Winter Preparation: Saving on Favorite Wines, Beers & Spirits

Winter is definitely upon us here in the Windy City and if you aren't ready, then it's time to strap on the snowshoes and head to the store.  This is the time of year when nobody likes to venture into the cold and stock up their house so you must be prepared.  Fortunately, I went on a South Loop spree last week and was ready for this snow session.  Here's a bit on my preparation:

In our neighborhood, we're lucky to have a bounty of large stores: Jewel/Osco, Dominick's, Whole Foods, Binny's, Target, Home Depot and Best Buy.  This makes shopping close, but a bit complicated- you have to check prices/sales against others.  First, we take a small inventory of what we need and what we want to prepare for meals in the upcoming week.  I wanted to have a diverse selection of animal protein main courses (easily substituted for vegetarians or vegans), so I wrote down pork loin chops, ground sirloin, beef for stew, chicken breasts, lamb loin chops, and wild salmon.  We also included our side dishes: beans & rice, cous cous, fresh vegetables and salad, and pasta.  Secondly, it's time to compare prices and sales.  Don't you just hate when you go to one store, buy cage-free eggs (for example) for $3.49, and then you see them for $2.50 at another?  Now that's only 99 cents, but when you fail to save money all the way down your list, this could mean you overspent by $20 or more! 

Next, I checked my stash of alcoholic beverages.  I still have some amaretto, vodka, gin, aged rum, and cognac.  I could use some tequila, but it's not necessary unless I see a bargain.  My wine cellar was stocked full of aging and special wines, but I was running low on sparkling, white and red RTD wines.  I was also in need of beer.  For this, I drove to Binny's South Loop to see what was on sale.  The beer was an easy choice- I really like both Sam Adams and Goose Island seasonal brews, and I found Goose Island Mild Winter 12 pack on sale for $12.99.  At just over $1/bottle, this is a steal for an ale that brings hearty, caramelly flavor and winter spice.  Next, I was on to wine.  I noticed Domaine Chandon selections were $15.99, but were on sale at Dominick's for $12.99, so I would wait on that and save $3.  I also decided to wait on my red wine until I got to Whole Foods because Maipe Malbec was on sale for $8.99- quite a deal for an old vine, critically acclaimed, very fruity red.  I decided to get only one bottle of white, and since I didn't see any specials, I picked up Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina for $14.99.  A personal favorite from the Campania region in Italy which I like to keep stocked, this wine brings loads of tropical fruit along with medium body and minerality.   All in all, with so many great value choices, there's not many reasons for one to spend more than $15 for a good bottle of wine.

We do have some small entrepreneurial shops, but I would like to see more.  South Loop Wine Cellar, Warehouse Liquors and Printers Row Wine Shop are great wine shops with boutique selections and fun wine people.  Even if you have to pay an extra dollar here or there, try to support your neighborhood's small shops.  It helps build community and keeps the little guy in business- the American way!

Chicago Community Crush Kick-Off

Team Chicago Community CrushThis past Wednesday, Community Crush: Chicago was launched at our kick-off party held in Rogers Park.  Taste Food and Wine was our host, and they are an awesome wine shop and Euro deli, which had ample space to accomodate all new members of the Community.  Onhand were  four Community Crush: San Francisco 2008 Pinot Noirs to taste, each very different, and gave all a sneak peak at what our Pinot Noir could be like next year. 

This was the first of what will be many gatherings and chances to meet other people who are enthusiastic about wine and Chicago.  Make sure to join the Community online, become part of our wine's life cycle, and say hi to both myself and my co-leader Carol Ludwick.  Our next event is being held at South Loop Wine Cellar next Wednesday, September 16, from 6:30-8:30pm.  We will be tasting more Crushpad wines, and tasting some freshly picked Pinot Noir grapes from the Two Pisces Vineyard, the source of our 2009 wine.  See you there!

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)

Around the World Tasting @ South Loop Wine Cellar

The Windy City Wine Guy has always been an advocate of local neighborhood wine shops.  Mine is in the south loop at the South Loop Wine Cellar.  Amy Garman is the owner, and she carries a small selection of quality wines which she knows all about.  There are weekly tastings held at the shop, and I attended the Around the World Tasting held Saturday, October 18.  There were many distributors on hand to pour and answer questions- and they were all needed too as people poured in from all over the south loop!

There were some very good wines at this tasting and here are my favorites:

  • Axios "Truth", Lindsey's Cuvee 2006: This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Petit Verdot delivers deep dark fruit, vanilla and oak spice, smokey bacon aroma, and earth.  $22.50

  • Seven Hills Merlot 2006: A silky Merlot with great integrated tannins and acidity.  Smooth fruits, nice body, and long finish.  $25.99

  • Finca Villacreces, Ribera del Duero, 2005: This big Spanish red has it all- dusty earth, oak, cherry, rich soil, and spice.  A bit young, let it age.  $47.50

  • Brooks Riesling 2006: I love this producer (ENO has the Amycas blend).  A rich dry white with slate, lime, apple, chestnut, and minerality.  So refreshing.  $19.99

  • Chateau St. Cosme: There was a Côtes du Rhône ($18), Gigondas ($34), and Chateauneuf du Pape ($49), each better than the other.  Cannot go wrong with any of these as each is worth more than the price.

  • Gunn Estate Unoaked Chardonnay 2007: A great expression of what Chardonnay is without all the alteration- honeyed apples, pear, and chalk.  Great ripe fruit.  $18.99

  • Buglioni Valpolicella Classico 2006: Light and fresh with great acidity and bitter dark fruit.  $16

This was a great neighborhood event, as I met with lots of fellow south loop residents.  We were able to talk about the goings-on, as well as our liking of Amy and the wine shop.  Where is your neighborhood?  Tell WCWG and promote your local wine shop!

Another Find- @South Loop Wine Cellars

While running errands, the WCWG had time to stop at one of his favorite neighborhood establishments, the South Loop Wine Cellar at 1442 S. Michigan Ave.  I just bought two thick yellowfin tuna steaks I was meaning to blacken on our new Coleman grill, and needed a fuller red for the evening.  The owner of SLWC, Amy Garman, is always ready to help with her select ensemble of wines. 

I found a bottle of Seven Sinners Syrah 2004 (a label under Jim Regusci of California Cabernet fame) and wanted to know more about the taste profile and level of quality.  Amy told me it had good body and spice, plus it was a low case production, which instantly gives the feel of great quality.  I splurged a tiny bit and spent $22 for a wine I knew would become a part of a delicious dinner with my wife. 

I took the bottle home and checked it out online, as I do with all of my bottles, and found it to have 5% Petite Sirah as well which will give added depth and structure.  My wife and I grilled the blackened tuna and enjoyed what proved to be a memorable bottle of wine- thanks again Amy!

By the way- Amy holds wine tastings every Friday.  It attracts quite a crowd as you get to try at least five different wines for $5 (free for SLWC club members).  Check it out this week and you will get to try some of California's greats.  Sounds like to place to be in the south loop!