Mar 7 2016

Regardless of your drinking habits, you’ve probably heard the term BYOB (bring your own booze). A BYOB event or establishment may have been appealing in your starving student days, but once they’re in your rear window, you probably no longer equate BYOB with an outstanding evening of fine food and drink. Don’t confuse pedestrian BYOB establishments with the similarly named – but exponentially classier and more appealing – Bring Your Own Wine (BYOW) movement that’s sweeping Ontario. Actually, true wine aficionados refer to this movement as Bring Your Own Ontario Wine (BYOOW.) Those last two letters makes all the difference!

Why BYOOW Is Wowing Wine Lovers

BYOOW is a new way of dining in which you choose your favorite Ontario wine first, then choose food to pair with it. Ontario is wine country, and with so many fine wines to choose from, it’s simply impossible for a restaurant to have all of them available for purchase. BYOOW means you can always enjoy your favorites. There’s another benefit to the BYOOW movement, of course: in some restaurants, the markup on a bottle of wine is an astounding 400 percent! BYOOW, and you’ll be able to splurge on appetizers, desserts, and a generous tip for your server!

What to Know Before You Go

In many (but not all) provinces and states, it’s legal for patrons to bring their own wines to restaurants. However, even when the practice is legal, not all restaurants allow it. Some allow it, begrudgingly, but discourage it by assessing large corkage fees. So don’t assume you and your favorite vintage will be welcomed with open arms, but call ahead and ask if the restaurant will accommodate your request. Also, ask if the restaurant has rules, such as the number of bottles you can bring.

When you find a restaurant happy to accommodate your BYOOW request, ask if they’ve got the tools you’ll need to enjoy your bottle properly. You’ll need a wine key, appropriate glasses for whatever fine wine you choose to bring and possibly a decanter or ice bucket.

Another helpful thing to know before you go is what you plan to eat at the restaurant. Consider checking the venue’s online menu if there is one or stopping by to peruse the menu in advance. If you don’t want to decide what you’ll order in advance, here’s some advice from renowned Canadian wine writer Natalie MacLean: “Two of the most versatile and food-friendly wines to take with you are Riesling and Pinot Noir… [Both provide] lots of flavour and great acidity to refresh the palate between bites.”


Here are a few more helpful tips for a great BYOOW experience for you and your gracious host restaurant:

  • The case counts. Carrying your wine in a grocery bag? Tacky. Toting an insulated case? Classy and functional.
  • Be discrete. Unless you are with a large group, if you bring multiple bottles, display only one on the table and place the others underneath.
  • Tip well. Tip your server as if you purchased your wine at the restaurant. If BYOOW connoisseurs aren’t respectful, fewer establishments will allow the practice.

Five to Try

Ready to wine and dine in BYOOW style? You’ve got options in terms of which Ontario wine you’ll reach for as well as where you will enjoy it! Here are five BYOOW-friendly Ontario eateries to consider. (Find a more extensive list at

Choose your vintage, choose your restaurant, and become a BYOOW believer! Don’t forget to drink responsibly and to have a designated driver.