Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
I’m planning to take a 45-year-old bottle to an anniversary dinner at a restaurant. Can I ask the resturant to store the bottle there for a few weeks beforehand so that it has time to settle and can be served properly? Am I being too fussy?
—Mike, San Francisco
It doesn’t matter whether or not I think it’s fussy; what matters is whether or not the restaurant is willing and able to accommodate your request!
I always recommend calling a restaurant before you bring a bottle of wine, period, regardless of whether or not you already know their corkage policy. It’s good to make sure that you’re up to date on the current policy, and if you get a confused server, it doesn’t hurt to say, “The manager said it would be OK when I called this afternoon.”
For a scenario that’s a little fussier (and sure, this falls under that category, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it), I’d definitely call ahead and explain that you’re celebrating an important anniversary and ask if they can work with you to manage the logistics. If you’re going to have a bottle of wine delivered ahead of time, find out what hours are best for you to do that (like, not during the lunch rush), and who to address it to. I’d also recommend calling a day or two before the meal to make sure that you know who’s working at the restaurant that evening and make sure everyone’s on the same page.
For a restaurant doing all this for you, I certainly hope that you’ll tip well and purchase another bottle off of the wine list, as well as be extremely gracious.
And one final note of caution when trusting very special bottles to the care of others: Once a bottle of wine leaves your hands, it's out of your control. Even the finest restaurant staffs in the world can make mistakes, and I've once had a very rare bottle of wine disappear just in the time between handing it to a sommelier and asking for it to be served after our appetizers (it turned out it had been mistakenly served to another table, and the restaurant was very gracious in making up for their mistake, but it nevertheless became a bottle that I never got to taste).