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

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?


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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Life’s too short to deal with that.

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.

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.

Indeed, just roll in next time with a bottle of Harlan Estate.

Bingo. Bouchon can suck it for all I care.

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.


Maybe they objected to the use of a silly and incorrect term? neener

Brilliant. [rofl.gif]

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]

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

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.

Anymore details on this?

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.

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