This past weekend I was in the mood to hit a couple of Chicago wine bars, so my wife and I got dressed up for a night on the town. Chicago is an amazing city, especially when you're out on a summer night- the city is so alive with people enjoying the weather, neighborhood festivals, restaurants and lakefront. You can feel the energy of thousands of people out for food, drink and fun!
Our first stop brought us to the godfather of Chicago wine bars- Webster's. Located on west Webster Avenue just east of Clybourn, this two-story building has been pouring wine since 1994. The scene is candlelit with loud folksy music and customer banter. We moved past the long bar and were seated by a hostess. I took my time with the enormous wine list (40+ wines by the glass, 500+ by the bottle) and noticed many great selections from just about any wine region you'd like to try, including off the beat and path places like Switzerland, Finger Lakes NY, Sardinia, Slovenia, Greece, Lebanon, New Mexico and Virginia. They have amazing French and Italian selections, which is essential to any wine list given those country's histories.
After perusing the menu, I decided on a sparkling wine from Valle d'Aosta, a small region between Switzerland and Piedmont, while my wife went for a cava and a cheese plate. I was a bit disappointed that the cheese came before the wines or the plates, but was able to get over it after tasting the Mont St. Francis and Wildspitz cheeses. I also figured out that they gave us the wrong 3rd cheese and charged us for their most expensive cheese plate ($20) as well. First off, I know my cheeses and their prices, and find it hard for any establishment to justify charging that much for 3 cheeses. Secondly, they should try harder to get the order correct. All of those factors led us to pay and out the door to try a different wine bar.
Our next stop brought us east to D.O.C. Wine Bar on Clark and Wrightwood. It has a great open and cozy look with a fireplace and skylights. They have open seating and we only had to wait a couple of minutes for a spot to free up. I dove right into their wine list and noticed it a bit smaller (under 100 selections) and more value based with many bottles listed under $50. My wife wanted to stick with the sparkling, so I suggested Graham Beck Rose, and I went with a red blend from Bolgheri in Tuscany. We also took a look at the food menu which was small but nice as well with artisan cheeses, bruschetta, charcuterie and small apps. They have a great deal with pick 4 for $16 and we tried a Manchego, Gruyere, mushroom/goat cheese bruschetta and porchetta. We liked the whole experience and the staff was helpful and had great personality.
I would go back to both places, though I would watch the servers and the bill at Webster's more closely. Webster's is still an old favorite with both an outstanding wine list and small menu. D.O.C. has a bit more personal touch and charm and I urge you to keep up on their monthly wine/food tastings- there's always something great going on!