Wine Talk

Snooth User: EMark

Wine List Prices

Posted by EMark, Oct 28, 2011.

I hope Snooth readers are not tiring of me talking about my cruise, but I wanted to highlight something that I found very interesting.  I took some of my own wine on board to somewhat avoid paying outrageous wine list rates.  However, I was very pleasantly surprised to dining room/restaurant wine list prices like these:


  • Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon (2007) -- $155.

    The winery price for the current 2008 and 2009 versions of the Special Selection is $130.  I know that “winery price” is a “not to exceed” number.   So, the “street price” is probably something more in the range of $110.  Then, take into account that we are talking about the 2007 version which, now has a few more years of age on it.  The mark-up to $155 is pretty darned reasonable.  FYI, this is a pretty “rough” wine.  I liked it a lot because it is so mouth filling, but be ready for splinters in your mouth from oak and twigs.


  • Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Reserve (2005) -- $135.

    You can go to the Robert Mondavi web site and order this wine, today, for the very same $135.  So, again, I’ll bet the “street price” is about $100-$110.  Believe me this is an excellent wine.


  • Palazzo Brunello di Montalcino (2005) -- $55.

    From the Snooth database the price for the only source for this wine is about $53.It may very well be that this wine was released years ago for, maybe, $36.So, even at that price $55 is a pretty consumer friendly mark-up.
  • La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (2009) -- $36.

    I saw this wine on a store shelf, today, for $17.  So, the mark-up is a tad over “twice retail.”  This is my norm when trying to judge the fairness of restaurant wine lists.
  • Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc (2009) -- $30.

    I know this is an $8.99 wine at the stores I visit.So, now we are getting a 3X mark-up on the retail price.
  • Kenwood Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc (2009) -- $25.

    Another $8.99 wine.So, the mark-up is between 2 and 3 times retail.
  • Fazi Battaglia Verdicchio (2009) -- $32.

    It appears that the “street” price for this wine is about $10-11.  So, it’s a 3 X mark-up.


The obvious conclusion here is that by drinking the lower price wines with dinner, I was paying an excessive g-factor.  By drinking the better wines, I was paying a very reasonable mark-up.

As I mentioned above, when I am reviewing a wine list in a restaurant, I am comfortable with pricing that is twice what I expect to pay in a retail store.  All too often, however, I see three times retail and that irritates me a tad.

I had long suspected that the mark-up on better wines was less than for lower-dollar mass marketed ones, but I’d never really studied any list before.


Reply by Lucha Vino, Oct 28, 2011.


Is the cruise ship charging you a corkage fee when you bring your own bottle to their restaurant(s)?

Reply by EMark, Oct 29, 2011.

Their literature said that they do charge $15 corkage to BYOB in one off their restaurants or dining rooms.  I did take one of my bottles to one of the restaurants one evening, and they did not charge me the $15.  I'm not sure if I charmed them by sharing a few tastes with the waiter and the head waiter of if they just forgot. 

Reply by Richard Foxall, Oct 31, 2011.

Give up too much of your wine and that's your $15. ;-)

A good point also is that the markup on the expensive wines is much lower as a percentage, but that figures because the absolute dollar margin is higher.  It almost doesn't pay to drink cheap, since you are already paying a ton for the privilege of sailing.

A couple things I have noted:  I've seen deals on the Caymus at 90-ish, but short term only.  Mostly the street price has been in the $110 range at reasonable retailers.  The 2007 vintage got a lot of play.  I think your observations about the wood are part of the style. 

The Mondavi is a $100 wine, has been for a while.  You can find it for $90 sometimes.  It's a widely available wine that is made extraordinarily well.  The '90 was one of the handful of best wines I've ever had. These days, I go a little off the beaten path, but never dismiss that wine as a good bet to make you very happy.

That La Crema can be had in California for $18 or so, but when I go to NYC, it's always a few bucks more.  I think they are considered more up-market for Cal PN on the East Coast, but I haven't had it in a while. About three years ago, I brought it to NJ for Thanksgiving and the hosts served me Brancott, a $10 bottle, and kept mine.  They oohed and aahed when I gave it to them, so it seemed a little weird that they didn't open it, but I guess they didn't want to have to share!

In general, I think when you go out, you can't start at the bottom of the list in major businessman restaurants, which is what a cruise ship is like.

Reply by JonDerry, Nov 1, 2011.

Yeah, you could've got the 2008 Caymus Special Selection at Costco for $99.99 last year, but they don't last long. This year, the 2009 Caymus Special Selection is available there for $104.99.

A good or even a very good wine, but there's also a lot of similar or maybe even better wine out there at the $60-$70 level.

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