Thinking about bringing your own bottle to a restaurant? Here are some guidelines to use at restaurants that don’t actively encourage BYOB. Keep in mind that various state and local laws might affect this. It’s illegal to bring your own wine to a restaurant in Colorado, for instance.

1. Don’t do this just to save money. We say this first, even though it overlaps with some of what you’ll read below, because it’s the bottom line. Take your own because it’s your birthday and you have a bottle from your birth year, or because you have a bottle that’s more interesting than anything the restaurant offers, or because you have a special bottle that you’ve always wanted to open, or because the bottle is unique in some way. If you think the restaurant charges an excessive markup on its wines, avoid the restaurant. It clearly doesn’t care about your dining pleasure.

2. Get to know the place first. Go at least once, and if it seems like the kind of place that might be receptive — and, of course, the kind of place you’d like to go back to — then think about bringing your own bottle.

3. Consider the restaurant. If it’s a fancy place with a great wine list, it’s probably a bad idea to bring your own wine except under very special circumstances.

Planning Ahead

4. Call ahead and ask if you can bring your own bottle, and ask about the corkage fee. From the response, you’ll get a sense of how the restaurant really feels about this. The corkage fee will tell you something, too. If it’s high — it’s impossible to say what the benchmark might be, but we’d get mighty nervous at $25 — our guess is that the restaurant really doesn’t encourage the practice. Also, if you plan to take more than one bottle, ask if that’s OK. In some cases, it’s not.

5. Take something special. This is key. If you walk in with a widely available Merlot that you could have gotten at the local wine shop on the way to the restaurant, or something that’s likely on the wine list, you’re probably not going to be treated warmly. But if you have a bottle that is special in some way, the restaurant will likely be charmed. “Bringing a bottle of Veuve Clicquot from the wine store around the corner is not too cool,” says John Fischer, service instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York. “However, that bottle of Pommery Rose that you have left over from your wedding would be nice to bring to your first anniversary dinner.”

Keeping It Cool

6. Be discreet. Maybe the restaurant doesn’t encourage people to bring their own, but makes exceptions for nice people like you. In that case, the restaurant would not be pleased if you walked in with a paper bag, held up the bottle and shouted, “Here’s the wine I brought!”

7. Have some of the restaurant’s wine first. If it’s just the two of you, consider having two glasses of the house wine, or two glasses of Champagne while you study the menu. If there are four of you with a single bottle, perhaps order a bottle of the restaurant’s wine first. This shows good faith.

8. Don’t send it back! Hey, just kidding. But we are always amused when waiters pour us a taste of our own wine and stand back and wait for our approval. If we don’t like it, what do we do? Spit it out, yell, “You call this wine?” and send it back?

9. Offer a glass to the waiter or sommelier or chef. Remember that the reason you have brought this wine is that it’s special in some way. It’s fun to share special wines, and the waiter, sommelier or chef will appreciate your generosity (and they probably won’t take more than a sip anyway).

10. Tip as though you had purchased a bottle from the wine list. The waiter is working just as hard opening and pouring that bottle as he would if you’d bought it there. If the restaurant seems to charge about $30 for a good bottle of wine, figure the tip based on your bill plus the $30 (or, say, $20 if you’re paying a $10 corkage fee and want to figure the tip based on the two together).

All of this is really just simple common sense and good manners. If you keep these points in mind, you can make your dining experiences even more special. And the maitre d’ won’t cringe the next time he sees you.

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Filed under: Dinning With Wine