Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

Detailed information, by region, of restaurants and their wine/corkage policies
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Todd Tucker
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Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#1 Post by Todd Tucker » October 18th, 2010, 6:47 pm

Just an FYI.


hate to bash someone, but I don't feel this is bashing. Just letting people know what happened.

Was in Napa this weekend, and had dinner planned for Bouchon Friday. I had Audouzed a 25 yo Riserva Barbaresco to drink with dinner. After sitting down for dinner, the Somm told us he would not serve us the wine as it was a health code violation for him to serve an "open bottle". Hard to believe that is truly against a law, maybe a restaurant policy, but I have done exactly the same thing at that same restaurant in the past without any issue, not to mention a ton of other restaurants in CA, and in general the somm's responses have been more along the line of "good idea, nice way to treat an older bottle", than his stonewalling.

That said, with guests along for dinner, I was not going to get in a public pissing contest with the somm, and we all wanted to try the wine, so we all politely left, and had a fantastic meal down the street that was a true highlight of the trip.


Anyone know of any merit to this somm's claim?
If it is a law, I have yet to see it enforced in a very large number of California restaurants where I hav brought pre decanted/ Audouzed wines, and feel this either not true, or if it is actually a law, it is a never - well almost never enforced- one. Any thoughts?

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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#2 Post by Steve Manzi » October 18th, 2010, 7:01 pm

Todd,

Never heard of such a thing. I would definitely contact the restaurant and see what the owner's policy is, and make sure they know what their Som did.

A friend of mine had an issue at a TOP restaurant in Westchester area, and let it slide at the time he dined there. But another friend e-mailed a detailed account of what happened, and the owner had a meeting with his complete staff and went over what happened and sent a reply apologizing for what happened and detailing the changes in how they would go about things in the future.

So, I hope you at least let them know how things went for your group and that you would like to know if they will be changing things in the future.
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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#3 Post by M Kelly » October 18th, 2010, 7:09 pm

Definitely heard of this before, most places will turn a blind eye, but if they have any concerns about their license/etc. Same with places that will not let you pull the cork, needs to be an unopened container opened by the employee.
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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#4 Post by Mel Hill » October 18th, 2010, 7:18 pm

Why not just plan on pushing the cork back in so it is flush with the top of the neck?

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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#5 Post by Bill Tex Landreth » October 18th, 2010, 7:31 pm

I have walked into many a Napa restaurants with an open bottle without any issue.

This is probably an incident with Bouchon trying to make some coin.

FTR, I do have issue with Bouchon as of late with the quality of food and service.
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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#6 Post by Todd Tucker » October 18th, 2010, 8:26 pm

Thanks for your thoughts everyone. I did push the cork back in to be flush, but the capsule was cut. Regarding them trying to make some coin, the great irony is that I had already picked out three other bottles to go with the rest of the food, and they lost out on that and several courses for all of us. I am very unlikely to return there when there are so many great options elsewhere nearby.

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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#7 Post by johngonzales » October 18th, 2010, 9:11 pm

M Kelly wrote:Definitely heard of this before, most places will turn a blind eye, but if they have any concerns about their license/etc. Same with places that will not let you pull the cork, needs to be an unopened container opened by the employee.

I think this is correct. I bet it's against both ABC and health codes to allow an open bottle in, though surely it's almost always ignored. I will say that I've heard the ABC has really stepped up the checks and stings over the course of this year.

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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#8 Post by Cris Whetstone » October 18th, 2010, 10:38 pm

johngonzales wrote:
M Kelly wrote:Definitely heard of this before, most places will turn a blind eye, but if they have any concerns about their license/etc. Same with places that will not let you pull the cork, needs to be an unopened container opened by the employee.
I think this is correct. I bet it's against both ABC and health codes to allow an open bottle in, though surely it's almost always ignored. I will say that I've heard the ABC has really stepped up the checks and stings over the course of this year.
This is correct. I've heard of it before. I wouldn't be angry at a restaurant for following the law.
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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#9 Post by T. Altmayer » October 18th, 2010, 10:59 pm

Cris Whetstone wrote:
johngonzales wrote:
M Kelly wrote:Definitely heard of this before, most places will turn a blind eye, but if they have any concerns about their license/etc. Same with places that will not let you pull the cork, needs to be an unopened container opened by the employee.
I think this is correct. I bet it's against both ABC and health codes to allow an open bottle in, though surely it's almost always ignored. I will say that I've heard the ABC has really stepped up the checks and stings over the course of this year.
This is correct. I've heard of it before. I wouldn't be angry at a restaurant for following the law.
But is it an "open bottle" if the cork is flush with the bottle?
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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#10 Post by Cris Whetstone » October 18th, 2010, 11:22 pm

T. Altmayer wrote:
Cris Whetstone wrote:
johngonzales wrote: I think this is correct. I bet it's against both ABC and health codes to allow an open bottle in, though surely it's almost always ignored. I will say that I've heard the ABC has really stepped up the checks and stings over the course of this year.
This is correct. I've heard of it before. I wouldn't be angry at a restaurant for following the law.
But is it an "open bottle" if the cork is flush with the bottle?
That's a very good question. I'm sure if you asked the ABC, they would say yes. There is some equation here including factors about how agreeable the somm is and whether they have recently been questioned by the ABC on these subjects that would tell us how likely you are to get what you want from the somms. Its good to remember that a somm(or server) is not a law enforcement officer but is put in the situation of enforcing some goofy regulations.
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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#11 Post by Poppy Davis » October 19th, 2010, 10:14 am

Just because a capsule is cut, does not prove the cork has been pulled. Number one, I think the law is ludicrous. Number two, enforcing it as Bouchon did is more ludicrous, especially when the sommelier could not possibly prove that the cork had been pulled. So what about wines that do not have capsules originally?

I would have left as well. Too many other great places to go that will happily take your business without hassling you.
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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#12 Post by Bill Tex Landreth » October 19th, 2010, 10:20 am

P. Davis wrote:Just because a capsule is cut, does not prove the cork has been pulled. Number one, I think the law is ludicrous. Number two, enforcing it as Bouchon did is more ludicrous, especially when the sommelier could not possibly prove that the cork had been pulled. So what about wines that do not have capsules originally?
Indeed, just roll in next time with a bottle of Harlan Estate.
P. Davis wrote:I would have left as well. Too many other great places to go that will happily take your business without hassling you.
Bingo. Bouchon can suck it for all I care.
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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#13 Post by Bruce Leiser_owitz » October 19th, 2010, 12:12 pm

Well, first of all, the sommelier was wrong to claim that it was a "health code violation." AFAIK, there's nothing in the CA Health & Safety Code that forbids restaurants from serving wine that has been brought in but previously opened. I do think, however, that a restaurant's ABC license probably does not allow them to serve alcoholic beverages brought in by customers if previously opened.

FWIW, this rule is rarely enforced in CA restaurants. I suspect it's more of an issue in Napa restaurants or other wine country restaurants, where people first go to a winery, buy a bottle and open it, and then try to take the leftovers to dinner. Thus, regardless of the wisdom of the rule, it doesn't surprise me that a Napa restaurant would be more likely to enforce the rule in the first place.

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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#14 Post by Jorge Henriquez » October 19th, 2010, 1:07 pm

Maybe they objected to the use of a silly and incorrect term? neener
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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#15 Post by salilb » October 19th, 2010, 4:12 pm

Jorge Henriquez wrote:Maybe they objected to the use of a silly and incorrect term? neener
Brilliant. [rofl.gif]
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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#16 Post by M. Sai » October 19th, 2010, 9:43 pm

Passionfish in Pacific Grove has been known to turn away previously opened bottles, and The Girl and the Fig here in Sonoma states on their wine list that they cannot serve bottles that have been previously opened. That said, I have walked into GatF with an open bottle that I gave a double decant before making the walk to dinner. When I saw the note I quickly just shoved the cork back flush with the glass, and the waiter seemed not to notice... [highfive.gif]
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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#17 Post by Randy Bowman » October 20th, 2010, 7:37 pm

In Mike's case at GatF, the staff there are probably familiar with him. I can see this happening for a variety of reasons, following the rules, fear of a sting operation and not the least of which is fear of a lawsuit, because as stupid as it sounds, people run around pulling scams to get quick money.

While we here all know we are upstanding, well educated and learned oenophiles, the youngster toting that title "somm" is just exerting his authority to put you in your proper place. After all, he can't tell whether you are a Berserker or just one of those monied tourists who buys the most expensive wine in his local grocery store. neener
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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#18 Post by alan weinberg » January 4th, 2011, 6:55 am

I often bring my own corkscrew and open the bottle at the table; the bottle is in a wine bag when I arrive at the restaurant. How did they know you didn't do the same? Ridiculous. I agree w/leaving.
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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#19 Post by Benjamin Sullivan DNA » January 4th, 2011, 8:51 am

Todd Tucker wrote: so we all politely left, and had a fantastic meal down the street that was a true highlight of the trip.
Anymore details on this?
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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#20 Post by Gordon ZenMasterOfZin Ng » January 4th, 2011, 8:52 pm

Hi Gordon.

There is no ABC law that prohibits you from bringing wine into an ABC licensed restaurant. However, the owner does have the right to prohibit you from bringing in your own wine. Those that allow you to bring wine may charge you a corkage fee.

Additionally, locations without a license are prohibited from allowing any alcoholic beverages into their premises (23399.1 & 26504 B&P).

There is no law regarding double decanting. However, once that seal is broken and the cork taken out, the container is considered opened, regardless of whether or not you replace the cork. You may still be cited for open container in public or in a vehicle.

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I did not know that. There sure are quite a few restaurants that don't sell wine, that allow customers to BYOB/BYOW and charge a small corkage fee. Guess those restaurants are running a fairly substantial legal/lawsuit risk, say if customers are bringing in 6 bottles per table and getting ripped [drinkers.gif] ...actually know of a restaurant nearby that doesn't sell wine or beer AFAIK, but has a $3/btl corkage fee and I've seen *lots* of bottles at tables
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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#21 Post by Richard Leland » January 5th, 2011, 12:29 pm

It may have been an over-zealous somm or there may be another reason why Bouchon is following the letter of the law. If the restaurant had been cited by the ABC for any infraction at all during the previous year (e.g., serving wine to a minor) then a second offense of any kind would force them to close their doors for at least two weeks and perhaps as long as a month. A third infraction would probably cost them their liquor license.
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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#22 Post by PeterJ » September 24th, 2012, 12:23 pm

Gordon ZenMasterOfZin Ng wrote:
Hi Gordon.

There is no ABC law that prohibits you from bringing wine into an ABC licensed restaurant. However, the owner does have the right to prohibit you from bringing in your own wine. Those that allow you to bring wine may charge you a corkage fee.

Additionally, locations without a license are prohibited from allowing any alcoholic beverages into their premises (23399.1 & 26504 B&P).

There is no law regarding double decanting. However, once that seal is broken and the cork taken out, the container is considered opened, regardless of whether or not you replace the cork. You may still be cited for open container in public or in a vehicle.

Thanks,
Will Salao
District Adminstrator
LA/Metro District Office
I did not know that. There sure are quite a few restaurants that don't sell wine, that allow customers to BYOB/BYOW and charge a small corkage fee. Guess those restaurants are running a fairly substantial legal/lawsuit risk, say if customers are bringing in 6 bottles per table and getting ripped [drinkers.gif] ...actually know of a restaurant nearby that doesn't sell wine or beer AFAIK, but has a $3/btl corkage fee and I've seen *lots* of bottles at tables
Really good source but the citation doesn't address the question of whether it's legal to bring in a bottle that's already open. I did some Googling of CA law and couldn't find the subject addressed at all.................. except in the context of CA's 'open container law' possibly creating a possible gray area around how the wine got from the guest's trunk (legal) to their table inside the restaurant. I'm wondering if anyone who posted here that this is illegal would have the citation to support it. Alcohol laws seems to be among the more convoluted. But it's definitely legal for the guest to take OUT an opened bottle, so it's kindof illogical for the reverse to be illegal (not that the law is always logical).

I wouldn't buy a health code violation at all................ unless it's also illegal to bring in a birthday cake.
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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#23 Post by Mike Cohen » September 24th, 2012, 1:03 pm

It's tough to fault a restaurant for enforcing public policy. I've been to a number of restaurants at the Jersey Shore where my young kids and I have sat at the bar watching a game while waiting for a table. Several times, I've been told that my children can't sit at the bar. The bartenders have almost always been apologetic, but simply say that the ABC is constantly sending inspectors around and if they saw kids sitting at the bar they would lose their license. I happen to think it's silly especially since my kids aren't drinking, but I'm not going to argue the point.

FWIW, I ate at Bouchon in Napa this past October and had a fantastic meal. Much better than my meal at Cafe La Haye the night before. My only quibble with Bouchon and it's a very minor one is that everything is too perfect. It's literally the squeaky clean copy of a french bistro. I equate it to Old Yankee Stadium vs. New Yankee Stadium. The new stadium is fantastic, the amenities are great, yet it lacks a tiny bit of the soul that the Old Stadium had.

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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#24 Post by NickC » October 11th, 2012, 3:02 pm

Ain't nobody got time for that
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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#25 Post by Scot H. » October 18th, 2012, 12:15 pm

Mike Cohen wrote:It's tough to fault a restaurant for enforcing public policy. I've been to a number of restaurants at the Jersey Shore where my young kids and I have sat at the bar watching a game while waiting for a table. Several times, I've been told that my children can't sit at the bar. The bartenders have almost always been apologetic, but simply say that the ABC is constantly sending inspectors around and if they saw kids sitting at the bar they would lose their license. I happen to think it's silly especially since my kids aren't drinking, but I'm not going to argue the point.
I saw this post and then had to re-read through this whole thread because I thought the issue was settled. But I can see where there is confusion to the answer to the initial question (with a lot of FUD in this thread) - whether California law prohibited an ABC-licensed restaurant from serving a previously opened bottle.

No one has cited to any authority to the proposition that it is prohibited. Instead, we have: 1) Bruce, who looked at the H&S Code and didn't find any such prohibition; and 2) Gordon, who actually asked the ABC (which has separate authority) and who stated that "there is no law that prohibits you from bringing wine into an ABC licensed restaurant."

So it seems to me that that is it. Bottom line is that the sommelier was misinformed. There is no such restriction in California. Andouze away. Just don't drive with the recorked bottle sitting on the car seat next to you to the restaurant.
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Re: Don't Audouze at Bouchon... Question for CA somms

#26 Post by andy velebil » November 21st, 2012, 3:02 pm

So I called the California Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) to get the real scoop on this. The Senior Agent I spoke to said in all his years he had never heard of such a law, regarding taking a previously opened bottle of wine into a properly licensed establishment. He said it may be the locations policy, but not illegal to his knowledge. He is going to do some digging and get back to me if he finds anything further out.

Though he did mention some things regarding corkage. It CAN be a violation if an establishment advertises corkage is ok and allows you to bring however much and whatever you want to drink. That being said, he said it is NOT generally enforced unless it becomes a problem establishment. Basically one of those little known laws that they can use in rare but needed circumstances.

Will report back when/if I hear more.
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