Category Archives: Vino

No corkage fee? YES Please!

I love going out to eat in Atlanta! So many delicious restaurants, many of which take pride in using local ingredients and developing incredible wine lists. I have to admit, however, that every time I look over a wine list, I slightly cringe at the cost for a glass of wine as I think through all of the delicious bottles collected over time sitting in our pantry. $11 for a glass of chardonnay? I could pay $15 and get a whole bottle of equally delicious chardonnay!  (Only that involves me cooking and on Friday nights, I do not cook. I unwind.)

Luckily, a friend recently reminded me of a perfect solution! Finding restaurants with no corkage fees!

I experimented last night by bringing a bottle of Gundlach Bundschu Gewurtztraminer to Murphy’s in the Virginia Highlands. As predicted, they have no corkage fee for the first bottle as long as they don’t serve the same wine in their store/restaurant (so call ahead and check!). They happily brought glasses and a bucket of ice to keep our wine cool while we caught up and enjoyed our dinner. And it’s even better if you have a special bottle that you are saving for a certain occasion, but want to just enjoy instead of gulp while you sprint back and forth through the kitchen. It was heavenly!

So, a few tips for you Atlanta folks, and a useful website for you non-Atlantans. Here, I have found that Murphy’s, One Midtown Kitchen, Two Urban Licks,  Antico Pizza, D.B.A. BBQ, and Parish all allow you to bring the first bottle of wine in with no corkage fee. Local Three charges $10 (which is on the cheaper end and one of my favorite restaurants).

Don’t live in Atlanta? Check out this website: Go BYO and find restaurants near you. Call and check before you go to make sure they haven’t changed their policy, as I found to be the case on a few occasions!

Etiquette when bringing your own bottle? Some restaurants recommend that you offer a taste to the chef as a “thank you”. They might also suggest that you tip your server as if you had ordered a bottle of wine, since they are still opening the bottle, bringing the glasses over, and topping off your drinks.

In any case, get out there, enjoy some food and you bring the wine!


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A few notes on Tuscan Wine

Ok, so before you get too carried away, let me just get one thing straight: I am not an expert. I know. Shocking. But seriously, I can’t even tell you that I taste cinnamon or woodland fruits in my wine. My wine tastes like wine, and I can tell you if I like it, but it pretty much ends there. This is simply one amateur’s notes on Tuscan wines based on our week of vacation (where, trust me, we did a lot of research!).

This is also not a summary of “Italian” wines. Italy has a LOT of wine and lots of regions that produce wine, so today, we are going to focus on just a few Tuscan wines with the goal of helping you look like you know what you’re doing next time you order a bottle of wine for your dinner table.

First of all, most Tuscan wines are made from the Sangiovese grape, sometimes blended with a small percentage of another, but mostly or totally sangiovese. The wines are named for their region, not their grape- something to know when we Americans are used to telling the waiter “If I like Pinot Noir, will I like this wine?”, which is what I try to pull at restaurants as Ryan rolls his eyes at me and my high maintenance approach to ordering drinks.

Second, the wines are classified according to how strictly the wine-makers have adhered to a set of guidelines For example, you will see “DOC” or “DOCG” on the best of these bottles (and if you don’t…well….I don’t know what you’re drinking exactly). In short, you should know that DOC = good, DOCG= better, as in, the process had more strict guidelines to monitor wine quality.

The regions we sampled were Vino Nobile de Montcepulciano and Brunello de Montalcino. The Vino Nobiles tended to be easier to drink. They represent a lighter more affordable yet very drinkable class of wine. The Brunellos were the kind of wine you order with a nice dinner, or as I prefer, you drink completely by themselves to enjoy the flavor. We did not get to tour the Chianti region (I could we miss this?), but from what some of the “locals” told us,  Chiantis tend to be better known, but do not necessarily match up in terms of flavor and quality to the Brunellos or Vino Nobiles. Needless to say, make sure you sample some wine from the other regions before you hit up the more easily recognized varietals.

Finally, Tuscany is not Italy’s version of Napa, as in, you don’t drive around in a limo sampling wines in tasting rooms designed by worldclass architects. You’re lucky to do a tasting at the vineyard itself, and if you do, most of them have not been built to serve the tourist. We were visiting during the off-season, so to arrange a visit and tasting was much more challenging than we had expected. The wines can be sampled within the cities in their own tasting rooms, and of course, in local restaurants and wine shops. Just want to appropriately set your expectations if you’re headed that way!

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My Favorite Wines Review

Over the years, I have really grown to enjoy my glass of wine- red or white, depending on the season and my mood. There is nothing like a crisp chardonnay to cool the heat of summer, or a bold pinot noir to warm up a frosty winter’s night.  While I would love to say that each drop of wine that touches my tongue is of upmost quality and expense, it’s just not. And I’m not the only one! So I have listed below a few of my personal favorites that one can enjoy on a budget, or if you’re like me, on a daily basis!

1. 2008 La Granja Tempranillo:

In my house, this is also known as “the one with the pig balloon”. Lately, I have really enjoyed tempranillos- they are affordable, full bodied, and are rarely overwhelmed by tannins- “the aftertaste”. You can buy this tempranillo at Trader Joe’s for $4-$5, so in my mind, that makes it a winner. I recently learned that it is actually back by popular demand after being discontinued for a short time (at least in our neighborhood!).

2. Venta Morales Tempranillo:

I know- another tempranillo, but this is a great bang for your buck and my “go to” when I bring wine to a dinner party. It is not the cheapest wine at the store, but affordable, and once your hosts taste it, they will have no idea that it was under $7 ($6.99).

3. Trapiche Malbec Broquel

We are big fans of Malbec at my house. I have yet to taste one I dislike- they are reliable, affordable, and underrated. After our trip to Argentina this summer, I am a big fan, and this one is one of my new favorites. It will cost you between $12-$14 (expensive!! ;), but you will savor every drop.

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