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Wine and Cocktails

Who's Who in the Central Florida Wine and Beverage Business

The wine business in Orlando has come a long way over the last 30 years and there are several people to thank for it. Since I am so closely connected to the different aspects of the wine business, I know first hand the time and work it takes to get a wine into your glass. I am always disappointed when I read a review of a restaurant - one that I know has put a lot of time and energy into their wine and beverage program – and the wine list isn't even mentioned. I feel that at the greatest restaurants, the wine and beverage program are what make them the full package, the ultimate experience. The first thing people order at a restaurant, after all, is a drink.

For all of you who read Scott's flog regularly, you know he is always fighting for Orlando to be recognized as a culinary destination. Some say the beaches and theme parks hold us back but ultimately I believe that without a wine culture people are actually willing and able to talk about, Orlando will never be viewed as a culinary destination. Wine and food have a long history of marriage, and with wine comes the idea of culture, prosperity and most importantly sharing. To truly understand the wine culture in Orlando, I feel it's important to recognize the people who started it, and those who are fighting for our town to have a stage in the market. This is all pretty common knowledge amongst us that have been in the wine business for a while but for many, I think that it may not be known who is the driving force behind what has and does happen in our wine scene.

How Much Should You Pay for a Corkage Fee?

CorkscrewHow important is a corkage fee to you?

If you're not sure what a corkage fee is, then it probably doesn't matter much at all. Corkage fees are what a restaurant charges a guest who wishes to bring his or her own bottle of wine rather than order one off of the restaurant's wine list. Why would someone want to do that? Usually it's because the guest has a special bottle of wine he'd like to enjoy for, presumably, a special occasion. Sometimes, less frequently, a guest wants to bring a bottle from his own cellar as a way of saving costs.

The better question is why would a restaurant, which is in the business of selling food and drink, allow this?

Some don't. Many years ago I was on the phone with Paul Bocuse and I asked him what he says when guests ask if they can bring their own wines to his famous restaurant near Lyon, France. "I tell them, 'Fine, why don't you bring your own chairs, too,'" he replied through an interpreter.

Many restaurants grudgingly allow guests to bring a bottle of wine from home. And most that do will impose a corkage fee for the service of the wine, the use of the glassware and the cleaning. The fee may run anywhere from $15 to $20 typically, although as this article, which is curiously titled "The Etiquette of Navigating a Corkage Fee," states, some restaurants, such as Thomas Keller's French Laundry and Per Se, charge $150 for each bottle. That's presumably to discourage the practice, but given the price point of those two restaurants a guest might come out ahead with the corkage and a bottle brought from home.

It's possible that a restaurant would charge nothing for guests who bring a bottle with them, but those will usually be establishments without a license to sell alcohol.

If you'd like to take a bottle of wine to a restaurant, be sure to call ahead and ask about the restaurant's corkage policy. Never take a bottle that can be found on the restaurant's own wine list, and it's also bad form to take an inexpensive vintage (or nonvintage) just to save a few bucks.

What do you think? Have you ever taken a bottle of wine to a restaurant? What's the most you've paid for a corkage fee? And restaurateurs: What is your policy about outside wine? Or dining room chairs, for that matter? Leave a comment below.

Tacos, Tequila and Foolish Choices

Blue Nectar

I did something foolish on my trip to Mexico City. Well, actually, I did several foolish things, it being a major birthday celebration/avoidance trip, but I'm only going to tell you about one of them. And for the record, I was not thrown out of that bar; I was ready to leave anyway.

Mexico City is full of street vendors selling all manner of foods. Many of them set up ramshackle tents and tables with crude seats for people to sit at. It all just looks like such a wonderful experience, and the food looked and smelled so tempting each time I passed one.

But those not assimilated to bacteria found in Mexico may eat at one of these street vendors only at their own peril. Even in established restaurants where it's safe to eat it's best to avoid foods not fully cooked — salads, for example — and even drinks with ice cubes. Montezuma, it turns out, was a very vengeful dude.

But there's another type of eatery that seems to fall between established restaurant and pop-up street vendor. They're technically brick and mortar businesses — they're under a roof, but they're typically wide open to the street. Their sanitation practices are a bit hinky.

Tasting Notes: Black Slate 2012 La Vilella Alta

Black slate in Priorat vineyard copyBroken slate in Priorat vineyard. (Photo by Andres Montoya)

Black Slate 2012 "La Vilella Alta"
Vi de la Vila - Priorat, Spain

A Sensational Effort: This Big, Bold Red is one of the most impressive, modern Priorat's made today, and still won't break the bank! Ready to drink or cellar for the next 10 years.

Ancient vines, extreme mountain climate, high altitude, slate speckled soils and hands off wine making combine to make a full throttle, memorable Grenache-based gem.

This wine is available at the Wine Barn, Winter Park.

Tournon Mathilda Victoria Shiraz

tournon label

M. Chapoutier (Tournon) 2011
Victoria Shiraz "Mathilda"
Victoria, AUS

Just yesterday I discovered this instant classic! This has all the potential to make you yearn for Shiraz, 'the balanced, complex kind', all over again. A fabulous, deeply flavored wine, brooding with blackberry, cracked black pepper, cured bacon, fresh violets and baking spice. A blockbuster Shiraz with a 30+ second finish! Did I mention this is a sensational bargain? Drink now thru 2022.

Sunday, 23rd November 2014

What is a Flog?

A flog is a food blog with news and reviews of restaurants. Here you'll find all things edible, lots of things to drink, including expert wine advice, and lots of other stuff.


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