Father's Day with Wine

Father's Day is just around the corner and I'm sure everyone wants to do something special for Dad.  It's a day for families to thank the patriarch for all that he's done and for Dads to enjoy being surrounded by love.  Here's a few ways to show your appreciation:

  1. Sunday Grilling.  I love a good cookout- you can enjoy the weather, great company and relax by being surrounded by food.  It's also hard to beat the satisfaction (and taste!) you get from making a great meal.
  2. Take Dad Out.  There's so many great places in Chicagoland that Dad would love to eat at.  Prairie Fire in the West Loop will be having an omelete station, gourmet Bloody Marys and BBQ ribs.  Fleming's River North and Wheeling will be having a Father's Day Prix Fixe menu and Dad gets a $25 gift certificate to use on a future visit!  Prairie Grass in Northbrook has an amazing Father's Day buffet with NY strip, fried chicken, salmon and a crepe station.  Bistro One West in St. Charles has an amazing riverfront patio and a local menu featuring Wagyu beef hotdogs, smoked bacon BLTs, skirt steak salad and Meyer's farm burgers.  Try authentic Mexican for Dad at Guanajuato in Glencoe- Aztec spice rubbed chicken and a Spanish guitarist!
  3. Wine.  Get dad a bottle of wine for the occasion or his collection!  Great grilling wines make the perfect gift and I recommend Zinfandel like Martinelli Lolita Ranch ($70), Ridge Lytton Springs ($35), or Malbec like Catena Alta ($44) or Achaval Ferrer Mendoza ($25).

All of these are great suggestions that the whole family will enjoy.  Any way you go you can't lose!

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.

Napa Valley Vintners invade Chicago!

Napa Valley Vintners AssociationThe Napa Valley Vintners Association was in Chicago on Wednesday, September 16, ready to bring a full array of Napa Valley wine to our taste buds.  I was invited to an intimate luncheon held at Bloomingdale's, and then a walk across the street to Fleming's, where over 80 wineries were pouring some excellent Napa juice.

There was alot going on in the Bloomingdale's demo kitchen.  Fleming's chefs were onhandChef at Bloomingdale's Demo Kitchen to make us a fabulous lunch, members of the press were ready to taste some great food and wine, and some of Napa Valley's best wineries were pouring premium selections.  I started off by talking to Hugh Davies of Schramsberg.  He and his family helped turn a rundown winery into the finest producer of sparkling wine in the US.  He was pouring his 1999 vintage Brut sparkling wine out of a magnum, which was aged eight years "sur lie" before bottling.  It had bright acidity, a myriad of fruit flavor, and a touch of creaminess.  A great way to start out a tasting.

We were then directed to our seats, where I was fortunate to sit next to Lisa Broman Augustine of Broman Cellars, and Diana Schweiger of Schweiger Vineyards.  We shared innovative insights to wine and Napa, and tasted some great wines.  Three different Sauvignon Blancs were being passed around:

  1. Broman Cellars.  This was my favorite, as the round ripe fruit, especially melons, filled my palate, while the flavor endured with a slightly creamy finish.

  2. Honig Vineyard and Winery.  The wine was pleasant and bright, but a bit hot, and had some oakiness to it.  I am not a big fan of oak with this varietal, though it is used alot in California Sauvignon Blanc.

  3. Cakebread Cellars.  This had mineral, citrus, and a touch of vanilla, but did not last on the tongue.

We also tasted Cakebread Chardonnay, which was a rich, buttery, extremely oaky version.  Next it was time for some food and red wine.

Mini Wellington and WineWe kicked off the red wine with David Graves introducing us to Saintsbury Pinot Noir.  We were also served a mini beef wellington, which was small and delicious.  It went well with the large collection of Cabernet Sauvignon we were tasting.  Cakebread, Oakville Ranch, Honig, and Broman Cabs were big, round, and great.  Schweiger Dedication, a blend consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot,Fleming's Filet Burger Malbec, and Cabernet Franc, is an extremely complex wine with big fruit flavor. 

Our burgers came just in time, as tasting all these wines can take a toll.  They were prepared with an au poivre sauce, served with au gratin potatoes.  I was delighted to finish off the tasting with my favorite wine of the day, the 1997 Signorello "Padrone", a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, and 7% Cabernet Franc.  It was so elegant, but yet strong- this wine could easily last another 10 years.  This ended the luncheon, and it was time to go to Fleming's and taste more wine!

As soon as I walked in, I was surrounded by wine, producers, consumers, and total atmosphere.  That place was rockin'!  I sampled many wines: Gemstone, Lail, Grgich Hills (I always have to sample their wine!), Celani (thanks for the laughs Gary!), and Baldacci (an awesome, affordable, small production wine from Stag's Leap) were some of my favorites.

It is hard to deny that Napa Valley holds some of the world's greatest wines.  They are always a pleasure to taste, great with food, and not hard to find.  Go out and grab yourself a few bottles and let me know what you think!