Wine Corkage Fees: Know Before You Go

During your journey among the vines, you may have picked up a special bottle of bubbles or a unique Calistoga charbono you simply can’t wait to open. In fact, you may have dinner reservations where you’d like to bring a bottle of your favorite Calistoga wine purchase.

While most restaurants in the Napa Valley allow patrons to bring their own bottle, they do charge a corkage fee for the cost of opening your bottle, serving and providing stemware. Compared to other states where restaurants simply don’t allow this practice, Calistoga incorporates this friendly policy. After all, we are in wine country, and furthermore, in Calistoga, where the essence of the town is to relax.

All you need to know now is the etiquette and best practices to bring your purchase for an enjoyable dinner at a local restaurant. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Choose your bottle carefully: The wine you bring should be a “special” one. Maybe it’s a bottle of cabernet franc from a local winery such as Huge Bear Wines, or a rare bottle of Schramsberg bubbles that you’ve saved for a special occasion. A good rule of thumb is to not bring a bottle that is already on the restaurant’s wine list. Best Practice: Study the restaurant’s wine list online.

Remember your server:  It’s customary to offer your server a taste of your special wine. Additionally, do remember to tip your server for the corkage service.

Come prepared: If you’re bringing a wine that’s best served chilled, you should probably chill it prior to arriving at the restaurant; that is, unless you don’t plan on drinking it until mid-meal or later.

Dress up: Pretty packaging beats a brown paper bag. Carry your wine in a nice gift bag or just let the wine’s lovely bottle take center stage.

Corkage fees: The charges vary among establishments. Restaurants charge a corkage fee to assist in covering their costs including serving, glass breakage, cleaning and liquor license fees. It’s best to be prepared and call ahead for specific restaurant policies. Most Calistoga restaurants have a corkage-friendly policy. Some corkage fees even go towards a special cause: for example, All Seasons Bistro donates their corkage fees to the Boys & Girls Club of Calistoga and St. Helena.