Archive for the 'Chicago' Category

Pinot envy

Pinotfiles assembled in Chicago over the weekend to assess the state of the grape. We traced its social, economic, and viticutural history across three continents and then tasted that variation in the glass.

We compounded the highly variable nature of the grape with yet another factor: bottle age. I was able to source many older vintage wines for the tasting through a local retailer of fine and rare wines so it was with relish that we could taste pinots with more maturity than you can normally find on the shelves of a local shop.

Although this sample was small, I’m tempted to say that California/Oregon pinots tend not to age as well as Burgundy. The 1997 Landmark was just this side of falling into oblivion. The 1995 Williams-Selyem was still very good with supple elegance but I couldn’t help wondering if it would have been better last year. Or the year before. By contrast the 2002 Stoller Vineyards had excellent fruit and lively spice from the tannins. A year or two might bring more balance to the wine but might it also make it less fun? Should American pinot be consumed in its youth?

Of course as soon as I reach for a generalization more data emerge to trounce it. The day before the big pinot tasting I had a 1997 Ken Wright Cellars, Guadalupe Vineyard (find this wine) that had an excellent finesse and was joy to drink. And a couple of weeks ago, I had a 1998 Dehlinger Pinot Noir (find this wine) that tasted as fruit forward as it did on release.

What are you experiences with aged American pinot?

Joseph Perrier, Champagne, NV Cuvee royale (find this wine)
2004 Whitehaven, Marlborough (find this wine)
1999 Daniel Rion, Vosne-Romanee, Les Beaux-Monts, premier cru (find this wine)
1997 Landmark, Van der Kamp Vineyards, “Grand Detour” (find this wine)
2002 Serafin Pere et fils, Gevrey-Chambertin (find this wine)
2002 Stoller Vineyards, Oregon (find this wine)
2004 Loring, Garys’ Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterrey (find this wine)
1999 Maison Champy, Corton-Bressandes (find this wine)
1995 Williams-Selyem, Allen Vineyard (find this wine)
1990 Domaine Leroy, Savigny-les-Beaune, Les Narbantons, premier cru (find this wine)

The 1997 Landmark, Van der Kamp Vineyards, “Grand Detour,” which had Helen Turley as a consulting wine maker for that vintage, did remind me of a line in Steve Heimoff’s book about the Russian River Valley in Sonoma. Local lore says that producers can add $5 that they can charge for each word on the label. But, hey, that could often apply to Burgundy as well.

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Wine classes in Chicago and New York

This spring, geography is even less of an obstacle to taking one of my classes!

In the new NYU/James Beard Foundation program, we’ll be looking at the hot-button issue of modern versus traditional winemaking styles. Our journey will take us to several New World wine regions including Napa, Barossa, Washington, Mendoza and South Africa. Starts 3/23 for 5 weekly sessions. (info and registration)

And at the University of Chicago, we’ll be looking at the conundrum facing French winemakers today through the historical and cultural lens of two regions, Bordeaux and Languedoc. This class runs on Saturday afternoon, 3/25. (info and registration)

And in Chicago again, we’ll taking a varietal approach as we examine the appeal, variation, and history of the finicky Pinot Noir. (info and registration)

I hope to see you there!

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Chicago wine stores, a map

While not much wine is made in Illinois, lots of wine is consumed in Chicago. Thanks to one of the most competitive markets in the country, Chicago wine consumers enjoy low prices and a broad selection of imported and domestic wines.

I have put together an interactive map of Chicago wine shops to explore the variety of shops available. The informative pushpins provide brief descriptions of the shops as well as their hours, contact info and links to their web sites. You can view it on a map, satellite view or a hybrid–complete with driving directions to each store! Check it out and find a shop near you!

Thanks to the reference site googlemapsmania. Inspiration for all interested in mapping!

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Da Wine

Well, it’s been a pleasure holding the fort these past days. Thanks again to Dr. Vino for the podium.

One parting observation: I’m writing this from Chicago, which has so much great wine (though not great vineyards…) So why aren’t there any wine bloggers in Chicago? (My current week’s stint excepted.) So much wine, and so many serious wine shops, but no blogging. (I’m excluding the cheesy self-promotional blogs that just try to sell stuff, like, say, this one…)

Notice the big gap on the western shore of Lake Michigan . Are Chicagoans too busy drinking? No time to write?

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Chicago tastings

After a brief hiatus, I am back in blogging action. I was in Chicago and didn’t even access my email for 48 hours! (Fortunately it wasn’t that long between glasses of wine.)

I taught a one-day course at the University of Chicago entitled “critiquing the wine critics.” The participation was terrific and the wines were controversial–we had the Tablas Creek, Esprit de Beaucastel, 2002 that the NYT tasting panel had dismissed on 11/2 as “off – not exactly corked, but with musty, unattractive aromas” but that Parker blessed with 92 points. (We generally liked this wine more than the NYT’s bottle though it was not a Parker-style hedonistic fruit bomb.)

The most bizarre wine of the day was the Connor Park, Shiraz, The Honour 2002, which was a disjointed, glycerin alcohol bomb that clocked in at a stunning 17% alcohol. (Parker all but calls you a “girlie man” if you don’t like the wine by bestowing it with 95 points and writing “Readers looking for restrained, Euro-styled wines should steer clear of this behemoth.”)

Perhaps the most popular wine of the day was something that, tasted blind, one participant said tasted “Northern Rhonish” and indeed turned out to be the Domaine de Colombier, Hermitage, 2000. But it may have been infanticide to drink it this young as it undoubtedly has many years ahead of it.

Korbel vs Sapporo

Different strokes for different folks. The Japanese baseball champs douse their star with Sapporo beer (I love the beer goggles–literally). The Major League Baseball champs Chicago White Sox douse themselves with champagne sparkling wine.

After taking the division title the ChiSox reportedly doused themsevles with Korbel. Let’s hope owner Jerry Reinsdorf splurged for something a little better to celebrate the end of the nearly 90 year championship drought.

Take a class with Dr. Vino

Take a class this fall with Dr. Vino! Thanks to courses in New York and Chicago, geography is even less of an obstacle! Registration deadlines are looming so sign up soon:

NYU September 22
(6 weeks)
In Vino Veritas: The New International Culture and Politics of Wine. Register now
NYU November 3
(6 weeks)
Becoming a Wine Expert: The Essentials of Wine Tasting. (in conjunction with the James Beard Foundation) Register now
University of Chicago (October 1, 2:30-7:00)
Vino latino: wines of Spain, Chile and Argentina Register now
University of Chicago (November 12,

Critiquing the Critics.
Register now

This Cub drinks fine wine

Last night I stopped by Chalet Wine and Spirits just off Chicago’s swanky Magnificent Mile for a bottle of vino. While I was rummaging around looking for a bargain in the Argentine section I heard a couple discussing some fine California cabs, young daughter in tow.

“This one is supposed to be good. I think somebody gave it 100,” the man said.

I thought nothing of it and continued my browsing. By the time I made it to the register in this small shop, I found that the couple had beat me there. I watched as bottles of fine wine got scanned and put in the shopping bag. Surely, I thought, the magnum of Joseph Phelps Insignia ($250?) on the counter was there for display? Nope. Scan. In the bag.

With a total bill of $605 for a bag of bottles, I wondered who was this couple?

After they left, the staff member working the register proudly told me that it was a member of the Chicago Cubs who had just played at Wrigley Field that afternoon (and had the next day off I later learned). It’s good to see that this player, who is having the best season of his career, has fine taste in wine!

The last time I saw a Cub in a store was at a 7-Eleven after a game about 10 years ago. He was the starting pitcher who had a 1-10 record as I recall and had just suffered another pounding. He bought a six-pack of Schlitz…

I wonder what the shop staff said after I left? “That was Dr. Vino!” 😉


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