Are we ready to add "corkage fee" to the list of wine topics guaranteed to arouse a sense of outrage? The latest comes from two articles regarding the $150 corkage fee at The French Laundry in Napa. Eater already flogged this horse about the same fee at another Thomas Keller restaurant, New York's Per Se, and we reported on the reaction.
In this round, W. Blake Gray, writing over on Wine Searcher, dives into The French Laundry's list to find out if its better order cheap(ish) Cabernet from the list or BYO Charles Shaw and pay the corkage fee. (You'll also pay in death stares from the sommelier for the latter.)
Gray quotes Tom Wark, who calls the $150 corkage fee "plain old gouging", carries the discussion over to his own blog, Fermentation. Here are five comments to ponder from these two posts:
"A $150 corkage says 'you are better off ordering off our list, but if you must bring in your own bottle it better be a damn expensive bottle.'” --John Kelly
"I don’t care how good the food is or how high the profile, I don’t accept a 400% markup on wine. But I don’t see the percentage in paying it and then complaining about it. The best way to reject the price is not to bring my own wine, but to dine somewhere else." --Thomas Pellechia
"In defense of the restaurants that charge a seemingly insane corkage, we all need to remember that high end restaurants make much if not most of their profit on alcohol. We are excited and proud when we arrive with our 2000 Raveneau Les Clos, but FL and other restaurants see a $700-1000 profit flying out of their hands and are determined to recoup some of that." --Mark Bernstein
"Gray’s throwaway article is about as thoughtful as a fortune cookie fortune. Yes, French Laundry has an exorbitant corkage fee, but the reason you, and I, and everyone else who writes a wine blog hasn’t been there in decades isn’t the corkage fee, it’s the price of the meal. French Laundry is a restaurant for the 1%, and needs to act that way. $150 corkage fee is about image, not service, or quality of stemware.... Peon wine writers can rattle their cage, but, truly, they’re far too busy, and we’re not at all their customer base." --Ron Washam
"There is a message here and both appear to have a sense of entitlement on both sides which would easily be resolved with a bit of consideration of the others. Since that won’t likely happen thus you see the overreaching on all parties attitudes. Generosity goes a long way and it odd that people need reminding." --Mike Mora
Along the wines of Washam's comments, do you give a crap what The French Laundry charges for corkage?