unique code is visible. The people checking tickets will first ask for the name of the person who purchased the tickets, so if you were given a ticket that was purchased by someone else, give the other person’s name when you check in at the gate.
  • The event is planned for inside the Farmers Market and around the parking lot, so dress casually. It’s a Street Fare Festival, so street clothes are fine.

I’ve invited a whole bunch of the area’s top chefs who have created special “street fare” dishes specifically paired to the wines of Rioja. We say street fare, but in some cases the street may be Rodeo Drive or the Champs-Eysees. Or even Park Avenue. The amazing crew from Vibrant Rioja have put together a booklet of the dishes and the inspiration wine the chefs used to create it. Who’s cooking?

  • Scott Hunnel, Victoria & Albert’s
  • Kevin Fonzo, K restaurant
  • James & Julie Petrakis, The Ravenous Pig
  • Jamie McFadden and Harold Henderson, barJme
  • John Rivers, 4Rivers Smokehouse
  • Gregory Richie, Emeril’s Tchoup Chop
  • Brandon McGlamery, Luma on Park
  • Matt Cargo, Prato
  • Tony Adams, Big Wheel Provisions food truck
  • Steven Saelg, The Crooked Spoon food truck

Many of the wines you’ll be tasting this evening are not readily found in retail outlets. Wine on the Way has graciously agreed to make your favorite wines available this evening. They’ll even deliver them for free in the cutest little delivery car you’ve ever seen. (It’ll be there tonight; don’t trip over it.)

A portion of tonight’s proceeds will benefit one of my favorite organizations, Canine Companions for Independence. These good folks train dogs to assist disabled people in performing the everyday duties you and I take for granted, like picking up something you’ve dropped or helping you take your socks off. They’re really amazing, and we’ll have some CCI representatives there with some of the doggies.

What else? Some fun surprises. See you there.

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Tickets on Sale for WineQuest

Written By Scott Joseph On March 22, 2011

Tickets are now on sale for the 15th annual WineQuest, which will be held June 10-12 at Grande Lakes Orlando. The wine event, which benefits Quest, In., an organization that assists the disabled, will feature a Grand Tasting and Auction on Friday, a Saturday night farm-to-table dinner with wine pairings, and a Sunday brunch at in the garden at Primo.

This is one of the better wine events in the area, and the grand tasting last year had several noteworthy wines.

Advance ticket prices are $75 for the grand tasting, $155 for the five-course dinner and $55 for Sunday brunch. Ticket prices go up after May 9. Visit winequest.org to see the  complete schedule and to purchase tickets. Or call 407-218-4300.

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Capital Grille Offers Limited Artist Series Wine with Label by Florida Painter

Written By Scott Joseph On March 21, 2011

tableCloseBeginning today, the Capital Grille will be offering its second annual Artist Series Wine Event, which features a specially crafted wine sporting an original label designed by Florida artist Patricia Timbrook. Timbrook’s design was chosen from among others entered in a competition held last fall by the Orlando-based restaurant brand.

According to a press release, Timbrook’s painting, titled Pairings, was chosen “for the way the bold colors and fluid lines perfectly complement the robust flavors and subtle undertones of the wine.” The wine is a cabernet sauvignon from winemaker Thomas Peffer of Atalon Vineyards in Napa Valley. Fewer than 1000 cases will be produced, all exclusively for Capital Grille. The wine sells for $75 per bottle, and Darden will donate $25 from every bottle sold to Share Our Strength, a national charity that works to end childhood hunger in America.

“In addition to supporting our national charity, Share Our Strength, we are proud to recognize and celebrate talented artists like Patricia Timbrook,” said John Martin, President of The Capital Grille.  Timbrook is from Parrish, Florida, near Bradenton.

The Capital Grille is located at Pointe Orlando, 9101 International Drive. The restaurant is open for lunch Monday through Friday and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-370-4392.

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Beaujolais Nouveau Release Will Include Orlando Party

Written By Scott Joseph On November 16, 2010

Nouveau_CirqueWell, looky here at the calendar. It’s getting to be the third Thursday in November, and you know what that means. No, not Thanksgiving; that’s the fourth Thursday. And not the Third Thursday art stroll downtown dealie. The third Thursday in November is the official release date of Beaujolais Nouveau, one of the all-time greatest marketing gambits. The French government, by making it a law that the newly fermented grape juice of the Beaujolais region could not be released to the public until midnight (actually, one minute past midnight, to be precise) of that specific day, created a sense of intrigue and anticipation. Tell people they can’t have something and they suddenly must have it.

Whatever. In this country it’s created a good excuse for wine lovers to have celebrations and parties to taste the new release. Americans love to co-opt other countries’ commemorations for their own celebrations, especially when the consumption of alcohol is involved (see: Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day, Lithuanian Arbor Day). Of course, usually the Beaujolais Nouveau festivities are in major cities such as New York. The best parties are put on by the folks associated with Georges Duboeuf, one of the largest producers of BN. I attended one a couple of years ago where the cases of Beaujolais Nouveau were delivered by a gang of motorcycle-riding chefs to a restaurant in lower Manhattan.

But this year the Duboeuffers are fanning out across the country with the celebrations, and one of them is going to be right here in Central Florida at our own Funky Monkey Pointe Orlando. The theme is Nouveau Cirque, which should give you an idea of what to expect. There will be acrobats, jugglers and other performers. And of course, the wine, which will flow freely. Well, not freely in the sense of cost, but for $15, which includes food and entertainment, as well as the wine, it’s a pretty darned good deal. But even better: 100% of the funds will go to Second Harvest Food Bank. So come on out, be among the first to taste the new Beaujolais 2010 and do something good, to boot.

The party is from 6-9 p.m. Thursday, November 18, at Funky Monkey Wine Company, 9101 International Drive, Orlando. For tickets, which are limited, so get cracking on this, go to feedhopenow.org.

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