The Trick To Pairing Wine At The French Laundry Without Spending A Fortune

The Michelin-starred-studded institution, The French Laundry is one of those culinary destinations worth a financial splurge, but the ceiling is likely far higher than you imagine. It's a spot where even the tasting menu can set you back a few Benjamins, and that's before any drinks are consumed. If you'd like to enjoy your meal with a glass or two of wine and experience vintages that complement each course, you have options beyond shelling out for bottles. TFL's wine program has become a highlight of the establishment, and the considerable menu of wines has achieved legendary status among those in the know about its offerings.

Though one would expect The French Laundry's wine menu to be strictly bottle-focused, the restaurant offers over two dozen wine blends that can be purchased by the glass, ranging from $10 to $150 per. If one will simply not adequately wet your whistle, you can jump up to the half-bottle, whole bottle, or 3-bottle tiers, the price of which is astonishingly variable but justified for those who can appreciate the difference (including a 1945 Krug Reims and series of Screaming Eagle Napa Valley bottles that approach or are above 20k). But if you're watching your wallet and want to sample a few different wines, wines-by-the-glass is a prudent course of action. 

Narrowing down choices for a better experience

Since the restaurant's tasting menu changes regularly, the team's sommeliers have plenty to choose from when crafting unique culinary experiences for diners. Unless you're a connoisseur, it can be wise to let servers decide which wine label corresponds well to which dish, so you can ask for a pairing and specify how many glasses you'd like to sip. Without the pressure of having to narrow down names and select half-bottles that fall neatly into your price range, you can enjoy your meal and let The French Laundry team choose from their roster of international libations. Because there's no fixed wine-tasting menu at The French Laundry, these trained experts have some creative license and can select pours based on individual palates and specified budgets.

As recommended on Trip Advisor by one visitor, be clear about how much you're hoping to drink as part of your requested pairing. Though you may be anticipating a high spend to eat at the restaurant, your definition of splurging on drinks may differ from other diners. Should you have a bottle of wine you've been saving to open for a special occasion, the restaurant charges a $200 corkage fee, and only one bottle per pair can be opened. It might be helpful to choose your drinking strategy before you arrive so that you don't fall into any spur-of-the-moment decisions and return home with fewer digits in your bank account than you had expected.