By Kathy Vogeltanz

The perfect bottle of wine to complement the perfect meal is one of the great joys of life and can transform a simple dinner into a memorable occasion. While most restaurants offer a range of wines, discriminating diners have their own preferences and their favorite labels may not be on the wine list.

It’s not an insurmountable problem; many area restaurants allow customers to bring their own wines. Now, GoBYO.com makes it easier than ever to find and choose restaurants that are BYO friendly.

GoBYO.com lists restaurants with BYO-friendly policies in 10 regions, including the Atlanta area. Search on the site by restaurant name, ZIP code or address and the response includes wine policies, corkage fees, entrée prices, cuisines, location maps, reviews and Web links. GoBYO.com has drawn a lot of visitors and attention recently and has been featured by national celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray.

“Atlanta is filled with a great variety of wonderful restaurants, and we feel it’s important that people continue to support them and enjoy dining out, even in these challenging economic times,” said Devon Segel of GoBYO.com. “Some diners want to share a bottle of wine from their own collection with friends – or they may want to avoid the restaurant markup. It’s a way to save and savor.”

Devon said that restaurants also benefit from a BYO-friendly policy. Diners who appreciate good food and good wine tend to favor restaurants that have a friendly wine policy. Wine aficionados are more likely to visit a restaurant that doesn’t stock many wines if they’re assured they can bring their favorite bottle.

Customers may be drawn into establishments on days that are traditionally slower if the restaurant waives its corkage fees. And larger groups are more apt to book a party room that allows them to bring wines that appeal to guests’ particular tastes.

“We offer more than 110 wines at Agave,” said Tim Pinkham, the restaurant’s managing partner. “However, there are occasions when customers want to celebrate with a certain bottle of wine that they’ve been saving and we’re happy to accommodate them, with just a $10 corkage fee.”

He added that while choosing a bottle of wine at a package store may be a less expensive way to go, many customers enjoy the wine service at restaurants. Diners find it fun to participate in the entire experience, everything from the discussion about various wines to the traditional presentation and uncorking.

Jamison McDaniel of Atkins Park reported that the restaurant allows BYO wine and charges a minimal corkage fee of $15. Still, it’s rather rare that people bring their own, since the restaurant offers about 40 wines, 25 by the glass, and it’s a selection that regular customers find appealing.

Wisteria features an extensive wine list, but, according to General Manager Katie Rice, about once a week a diner will bring in a wine that’s special to him or her, like a 30-year-old bottle. “We’re user-friendly,” she said, “and one way we can give added service to our customers is by allowing BYO with a small corkage fee of $15.”

GoBYO.com is also dedicated to making the BYO simple and comfortable. For those concerned about toting wines from home or the office to dinner, the Web site offers an exclusive wine bag. It looks just like a laptop case, but safely stows up to three bottles.

The mission of GoBYO.com is simple, Devon said: “We want people to keep celebrating – and that includes enjoying wine responsibly.”

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.