The Purple Pig Opening on Michigan Avenue: Cheese, Swine & Wine

For all of those interested in good casual food and wine, The Purple Pig will be opening tonight at 500 N. Michigan Ave, just across the street from my old gig, Eno Wine Room.  It looks to be in the perfect location to attract a large afterwork crowd, including those from the Chicago Tribune, NBC 5, National Association of Realtors, as well as conventioners, retailers and shoppers.  It has been in the works for quite some time now, and the collaboration between chef Scott Harris of Mia Francesca and both Jimmy Bannos Junior & Senior of Heaven on Seven has been long awaited.

The menu mainly consists of Mediterranean-style hot and cold antipasti, salads, smears, panini, charcuterie, and cheeses.  Pork is everwhere, in many different forms: pork neck bone, pâté, chorizo, pig's feet, tails and ears, pork shoulder and blade steak.  Olives, seafood, mushrooms, eggs, and vegetables are also highly prevalent in a large variety of differing dishes: Artichokes with salami, clams with rosemary, fried sardines, croquettes, meatballs, prawns, along with 20 different cheeses and 9 cured meats.

I look forward to reviewing their wine and beverage list in the future, which hopefully includes a large selection of Mediterranean and worldly wine, microbrews, and non-alcoholics. 

During opening week, they will be opening at 5 pm, and after January 4, will be open daily at 11:30 am.  They also offer late hours: open until 1 am Monday through Thursday, 2 am Friday and Saturday, and midnight on Sunday.  Check out the eat and drink starting now and into the New Year!

And the Winner Is...

img_1181Chicago's Best Palate 2009.  Four reputable sommeliers.  Three wines, blind tasted.  About thirty guests in attendance, blind tasting the same wines.  The pressure was on!

This event was held yesterday at the Hotel Sax Crimson Lounge.  Our sommeliers were up for quite a challenge- as a sommelier myself I was almost jealous!  Not only would the winner receive the title, but also a gift pack donated by event wine sponsor, Terlato Wines International.  This gift pack was comprised of the three-bottle Terlato "Peak Series" (Angel's Peak, Devil's Peak, and Cardinal's Peak), all excellent Napa Valley Bordeaux blends.  On to the tasting!

Blind tasting is a difficult challenge, even for the most fine tuned palate.  It takes good senses- sight, smell, taste.  But it img_11531also takes a bit of knowledge and deductive reasoning.  By using your senses, you can rule out certain varietals and wine regions in the world, while narrowing down the your choices.

Our sommeliers and guests had twenty minutes to narrow down their choices, and try to score points in a number of areas like varietal (grape variety, ie. Merlot), location (which included country, region, appelation, and bonus points for producer), and vintage (year the grapes were harvested).  After that time, the sommeliers revealed their picks and how they narrowed them down.  It was very informative, and I believe our guests learned alot.

Next, it was time to reveal the wines:

  1. 2007 Michel Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage "La Petite Ruche" Blanc.  It is comprised of 100% Marsanne, a grape grown in the Rhone Valley

  2. 2006 Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino.  A medium bodied red made from Sangiovese, grown around Montalcino in Tuscany.

  3. 2004 Rust en Vrede Shiraz.  A full bodied red made close to Stellenbosch, in the West Cape province of South Africa.

We were finally about to find our winners and give out the prizes.  By a narrow margin, Scott Tyree of Tyree Wine styree1Consulting is the winner of Chicago's Best Palate 2009!  Congratulations!  Also, congratulations goes out to our Amatuer Audience Best Palate Winner, Addie Braun, who went away with two wines donated img_1196by Eno, a sparkling rose made by M. Lawrence, and a Pinot Noir made by J. Wilkes.  We also had a winner of a gift certificate for Eno/Intercontinental Hotel for picking our winning sommelier.  Fun, drink, knowledge, and prizes- a win-win situation for all!

I want to thank our audience for attending, our sommeliers- Scott Tyree, Michael Taylor of the Italian Village, Alain Njike of Park 52, and Lucas Henning of C-House, my partner Theresa Carter- The Local Tourist, Terlato Wines International, Eno and the Intercontinental Hotel, and the Hotel Sax. 

I invited many Chicago sommeliers, and will invite many more next year- looking forward to having some female representation, as this city has some of the best in the world.  Can't wait for 2010!

April Eno-Versity with the Windy City Wine Guy

img_1115For those of you who cannot get enough of wine pairings, wine knowledge, and wine regions, ENO has something for you.  ENO-Versity, a small class geared toward learning about wine, regions, history, and pairings, is taught monthly. 

Next month, on Monday, April 6, the Windy City Wine Guy will be conducting a class on Oregon and Washington wines.  Wine from these two states have been and currently are gaining world renown, with the Burgundian style Pinot Noir from Oregon and world class Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington, along with many other varietals and styles.  They also produce some of my personal favorite wines.  Here are a bit more specifics:

We will be tasting four wines, paired with cheese and chocolate:

  1. 2006 Cristom Vineyards Estate Pinot Gris with Piave Vecchio Italian cow milk cheese

  2. 2007 Lange Winery Reserve Pinot Noir with Humboldt Fog goat milk cheese

  3. 2004 Isenhower Cellars "Red Paintbrush" Bordeaux blend paired Lago Rosso truffle from Chocolate Garden

  4. 2006 Gordon Brothers Gewürztraminer Icewine with Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue cow milk cheese

ENO is located at 505 N. Michigan Ave., inside the Intercontinental Hotel

The class will be an hour long, from 6 to 7pm.  The cost for the class and pairings is $25, and can be paid at ENO.  There will be limited space for the event, so make sure to RSVP by phone: 312.312.8738, or email:

See you there!

Eno Anniversary Ending in Blind Taste Prize!

oenology_logo1For all of the oenophiles (wine-lovers) out there, Eno at the Intercontinental Chicago has a treat for you.  For its second anniversary on January 16-17, Eno sommeliers will be pouring glasses of wine priced between $10-20, from select special magnums (1.5 liter bottles).  The wines will range from sparkling Graham Beck Brut Method Cap Classique to the classic dry red Elio Altare L'Insieme.

There will also be a blind taste-off on January 18-19, with the highest scorer going home with a magnum of 2004 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir!

Strap on your taste buds and head on down.  Don't forget to ask for the Windy City Wine Guy while you're there!

Tips to Blind Tasting Wine

There is a mysticism about blind tasting.  Most are amazed how a person can tell so much about a wine without knowing what it is.  Does that person have a heightened palate?  Are they just a great guesser?  What is the secret?  The Windy City Wine Guy is here to show you the fun and secret steps to blind tasting.

The first thing I want to say about blind tasting is that it should be fun!  Try to shake off the pretension, do not worry about what others will think of your guesses, and just enjoy the beverage.  This will put you in a relaxed and casual mood, ready to enjoy the experience and get to the origins of your blind wine without pressure.

Next, you will want to remember to use your senses.  Start with sight.  Eye the wine.  This will give valuable clues.  The color and depth will vary between varietals, but know that those varietal characteristics normally remain constant.  Sauvignon Blanc can be light straw while Chardonnay tends to be light golden.  Pinot Noir is normally light red and translucent, while Cabernet Sauvignon will be darker red and opaque.  Get to know the how each varietal looks and this will be a big clue toward picking correctly.

Use your sense of smell.  This will tell you the difference between what is called an Old World wine and a New World wine.  Old world wine are those coming from Europe, Eurasia, and the Mediterranean, while New World wines come from the Americas, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia.  Most of the difference comes from the soil, yeasts, and aging.  The surviving Old World varietals have been growing in their soil since the Roman Empire or even before.  They have dug into the richer portions and been extracting complex minerals.  The smells they give off are more secondary (created through fermentation) and tertiary (created during aging).  Secondary aromas are floral and fruity while tertiary can be barnyard, damp oak, wood spice, nuts, or caramel.  New World wines are newer to the fresh soils and the wines give more primary (characteristics of the grape varietal) and secondary smells, though alot of new oak is used and can give rich spice.  Get to know how each varietal is treated (particular yeasts and stainless steel or oak aging) and you will get closer to your conclusion.

Now for everyone's favorite: taste.  Start by judging acidity.  If the wine makes saliva build up in the back and sides of your mouth, it will have a higher acidity level.  This will back up your climate findings from earlier.  Judge the tannins.  If you feel a sharp tug on your gums, the wine will have a higher tannin level.  Varietals with thin skins, like Pinot Noir, will not have the rich tannins of a thicker skinned Cabernet Sauvignon.  Judge the alcohol.  If you feel the heat in your mouth and slight burn in your chest, you will know the wine has more alcohol.  This will mean it was able to gain more sugar because it was grown in a warmer climate.  Dry wines will normally have between 9-16% alcohol.  Now try to figure out which primary, secondary, or tertiary flavors are coming through.  If they come close to corresponding with your smells and has long flavor length, then it is a quality wine.  Judge the body.  Light has a similar feel to that of water, while heavy has the feel and weight of cream on the palate.

For age, tilt your glass and put it up to a white background.  If the meniscus (edge) varies in color and has a bit of brown when compared to the rest of the wine, then it is older.  Add this up with your smell conclusion (the wine will also give more tertiary the older it gets) to judge an age range.

An example of a conclusion would be:  "I see a light straw color with no edge variation.  I smell citrus and gooseberry.  The wine has crisp acidity, low tannin, medium alcohol, medium body, and flavors of grapefruit.  It is a  1-3 year old New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc."

Store each wine experience in your mind or in a journal.  Try new varietals, viticultural areas, and countries.  Memory is your biggest weapon in blind tasting.

Now that you are armed with this info, go out and get some tasting done!  For practice, we offer a blind tasting at Eno every Sunday.  Depending on how well you score, you can get some dollars knocked off the price or win a free bottle of wine.  Our anniversary is coming up and we will be offering a very special gift to the highest scorer.  Come in to see the WCWG and we can have some blind tasting fun!