Archive for the 'Chicago' Category

Charlie Trotter sued over alleged fake wine

charlie_trotter_wineCharlie Trotter has been sued for selling a fake wine. In the complaint, Bekim and Ilir Frrokaj allege that they contacted Trotter about purchasing a magnum of 1945 Domaine de la Romanée Conti from the restaurant’s cellar (the restaurant closed last August). They allege that Trotter told them to book a table at the restaurant and discuss it with him over dinner. On June 15, 2012 they dined at the restaurant. Here’s an excerpt from the complaint:

During dinner, Charlie Trotter and the sommelier explained the rarity and value of the DRC magnum to Benn and Ilir. Charlie Trotter and the sommelier also spoke about wines from the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti estate and how those wines are some of the rarest and most valuable in the world. A Charlie Trotter’s employee negotiated the price – $46,227.40 – with Benn and Ilir. Based on Defendants’ representation of the rarity and value of the DRC magnum, Benn and Ilir agreed to purchase it. Ben and Ilir paid Charlie Trotter’s $40,000 in cash and $6,227.40 by credit card for the DRC magnum.

They continue that their insurance provider required an outside authentication of the bottle, during which they discovered that DRC didn’t bottle any magnums in 1945. They are demanding a refund, damages in excess of $30,000, court fees, and reimbursement of some expenses including travel to Chicago.

Charlie Trotter told the Chicago Tribune: “It was a disgruntled client who probably paid a lot more money (for the bottle) than he’s ever paid before,” Trotter said. “It’s buyer’s remorse.”

Alpana Singh on sommeliers, Chicago and The Boarding House

alpana_singhWhen I was in Chicago a few months ago, I met up with Alpana Singh at her new restaurant, The Boarding House. Alpna has reinvented herself, stepping down as host of “Check, please!” and from a corporate job at Lettuce Entertain You to open her own restaurant. Stretched vertically over three public floors, the main floor bar area at The Boarding House serves wine and pizzas made to pair with wines under the arttistic installation of 9,000+ wineglasses (only takes about 36 person hours to clean!). Although I didn’t eat there, I checked the availability of a table for two in the vaulted dining room: they were booking 10 weeks out. I think that officially makes it a hot spot.

She told me about how she got into wine, what she’s doing to resolve the dearth of sommelier jobs, wither Chicago wine is restaurant-driven or shop-driven, and which wines make people say “wow.” Oh, and which is the greatest country in the world to be in as a wine consumer. Check out my interview with her over on

Champagne, French binge, Chicago – sipped and spit

2413315515_bb2fc19014_mSPIT: Bling champagne
An unnamed source cites declines of 50-85% in champagne sales with pricey stuff hit hardest. The story by Alice Feiring in this weekend’s WSJ. magazine also suggest price wars may be imminent. (Lack of) Money quote comes from Roberta Morrell, a NYC retailer: “The trouble with dropping prices is how will they raise them?”

SPIT: reporting on Champagne
An article on criticizes recent coverage of Champagne’s 2009 harvest. Main quibble: “After the harvest there will not be masses of grapes left to rot on the vine.”

SIPPED: changes in Chicago
Sam’s Wine & Spirits closed their South Loop location last month and now will close their Highland Park store. Meanwhile, Illinois now has an increased tax on wine, rising $0.13 per bottle to $0.28. As a result, distributor Rocky Wirtz has sued the state. Five other states recently raised taxes on wine.

SIPPED: Binge shopping
Annual wine sales at big box stores in France bring out “legions” of consumers. Carrefour sold six million bottles during its sale last year. [AP]

Eco-wines in the tasting glass on September 12 [Chicago]

oldvinesHow natural should wine be? That’s one of the hottest questions in the wine world today.

On September 12, join me at the University of Chicago’s Graham School for a Saturday seminar entitled: “Red, white and “green” wines: can you taste the difference?” We will discuss issues relating to organic and biodynamic wines, talk about some leading wines and wine makers, and see if we can taste the difference between some conventional wines and their eco-wine counterparts in a blind tasting. No previous wine experience is necessary. Hope to see you there!

Registration and details

Signed books and Chicago event

I’ll be in Chicago at the end of the month for a Saturday seminar at the University of Chicago Graham School. The class will explore in greater depth some of the themes related to my book Wine Politics: How Governments, Environmentalists, Mobsters and Critics influence the Wines We Drink. We’ll also be tasting through some excellent wines as we have done in previous installment of this course. No previous knowledge of wine is necessary and the session is non-degree and noncredit. It’s Saturday, June 27, 2:30 – 6:30 PM just off Michigan Avenue. Registration and details.

On another book related note, in case you are puzzling what to get for Father’s Day, I’m happy to reinstate my offer of signed gift copies. Send me via PayPal the amazon price, tax, and shipping (say, $25) of either Wine Politics or the practical guide, A Year of Wine: Perfect Pairings, Great Buys, and What to Sip for Each Season (which actually has more wine-related Father’s Day gift ideas in it), and I’ll send a copy of either book inscribed as you please to whatever domestic address you like. So much more interesting than a tie! Don’t delay since Father’s Day is rapidly approaching! There’s also a Kindle edition of A Year of Wine but I can’t sign that one for you without smudging your screen.

Illinois, France, freedom, jugs, corks in space – sipped and spit

wine lightSPIT: freedom in Illinois!
Wine-loving residents of the Land of Lincoln now have fewer choices: It’s confusing, but in a law effective today, wineries (both out-of-state in-state) will have caps on the amount they can ship to Illinois and out-of-state retailers will be banned from shipping to the state. While it’s a sad day and you can chalk one up for special interests let’s just hope this legislative folly goes the way of the foie gras ban soon enough. [Chicago Tribune]

SPIT: freedom in France
Liberté takes a back seat in France too where wine ads are strictly controlled in France and Microsoft has taken the unusually cautious step of removing wine ads from their ad service (Google ads still include wine on the internets in France). If anyone is looking at this site in France, remember, ceci n’est pas une pub! []

SIPPED: wine education
An inside look at wine education at the Sommelier Society of America. [NYT]

SPIT: jugs!
Almaden and Inglenook, two wines known for their big jugs, will now come in the lightweight bag-in-box format. It sounds like old wine in new wineskins but because of the volume involved it will contribute to reducing wine’s carbon footprint. [Bizjournals]

SIPPED: corks in space
Schramsberg winery reports that Navy Commander Kenneth Ham is flying with bottles of the bubbly on board the space shuttle Discovery! If only. But he is taking some corks and labels from the Napa sparkling wine producer on the flight with him.

SIPPED: Wine books
A review of three wine books today in the NYT Book Review section follows one by Eric Aismov from ten days ago to review the spring crop of wine books. And, yes, my reviews will follow soon before you head to the beach this summer!

RIP: Robert Mondavi, the American wine colossus, who died at 94. [SF Chron, NYT]


Two wine classes in Chicago this fall – with books!

the beanThis fall, I’ll have the good fortune to return to Chicago. No, I won’t be contender on Top Chef though I do hope to eat in some of the city’s great restaurants or BYOBs.

Both of the trips will be anchored by classes at the University of Chicago’s Graham School, which are open to everyone who chooses to register. On September 20, I’ll lead a Saturday afternoon seminar called “France and America: Wine Politics and a Tasting Showdown.” We will talk about themes from my upcoming book, Wine Politics, and then have a wildly fun, blind and competitive tasting of wines from the two countries. The wine budget for these events is good and in the past we have had some excellent mature wines in a variety of sizes. All participants will receive a signed copy of the book as part of the enrollment. Details and registration.

On December 6, we’ll be talking and tasting holiday wines in another Saturday seminar. This time the discussion will be centered around my second wine book, “A Year of Wine,” which will be published in November by Simon & Schuster. As with the September event, the wines will be fun and participants will receive a signed copy of this book too. Details and registration.

Although this may seem like eons from now, apparently we get a nicer room if signups are strong early. So sign up! See you there!

(image of the bean)

Liquid assets: manage your cellar

Devise a strategy for all that surplus wine! This month in Chicago and New York, I’ll be leading classes on collecting, the wine auction market and how to strategize for investing or enjoyment. Both locations will have tastings of collectible wines.

We’ll do one marathon session at the University of Chicago on Sep 29. (details and registration)

Starting on September 25, we’ll spread it out over three Tuesday evenings at New York University’s Torch Club. (details and registration)

Only five spots are left in Chicago and a few more in NY so sign up now or never! Hope to see you there.


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