By Mari Kane
Friday night marked a turning point in our seven-year-long Vancouver dining experience – we brought our own bottle of wine into a restaurant. One day after the new Bring Your Own Wine (BYOW) law went into effect in BC, my husband and I proudly marched into a restaurant bearing a bottle I had purchased in a VQA store not 3 hours before. We set it on the table and the maitre d’ approached our table, saying “I talked to you on the phone. This is our first BYOW.” I told him it was our first BYOW as well, only I think I was much more excited.
He opened our bottle, Niche 2010 Pinot Noir from the Okanagan Valley, and had me taste it, forgetting I would not send it back even if it was corked. The wine is quite young and nervy with great structure and red fruit flavor, and we gulped it heartily, toasting our new freedom to bring our own. No contemplation of the wine list, no weighing the relative value of what we pick. Just straight-ahead enjoyment of a bottle we chose the restaurant for.
It had been so long since we’d brought a bottle of wine into a restaurant that I had to remind my husband of the last time. On my birthday in 2005, we dined with six friends at the Farmhouse Inn in Sonoma County, California, a region where BYOW is an art form. Our winemaker friend, Bill Werzberger, had brought along two of his syrahs, just in case we didn’t like the wine menu. He and I combed the menu and considered the value of each offering in relation to the plates to be ordered. Eventually, we came to the conclusion that his bottles beat out everything on that list. So we paid the $20 corkage on each and deemed them perfect. It was the ultimate BYOW moment.
We chose this Vancouver restaurant not for its food, but because it had the lowest corkage fee of all the Italian places in Vancouver: $10. The bottle itself retailed for $21.99, bringing our wine total to $32 bucks. The most comparable bottle on the wine list was the Kenwood Pinot Noir at $48. By bringing our own, we were ahead by $16! The wine tasted better with each sip.
After a long meal of eager quaffing, we didn’t even finish our Bring Your Own Wine at the restaurant. So, we put the 1/5 full bottle back in my suede wine bag and carried it home. After all, there’s no law against it – anymore.