Nueva Buena Vista by Jean-Charles Boisset

Jean-Charles BoissetRecently I had the pleasure of having lunch with Jean-Charles Boisset, President of Boisset Family Estates, at Carmichael's to discuss his future plans for recent purchase Buena Vista Winery.  Jean-Charles (JC) has been involved with wine his entire life and practically grew up in the vineyards.  The Boisset family is well known as winemakers and exporters, and owned property in Burgundy, the Rhone Valley and southern France before visiting California.  JC and his family really took to the west coast and loved the winemaking potential and history.  This lead to JC rooting himself and his family there and purchasing famous wineries & vineyards such as Raymond, DeLoach, Lyeth, and as of April 2011, Buena Vista.

When JC looks to purchase a winery it must meet certain criteria: able to create excellent wine and have rich history.  Buena Vista was the perfect fit as it is probably California's most historic winery.  It was started in 1856 by Hungarian immigrant Count Agoston Harazthy.  The Count was a pioneer and innovator- he started California's first commercial winery (Buena Vista), built the first wine caves, introduced over 300 grape varietals, created the first Traditional Method sparkling wines and introduced California wines to Europe, winning gold medals and accreditation.  Now the tradition can live on as JC carries the torch and makes Buena Vista fully organic (as he does with all of his wineries) and has changed to Gravity-Flow, one of the first in the area.

At our lunch I was able to taste a few wines which will be available at very reasonable prices (most at $20 or less) which makes them extreme value selections.  There will be four different lines:

  1. Sonoma.  A new vintage-style label is made to both impress and deliver with varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel.  I tasted the 2011 Chardonnay which carries a lighter weight, supple fruit and both butter and slight oak, and the 2010 Zinfandel which is an amazing bargain with dark jammy fruit, spice, toastiness and a puff of smoke.  I was also impressed by the 2008 "The Count" Founder's Red Wine, a blend (which I had to guess!) of Zinfandel, Syrah and Merlot.  I love blends and this one hits on all points: great fruit, a variety of secondary flavor like mocha and spices, and a lengthy finish.
  2. Carneros.  I love this region for the complex thin skinned fruit it can produce with the cool ocean breeze, and Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir are part of the line.  I tasted the 2009 Pinot Noir which has an elegant earthiness combined with tasty fruit.  Looking forward to the other varietals.
  3. Private Reserve.  This house label has been revived and involves fruit sourced from Sonoma's best vineyards.  A lineup of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel will be the best there is to offer.
  4. Vinicultural Society.  Small production wines to honor the ancient society begun by the Count in 1863.  Currently they boast wines named after Agoston's children.  Arpad's is a select Zinfandel, Otelia's is a select Pinot Noir and a vintage Sparkling Brut is also available.  ($32-45)

I definitely enjoyed tasting these wines and really like JC's jovial personality and style.  I think it translates to his personal life, business, decisions and relationships.  This French legend is already an American pioneer and star in the making.  I look forward to seeing his future ventures and tasting the wines!


Meet Food Network Star Jeff Mauro - aka The Sandwich King

If you've been keeping up with Food Network Star, then you've already noticed Chicago has the next star, Chef Jeff Mauro.  Jeff bested a great field of entertaining and talented chefs to win this amazing challenge.  He's a very likeable guy and relates to me in so many ways- he loves to cook, has a great sense of humor, is Italian-American and takes great pride in his heritage as well as the city of Chicago and its culture. 

Jeff has had an interest in food for most of his life starting in the home.  Family events and Sunday dinner were always reasons for relatives to get together and enjoy great Italian food & company.  Just after finishing college Jeff started a deli in Peoria, IL. before selling it and moving back to Chicago to begin his comedy career as Tony in Tony n' Tina's Wedding.  He decided to take the next step and moved to Los Angeles to star with The Groundlings while taking classes at the Kitchen Academy and working on a cooking show concept.  Jeff moved back to Chicago after 3 years to his current job and Food Network Star fame!  Recently I decided to contact him for an interview so we could find out more about this local success story:

WCWG: You are very passionate about the food you make.  When did your interest in food begin and how did it culminate into you becoming who you are today?

Jeff: It all began when I was a kid- there was food at Sunday dinner and family events.  It seemed like every time someone stubbed their toe, there was a party with Italian food!  Being surrounded by family and food, you learn to gain respect for both.  During Junior High I learned to control my food and pack everything separately- bread, cheese, deli meat, etc. and make my sandwiches at school.  As anal as I was about sandwiches back then I have the same food passion today.  And just because it’s a sandwich does not mean it's to be taken lightly- sandwiches can great.

WCWG: We know you're the Sandwich King and make some of the best sandwiches we've seen on TV.  What is your favorite sandwich and how do you make it?

Jeff: I just made Chicken vesuvio sandwich at my work kitchen- take a hinged sub roll, pan fry some chicken breast, top it with an au jus made with the pan drippings, white wine, lemon, garlic.  Top it with sharp provolone, sautéed peas, and house made giardiniera mayo.  I put vesuvio potatoes in the sandwich also and serve it with a side of jus for dunking.

WCWG: 3. What are some of your favorite places to go for a sandwich in Chicago and what do you normally get?

Jeff: It's gotta be Italian Beef- Johnny’s Beef (juicy, sweet & hot peppers).  I love Danny’s Deli in Melrose Park- their fried meatball sandwich which is more like loose tender patties served on ciabatta with a side giardineira & sauce.  And Jimmy’s Place in Forest Park makes a great breaded steak.  For subs I make a trip to Little Italy and Conte di Savoia- they do a special one with prosciutto, sopressata, fontina, fresh mozzarella and sundried tomatoes.

WCWG: I know almost all chefs know a thing or two about wine and food pairings.  What are some of your favorite wines to pair with sandwiches?

Jeff: I grew up around family making wine in the basement- that’s all we had.  Homemade wine paired with housemade charcuterie is a great pairing for me.

WCWG: Wine goes great with food, but so do many other beverages.  What is the Sandwich King's beverage of choice?

Jeff: There's nothing I like more than a cold Pellegrino- straight from the bottle.  Good beers too- strong IPAs, lagers, and pilsners like Peroni.

WCWG: Food Network Star is a very popular show and big with the Foodies.  There's lots of food fans in Chicago- how has the local response been to your new found fame?

Jeff: Great! People keep pointing me out and there's general street recognition.  They say,“Hey it’s the sandwich king!”.  The time is right for someone to represent the sandwich.

WCWG: We all think you're extremely witty and entertaining.  Do you still have a desire to get back into comedy?  Any chance we'll get to see you do stand up?

Jeff: Headline improve and 40 minute stand up has to be one of the hardest things to do- I get too nervous!  I used to hustle with it but was never comfortable- I've been in bands, commercials, etc.  You need the hardest discipline and to be somewhat synical, which makes you depressed. 

WCWG: All of us who watch the show can't get enough of Jeff Mauro.  Any designs on starting your own Chicago restaurant or sandwich shop?

Jeff: Sandwich shop- definitely in the future.  I've got to see what happens on the show and that’ll keep me busy 'til the end of the year.  For my own place, I must be involved- it’s my baby.  Sandwich king shacks across the country!

I want to thank Jeff for taking the time out for this and a big congratulations as well-

Windy City Wine Guy Gets Down and Dirty with Frank Fontana

Are you a Do-It-Yourself kind of person?  Well, Frank Fontana is the host of "The Down And Dirty" on the Craftsman World of DIY Network, and he's filling us all in on how to make your place look like a million bucks without spending it- while doing it yourself!  Be sure to catch me on tomorrow's episode at 12pm when Frank and I will talk about the best wines for your romantic Valentine's Day dinner.  Don't take a chance on messing up with the vino!  If you miss the episode live, check out the podcast later!

Windy City Wine Guy On WGN Radio 720

This past weekend I was invited to be a guest on WGN Radio 720 and hung out with Alex Quigley and Amy Guth of the Alex & Amy Show.  We talked about holiday wine recommendations, value selections and even took a call-in question.

Click here to listen to the Podcast.

Special thanks to Alex, Amy and the whole WGN Radio crew.  When you're ready to do another wine segment, I'll be ready!

Frietkoten Belgian Fries & Beer at Chicago French Market

Being a sommelier is not all wine- it includes all things beverage including spirits, liqueurs, coffe, tea and beer.  I love being able to delve into the other areas and my latest invite to Frietkoten (Flemmish for "Fry Shack") at the Chicago French Market offered me an excellent beer tasting.  They specialize in two things: beer and fries, both Belgian style.  Belgians have the longest known history of making fries, since 1680 as they had a habit of accompanying meals with fried sardines, but when their rivers were frozen, they substituted potatoes.  Their beers are world famous as they make over 8700 different and consume about 93 liters/year on average.

The concept behind Frietkoten sprouts from owner Jeroen Hasenbos and his life experience of Amsterdam Fry Shacks.  Family recipe includes hand cutting the fries, blanching and double frying them.  There are 20 different sauces available in both Mayo form like Truffle, Wasabi, Green Chile and Garlic, along with Ketchup form like Roasted Red Chile.  He also features over 20 Belgian and American "Belgian Style" beers (3 organic) both on tap and in bottle like Dupont's Avril Biere de Table, Urthel Saisonniere, De Koninck Pale Ale, Bosteel Tripel Karmeliet and Brasserie Lefebvre Blanche de Bruxelles.

Not much goes better with these crisp, full flavored fries and sauces than beer- try them out next time you stop The Chicago French Market (131 N. Clinton)!


Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar

WCWG with Curtis Nordeen of Fleming'sI recently was invited to a wine dinner at Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar in River North and was quite impressed with their wine selections and food quality.  It's at a great location, just west of Michigan Avenue on East Ohio Street, with two levels of options.  On the first floor is the wine bar featuring the "5 for 6 'til 7" menu, which is 5 cocktails, 5 wines by the glass and 5 appetizers priced at $6 each until 7pm.  Upstairs is the kitchen, dining room and rooms for private events.  And the most impressive thing I found was the Fleming's 100: 100 wines available by the glass, with 30 of them being priced $10 or less! 

Our wine dinner featured some new and exciting menu items including RoastedPeppercorn Steak Mushroom Ravioli, Lump Crab Louis Wraps, Tillamook Bay Petrale Sole, Two-Peppercorn Steak with F-17 Sauce Lobster Bake(17 ingredient house steak sauce), Beef Wellington, Lobster/Seafood Bake and Molten Lava Cake.  These were also paired with two excellent wines which, while they weren't an ultimate pairing, did an great job of being versatile: 2007 Sanford Santa Barbara County Chardonnay and 2006 Frog's Leap Rutherford Merlot.

Here's a bit of footage I took of one of their private dining rooms along with an interview from Chef/Partner Jerl Griffin:

There's lots of great things happening at Fleming's this month and next including a $39.95 three course prix fixe menu, a Caymus interactive dinner, wine Tuesdays with 25% off Fleming's 100 bottles & free corkage, and "Opening Nights" every Thursday in September where they'll bring you into the Fleming's 100 by opening 20 bottles for you to taste for $25- and you'll also receive a $25 dining credit if you stay for dinner!  A lot of value at a steakhouse.

Chicago 3 MediaFor extra coverage be sure to check out my interview with Chicago 3 Media and Jennifer Fernicola-Ronay.  It was a good time with good food and good people.  Special thanks to Chef, the Fleming's staff, Operating Partner Curtis Nordeen and Kurman Communications.

Windy City Wine Guy Featured on Chicagoist

I was just recently honored to be the first guest in a new series from the Chicagoist on getting to know your local wine guy.  The Chicagoist is a local website that keeps you "in the know" here in Chicago about almost anything- shopping, arts, events, food, pop culture, sports, etc.  I was interviewed by Carrie Becker, who came up with some great questions like what I'm drinking right now, my favorite BYOB and some of my most memorable food and beverages experiences.  Those subjects are perfect to get my taste buds rolling! 

Getting to know any expert is a wise thing, especially one who's in the know about your favorite beverages.  If you live in the Chicagoland area, I am your local guy- feel free to contact me anytime!

Chicago French Market Part 3: Bake it Up!

As my tour at the grand opening of the Chicago French Market continued, I couldn't help but notice how many baked goods were available.  Breads, cakes, cookies, pies, pastries, tarts, and candies were all ready to be eaten by hungry shoppers.  The best news is there will always be more, as local bakeries, patisseries, and chocolatiers will be there with fresh goods daily.  Some of them were even able to take some time out and give some video info about themselves and their goods:

First off, here is an interview with Ellen of Necessity Baking Co.:


Their bread tastes amazing, as it is soft and flavorful inside, with a chewy crust outside.  And Ellen informed me that they have a bread baked with chorizo and cheese- can't wait to try that!  If you want any of their line of breads, you can contact them in advance, and they will be sure to stock and save them for you.

I then visited Provo's Village Bake Shoppe, located out of Riverside and owned by Wesley Kuras.  He focuses on giving his customers fresh, sweet, handmade European baked goods like pies, kolacky, and breads.  I particularly like the danishes, as they are soft, sweet, and made with fresh local fruits.

For more sweet pastries, I stopped at Vanille Patisserie.  The sweet team of Dimitri (the 2008 World Pastry Champion) and Keli Fayard bring the goods from North Clybourn sure to please.  Mousse cakes, tarts, and chocolates are their specialty.

Next came the mother-daughter team of Stasia Hawyrszczuk and Dobra Bielinski of Delightful Pastries.  They have been baking up breads, pastries, and cookies since 1988 at 5927 N. Lawrence.  They bake local and fresh- no preservatives or chemicals and even make low-fat and low-sugar sweet rolls if you're looking to keep the weight down!

Just across the way I spotted Sweet Miss Giving's (SMG), which not only gives us some great sweets to purchase, but also donates 50% of all profit to Chicago's homeless and HIV/AIDS afflicted.  SMG also offers up Uncommon Grounds coffee out of Saugatuck, Michigan.  You can find their goods at many locations in Chicago, including the French Market.  Here's a small interview with the shop manager:


If you're looking to get more of a coffee and sweet fix on, try Espression by Lavazza.  All of your favorite Italian style coffee and espresso creations accompanied by pastries, chocolates, and gelatos, brought to you by a 114 year-old family business.

Last on my sweets tour was Canady le Chocolatier, a favorite of mine from the South Loop.  Michael Canady has been pleasing the sweet tooth of South Loopers (and me!) for years now with his handmade chocolates, gelatos, and crepes.  His array of chocolates are on full display at the French Market, and make sure to visit his shop for the rest!

There are two other breadmakers: Chundy's Bistro and Pastoral Artisan, but I will save them for my next feature.  In the meantime, grab some bread and pastries, and don't forget the cannoli!

Chicago French Market Part 2: Soap and Flowers

So as I continued through the Chicago French Market on opening day, I ran into two vendors who were not about food or beverage.  The first was Abbey Brown Soap Artisan.  They not only create handcrafted natural olive oil soaps and body oils, but also feature works such as pottery, jewelry, and paintings from local artists.  Here is an interview with Abbey Brown proprietor, Deborah Kraemer:


You can also find their home storefront at 1162 W. Grand Avenue.

I also ran into the Market's local florist, Les Fleurs.  They feature fresh flowers from all over the globe, in all sorts of forms: fresh cut, potted plants, and European style flower arrangements.  So not only can you freshen yourself up with soap and oils, but you can freshen up your place with flower arrangements!

Introducing Sebastien Bensidoun, the Face Behind Chicago French Market (Video)

At the grand opening of the Chicago French Market I had the chance to meet Sebastien Bensidoun, President of Bensidoun USA, a fourth generation French Market Developer firm.  The Bensidoun family expanded their operations from France to the United States, and now operate more than 95 open-air and indoor markets.  I was immediately impressed with their efforts to bring something back that has been lost in American culture- the local market.  As said by Sebastien:

"The bustling, one-stop market with individual artisans and purveyors has been a staple of life and culture for centuries in cities and towns across Europe, and was also a central feature of American communities leading up until World War II when modern supermarkets and big-box stores replaced them in most U.S. cities and towns.  As a result, the vitality, choice and entrepreneurial spirit offered by these markets nearly vanished here.  The new movement in America to support local farmers and artisans gives us an opportunity to bring this European-inspired marketplace back to life, and provide Chicago consumers and tourists with year-round, permanent access to their local bounty."

With the opening of the Chicago French Market in the MetraMarket, the Bensidoun family now operates 14 permanent and seasonal markets in Chicagoland: Geneva, Glencoe, Glen Ellyn, Lisle, Lombard, Mokena, Niles, Villa Park, Western Springs, Wilmette, and Wheaton.  Here is a bit more from Sebastien on the new Chicago French Market:

Windy City Wine Guy Meets Today's Chicago Woman Magazine

I am extremely happy to announce that I have been interviewed for Today's Chicago Woman Magazine, giving thousands of Chicago women access to my wine knowledge and advice.  Most of the Q & A is about pairings and getting value from your wine choices, which are some of the most important points to today's consumer.  I had a great time with the interview, and the photo shoot.  Make sure to pick up a copy from one of the many distibution locations, or you can sign up for the email newsletter, until the article is up on the site.  If you have any more questions, send them to

Lunch with Gaia Gaja

IMG_1322Just after a press conference for Chicago Gourmet 2009, I had the pleasure of meeting the Vice President of one of the world's greatest wineries, Gaia Gaja.  The Gaja Winery is located in the small town of Barbaresco in northwest Italy, and has been making wine since 1859.  When Gaia joined the winery team in 2005, that ensured Gaja would be family run and owned for five generations.  We met at Spiaggia Cafe for lunch, where they preset a table for us with three Gaja wines.  With so much heritage, history, and great wines, I am sure we would have much to talk about.

After selecting our lunch choices, we began to talk about her travels.  Gaia travels often, representing Gaja wines around the globe, even in far away markets such as Japan (her next stop), and India.  She loves visiting exotic places, learning new languages, and meeting different people.  I found out Chicago is one of her favorite cities- she really likes our welcoming metropolis, wine knowledge, and burgeoning restaurant business.  Her favorite restaurant stop was at Piccolo Sogno, where she enjoyed very authentic food from Chef Tony Priolo.

Gaja Winery has been a global presence ever since Gaia's father, Angelo, brought his family's Barbaresco to the forefront beginning in 1961.  His innovative techniques and marketing not only created opportunity for his wines, but also for the rest of Italy.  He has been described as "the force behind Italy's wine revolution."  Aggressive business sense, as well as appreciation for the future, has led to family acquisitions of new vineyards in Barolo, Montalcino, and Bolgheri.  Since Gaja Winery only makes wine from family held vineyards, they are always seeking and, because of their reputation, sought out by prospective sellers of land with excellent grape growing potential.  This, along with Gaja Distribuzione, which offers some of the world's best wines to Italian shoppers, keeps Gaja on the cutting edge of wine technology and marketing.

barbaresco[1]As our lunch arrived, we sampled the wines, the first of which was the 2005 Gaja Barbaresco.  I thought the vintage would need more aging, but it was very elegant and pleasant.  Gaia instructed me that their Barbaresco is made extremely lively in youth, with bright fruit and hints of Nebbiolo's characteristic tar and licorice.  As the wine ages, it can become a bit muted, only later to flower into a mature, powerful, and classic wine.  All Gaja wines are only vinified in acceptable growing seasons, or vintages, ensuring high quality, reliability, and aging potential.

The next two wines were both from separate single vineyard sites in Montalcino, where Gaja makes Brunello out of the local Sangiovese varietal.  Once they are aged four years in house, both the Rennina and Sugarille sites make excellent wines.  The Rennina is more subtle and silky than the much larger Sugarille, with ripe cherry, tobacco, and leather scents and flavors.  The Sugarille is a powerful wine, carrying deep dark fruit, cocoa, and spice, along with an extra long finish.  They went well with our cuisine- Margherita pizza and gnocchi with wild boar ragu.  The ripe acidity and slight sweetness of tomatoes are the perfect complement to Sangiovese based wines.

The Gaja Winery does make many other great wines- 16 to be exact, along with 12 different grappas.  One is even named after Gaia and her great grandmother, Clotilde Rey- the Gaia & Rey Chardonnay out of the Langhe DOC in Piedmonte.  The vineyard was planted in 1979, Gaia's birthyear, and has become known as Italy's greatest white wine.  They also produce a wine named after Gaia's younger sister, Rossana- the Rossj-Bass, which is a Chardonnay with a touch of Sauvignon Blanc.  Three single vineyard Barbaresco wines are also made, along with one Barolo, and three Piedmonte blends.  And, for the more frugal shopper, the three Bolgheri wines are made starting at $40.  The Promis, Magari, and Camarcanda are all blends, using mainly Bordeaux varietals, and come from terroir ideal for creating strong wines with ageing potential.

For this lunch, I would like to thank Phil Rozen of Terlato Wines International, Barbara Edelman of Barbara Edelman Communications, and Gaia Gaja.  Her family not only makes great wines, but with her charm and knowledge, she makes an excellent lunch companion.

Windy City Wine Guy Meets Guy Fieri

img_1210I recently had the pleasure of meeting Guy Fieri of the hit Food Network TV show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (also known as DDD).  I was not only excited to see Guy, but also the place he was taping an episode at- The Depot American Diner on the west side.  I have heard great things about this spot, but hadn't yet made my way out to visit.

I am a huge fan of Guy's show because it has foods that make my mouth water, excellent homemade preparations, spots that locals love (some with long traditions), and real chefs with personality and enthusiasm.  Now, alot of the food can appear rather rich (maybe even unhealthy?), but everything in moderation my friends.  I still had a few questions however- how do they pick the restaurants?  How many do they hear about?  How many actually make the cut?  What is Guy's favorite beverage?

First thing I want to say is that Guy is a real guy, a man's man.  He knows how to be funny and entertaining, but also genuine.  It is no secret why he has multiple TV shows- he has a boisterous personality and commands attention.  So img_1213what if he eats foods that would give a cow a coronary?  So what if he wears sunglasses on the back of his head or wears the same clothes your nephew does?  The guy has style.  Did you see his car?!

Listening to Guy talk about the restaurants on DDD gives you a sense of his passion and integrity.  Hundreds of places are submitted to appear on the show, but only 1 out of about 80 make it.  There are many requirements.  It has to be a diner, drive-in or dive.  It has to serve food that people love and rave about- this is how they get Guy's attention in the first place.  Then come the specifics: you have to make a majority of your food homemade and fresh.  This means alot of prep- stocks, sauces, doughs, beans, etc.  Also, it means alot of fresh ingredients.  They may make scale tipping cuisines, but alot of it is natural, and there is also alot of care involved.  He also likes the owners and chefs to have personality- love what you do!

img_1203Now a bit about The Depot.  The place is owned by Robert Nava, former executive chef of img_1204The Signature Room and Hard Rock Hotel.  Robert is originally from the Bronx, where the idea for his delicious egg cream beverages comes from.  The decor is old school diner look- red  leatherette booths and counter seats, old diner photos, all classicly created by Robert and his wife Anamarie.  The place also boasts awesome breakfast, donuts, soups, pot roast sandwich, blue plate specials, and desserts.  Take a short ride west and give this lively spot a try!

img_1209I did get a chance to ask Guy about his beverage likes.  Besides malts and shakes, we don't img_1206normally get to see or hear Guy talk about this subject.  He is a huge wine fan and agrees that it is the best drink with a meal.  But he also loves Pabst Blue Ribbon and Buleit Bourbon.  Those are definitely Guy drinks!

A Day with Dan Aykroyd

img_1116This past Saturday morning, the Windy City Wine Guy was invited to a sommelier brunch at Feast Gold Coast with Chicago Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd.   The event was in conjunction with the release of his Dan Aykroyd Discovery Series Sonoma Wines and Crystal Head Vodka to Chicago.  We met Dan Aykroyd, along with his friends and coworkers.  It seems they are all very close and have been traveling and working together for over thirty years!  This was all taking place before a bottle signing event at Binny's South Loop.  Now on to the wines!

Dan Aykroyd entered into a partnership with Jean-Charles Boisset of Boisset Family Estates to create his Discovery Series Wines.  Mr. Aykroyd has had a love of wine for a long time, even before his Blues Brothers fame.  After meeting Jean-Charles in Canada, they discussed wine and the Boisset family purchase of vineyards in Ontario.  Soon after, they began to collaborate on a wine project out of DeLoach Vineyards in Sonoma, and the Discovery Series was born.  The wines are meant to bring a great $20 value to consumers.  They created two wines:img_11221

2007 Chardonnay.  A more crisp, Burgundian style from California.  Less oak flavor, it was aged in a mixture of new and neutral French oak.  There is good citrus and tropical melon accompanied by a light creaminess.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.  A small amount of Merlot and Carmenere were added to the blend to round out this medium-heavy wine.  There are still some grippy tannins along with black fruit and spice.  Ideal with grill meat and rich stews.

After enjoying some wine along with a fluffy vegetable quiche and some good conversation from Chicago local sommeliers, I headed to Binny's along with my wife to get an interview with Mr. Aykroyd.  It was quite a scene as hundreds of people were in line to get an autographed bottle- I think my hand would've cramped up after that!  Here is a video interview conducted by my beautiful and talented wife, Blagica Bottigliero, with some questions we came up with for Mr. Aykroyd:
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img_1121I also got a close look at the Crystal Head Vodka.  It is a cool bottle, and I could see it sitting on many a shelf.  To prevent this, the vodka strategists have future plans to release bottles with silver and gold teeth, kind of like pimp skulls!  The vodka is triple distilled through Herkimer diamonds (quartz crystals).  I have yet to taste it, but received good feedback from Binny's staff- they sold over 800 bottles this weekend!  It retails for $47.99.

Dan also makes Discovery Series Ontario wines, but they are unfortunately unavailable here in the states.  If you make your way north of the border, you can grab a bottle of either his Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet-Merlot, or Cabernet-Shiraz, each for about $15.  There is also an award winning Vidal Blanc Icewine for around $65.

It was a great experience to meet a great celebrity like Dan Aykroyd.  He is not only an honorary Chicago's own, but he actually cares about these products he helped create.  He did not merely slap his name on any of these for money, like so many others do.  I want to send out a huge thank you to Mr. Aykroyd, and John Wardzala of Boisset Family Vineyards for working with my wife (big thanks to her for the video!) and I to set all of this up.

Sparkling Wine Interview on Vintuba

162917592_10576d486a1I know the New Year festivities are over, but remember that bubbly is not just for celebration!  You can pop some open anytime, knowing that you'll have a refreshing beverage to enjoy alone, with a meal, or with company.  For a bit of extra sparkling wine knowledge, tune into Vintuba for another Podcast team-up interview with Chris O (Napa Wine Expert), Jon M (St. Louis Wine Novice/Comedian!), and the Windy City Wine Guy.

Make Wine and Beer in Chicago at Bev Art

As a sommelier, I have to say it is great to know about wines from around the globe, all kinds of beer styles, and much about spirits and liqueurs.  But wouldn't it be great if you actually HOW to make your own tasty alcoholic beverages?  There is a way to do it right here in Chicago- at Bev Art in the Beverly neighborhood.  The owner, Greg Fischer, has been making wine since he was a young boy.  He has also been supplying and educating people to make their own wine and beer for over 15 years!


The Windy City Wine Guy plans on making some beer and wine with Greg in the upcoming months.  Look for upcoming articles, photos, and video!

Vintuba and WCWG Team-up for Thanksgiving Pairings

vespaclearsmall1I decided to hop aboard the VINTUBAVespa and do a tour of Thanksgiving wine picks with Vintuba Podcasters Chris and Jon.  They graciously invited the WCWG to announce my holiday picks and give feedback on theirs.  Vintuba is a great website which takes a world tour, giving you info and podcasts on wine, hosted by Chris, who works in the Sonoma wine industry, and Jon, a novice wine drinker from St. Louis.  Check out their site and our Podcast!

Local Buyers and Experts Give Consumer Value

The Windy City Wine Guy has dedicated multiple portions of this sight to find value for readers and consumers.  Now I decided to go out into my neighborhood, the South Loop, and speak with shop owners, experts, and GMs about the best value white and red wines they have to offer.

South Loop Wine Cellar: Amy Garman, owner, offers both a white and red from Nine North Wines.  Their 2006 10 Mile Proprietary White "Lost Horizons" is a blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, and Chenin Blanc.  Tropical fruit and floral notes accompany crisp acidity.  The 2004 10 Mile California Red "The Broken Road" is mainly made up of Petit Sirah with some Malbec, Zinfandel, Barbera, and Carignane.  A medium+ bodied wine with flavors of black fruits and pepper.  Each of these wines are offered for $10.99.

Binny'sThe South Loop location is on Jefferson, just north of Roosevelt.  Manager Juan Torres recommends two old world selections.  His red is 2005 Venta Mazzaron, 100% Tinto de Toro, which is the name of the Tempranillo varietal from Zamora, Spain.  Only $12.99.  A rich red with smoke, black fruit, and a touch of sweetness.  His favorite white is 2006 Le Prieuré St. Sever In Optimis Chardonnay.  Stainless steel fermented varietal $9.99 with a clean style for the "unoaked crowd".  Get it for $9.99.

Sam'sI met with Shadla Cycholl, Wine Consultant, who specializes in Italian wines.  Her white pick was Italian, 2007 Domenico Armani "Io" Sauvignon Blanc, which has lush fruit and minerality for $12.99.  For red, go to Chile for Chono Carmenere 2006.  A soft, silky medium bodied autumn wine for $11.99.

Whole FoodsI spoke with Kristen who steered me over to 2007 Domaine de Regusse Pinot Noir.  This red from Provence has an oaky, herbal quality with ripe red fruits- $10.99.  A white bargain is the 2008 Crios Torrontes- fruity and dry for $12.99.  Kristen also suggested the Optimis Chardonnay.  Must be a bargain!

Dominick'sHerbie Reyes, General Merchandise Manager, brought me to a white he likes to share with his wife, 2006 Bella Sera Pinot Grigio.  A crisp, clean choice for $7.48.  His favorite red is 2007 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir for $10.98.

Jewel, on Roosevelt and Wabash, was noncommittal in regard to favorites, but does have a few of the Windy City Wine Guy's Best Buys onhand.  I am also awaiting word from Warehouse Liquors on Wabash between Balbo and Harrison.  They do have a number of fine wines onhand and helpful staff.

 (Image courtesy of Flickr)

Windy City Wine Guy on

My wife and I met up with The Local Tourist, Theresa Carter, at the Chicago Marathon to watch some good friends (Hi Carolyn and Woody!) run by us.  Theresa was interested in some good value wines and the WCWG was willing to oblige.  Check out the Local Tourist post and my Best Buys page- the wines are widely available and you won't be disappointed!

WCWG interviewed on Green City Market Localvore Challenge

The Windy City Wine Guy was interviewed by Carolyn Tang of the Green City Market Localvore Challenge.  This is part of a push for people to consume local food and drink and reduce the gas emissions caused by imported product.  My interview covers local wineries and organically and biodynamically produced wines.  Unfortunately there is only one Biodynamic certified local winery, Famous Fossil of Cedarville, IL.  But this does not mean that many others are not practicing organic or biodynamic methods!