Wine & Travel

Snooth User: JonDerry

Two Days in Chicago

Original post by JonDerry, Oct 25, 2015.

Here for business, but finding the time to work in some wine escapades. Last year I met several Chicago wine people at a Burgundy tasting, and earlier this year some more at La Paulee. So on short notice I decided to let them all know I was coming to town, and luckily I got a good tip on an excellent restaurant near my hotel, Nico Osteria. Have lunch set up for tomorrow, but had to check it out tonight in advance. 

The ambiance, open kitchen, service, and wine list set this place apart right away. Not exactly feeling 100% after dealing with airports and planes most of the day, I had bubles on my mind. Being a recent Lambrusco convert, I thought what better place to try than a hip Italian Restaurant.

Pictured above the WTB (By the glass list) you can see the Lambrusco and Brussel Sprouts, both were sublime. The Lambrusco had good freshness and fruitful energy, medium plus bubbles, but it's Lambrusco afterall, and this was the Grasparossa Barbolini "Lancillato". Grasparossa's are one of the main types of Lambrusco, sometimes Masculine, I found this somewhere between dry and off-dry, just a little bit of sweetness which was appreciated. The purple fruit was fresh, mostly plum, somewhat grapy, but not cloyingly so. There's also a dustiness, and earthiness to it which only adds to the experience, but mainly it's a wine to enjoy and drink.

Browsing the wine list, I noticed it was clearly an Italian, and Northern Italian wine list first. But second to Italian wines, I was expecting to find an emphasis on French or American wines, but no, here the Greek wines get some love (as I was reminded of the Greek - Chicago connection from many years back visiting, and noticing many Greek restaurants), and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try my first decent glass of Greece, Xinomavro at that. Landed on this wine as it had a few years in bottle as opposed to some other more recent vintages.

While the nose was clearly firm, it was giving off a very nice perfume, not unlike a nice Nebbiolo from Piedmont. Rose petals, spice, and wild, but reticent dark red fruits. The palate confirms that this is on the more elegant side, light to medium in body and tannin, though it has plenty of acidic freshness and wiry, (drying) tannins, making it a great pair with the meat Rigatoni it was paired with. In the end I was happy with the wine, still squarely in its primary phase, it had opened enough to show its stuff, and found at least moderate complexity, which will be encouraging more exploration.

Looking forward to lunch tomorrow.

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Replies

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Reply by dmcker, Oct 26, 2015.

I've always been a firm believer in doing 'michikusa' as they say in Japanese, which might translate to stopping to smell the daisies or roses or whatever. Rushing through 8 cities in 5 days, even on important business, never appealed to me. Slow it down, do it more completely, and inhale the context and environment while there. You sense more, understand more, and can even do business better.

Interestingly, since I kept turning my clients on to better hotels and better restaurants and better overall travel experiences, I was then asked to take over travel arrangements for all their important trips. Became a minorly lucrative sideline, even though we were replacing the travel arms of the largest corporations, or the largest travel agencies. My consulting work came with boutique travel expertise for my most important clients. And without too much effort was able to tack on another 10 to 35% to project billings. Happier clients, and my accountant was happy, too.

So with that personal background, I totally understand, and applaud, JD's approach to visiting Chicago or wherever else on business.  ;-)

 

 

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Reply by dvogler, Oct 26, 2015.

It's obviously working for you buddy.  One of these days though, we need to get the whole darn crew together!

 

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Reply by Lucha Vino, Oct 27, 2015.

I'm with DV - And it would be great to do that in the PNW! :-)

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Reply by GregT, Oct 27, 2015.

Chicago is a great town. Years ago I owned a French pastry shop there. Took my wife there once (different girl at the time) because I loved the city and was thinking of going back. She flat out refused. Cold as hell in the winter!

 

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Reply by dmcker, Oct 27, 2015.

Chicago does seem to have that draw for a lot of people. Polarized camps, perhaps? Love it, or can do without. I'm the latter, other than for business, but have known plenty of people in the former camp.

I'm a Bay Area guy at heart.  ;-)

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Reply by Really Big Al, Oct 27, 2015.

Most of my business trips were to fly on Monday, do business Tuesday-Thursday, and then fly home on Friday.  Being on government contracts we had a per-diem amount and that included what hotels we could stay at - the hotel needed to use the government rate.  That being said, I did spend a whole month in Hawaii (the island of Oahu) in 2002, working at several installations there.  I managed to have a good time and I even called my wife with a cell phone while I was up in a glider being towed by another plane.  I've seen a few good times.

I've never been to Chicago though.  I would like to visit someday, but not in the winter!

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Reply by outthere, Oct 27, 2015.

Ok, who wears long pants in Hawaii?

Liking your report JD. Miss Chicago. Haven't been in almost 10 years.

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Reply by dmcker, Oct 27, 2015.

Ok, who wears long pants in Hawaii?

 

Long pants, restrained Hawaiian shirt and leather shoes are kinda the business uniform over there, for several decades. Unless you're doing something entirely digital, or in a cool market space involving cutting edge consumption.

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Reply by dvogler, Oct 27, 2015.

Lucha, a wine event in Seattle will be you and I :)

Greg, you didn't have flour all over you or anything like that?

My first wife was from Chicago.  We went back twice.  Last time was 1997 and I took my bike on the plane.  I found some guys who raced to do some good rides with.  It was funny when they said, "the hill is coming up" and I never saw one.  I rode from Des Plaines into downtown one day and I think I took a wrong turn onto Milwaukee Ave.  I never felt afraid for my safety though.  I found people to be very helpful and friendly.  I could have lived there were it not for the winter!

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Reply by EMark, Oct 27, 2015.

Long pants, restrained Hawaiian shirt and leather shoes are kinda the business uniform over there, for several decades.

From my observations in the '90s through the '00s, there was no "kinda" about it.  That was the accepted business dress.  On my first trip over, I was instructed to bring and wear aloha shirts.  I did have a couple that did fit in, but I learned what the preferred ones were and stocked up on them.  Visiting mainlanders, over to do business, were cut some slack, but they were stongly advised to not wear suits and ties.  Some just could not help themselves and, so, looked comically out of place.  Towards the end of my ventures over there, the aloha shirt requirement seemed to be loosening up.  I noticed that open-collar sport shirts and even golf shirts were becoming acceptable business dress.

 

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Reply by Really Big Al, Oct 27, 2015.

Ok, who wears long pants in Hawaii?

Trust me, even older women don't want to see my legs. I don't have much of a tan since I started experiencing skin cancer issues a while back.  I basically never wear shorts.  

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Reply by JonDerry, Oct 27, 2015.

A friend recommended I check out Avec, a little hot spot on a different side of town, though only a few miles from where I was staying. I got in there, and it was completely packed on a Monday night. Crazy! I tried to sit down at the bar, but I was promptly told that the hostess was using that seat, so I squeezed myself out of the place and went to plan B, Blackbird, which was the really the perfect place for me, as I was flying solo. Also happened to hit it off with Kyle Davidson, who a server at Avec later told me was the best waiter in the city, high praise indeed.

After sitting at the bar at Blackbird, I noticed there was another gal dining alone, and some other friendly folks about my age on the other side. I promptly ordered a bottle of White Burgundy, what I deemed to be the best value a 2011 Benjamin Leroux Auxey Durresses. I've never tried this producer before, but seem to remember hearing good things, and it quickly became another white burg epiphany for me. Also bottled under screw cap, which seems like a great way to tackle the pre-mox issue.

2011 Benjamin Leroux

Very direct and with good complexity as well. The fruit isn't very concentrated, contributing to a leaner body with excellent saline and mineral impressions. There is a slight bit of sweetness and oak, making it accessible and familiar. Excellent, effortless wine, with very nice balance and material.

2010 Mazis Chambertin

Not giving much on the nose, but what is there is charming dark red fruit and fairly strong spice and tobacco. Shows very good concentration on the palate, depth, spice, and drive but still with an elegance to it. Needs air, but responded well to decanting for two hours over lunch. Enjoyed less than half before returning to the bottle. Corked and brought out again for dinner, and consumed for an additional three hours. Poured a glass for Kyle Davidson, and he thought the tobacco note was a little strong at first, but this blew off over the course of the evening. Just a youngster, this should be really nice at age 15 - 20.

The Leroux was really nice by itself, great with this lobster dish. The duck was not pictured, but absolutely brilliant with the uncoiling Mazis Chambertin. I took my time eating.

I overheard Kyle talking spirits, so picked his brain on Bourbon, mentioning an experience I had with Elmer T. Lee and of course, he not only produces a bottle but the whole g'damn story! Too hurried to give that full report, but here's the picture.

A little something on the house to go with the chocolate souflee.

Great time in Chicago, definitely my best trip there, and ranks as one of the best dinners I've ever had.

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Reply by dmcker, Oct 27, 2015.

Keep the contacts for that waiter, for your next trip to town. Also will be curious if Avec has the same crowds by, say, the end of the spring. Really backwards priorities if they bump you for a chair so the Hostess can sit.

Sounds like lots of good wine and food, even if plenty of infanticide, too. Did you end up sharing any of the bottles with others?

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Reply by Really Big Al, Oct 27, 2015.

Excellent business trip I must say JD.  

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Reply by MJET, Oct 27, 2015.

Great trip. I also love Chicago since I've been going there almost every year for the past 15 years. In my top three US destinations. A must try for those who have not. 

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Reply by JonDerry, Oct 28, 2015.

The hostess needed the seat to seat people who waited in line ahead of me...definitely a modern, too cool for school kind of place, and the bar was one long line that ran all the way down the restaurant, so not a traditional bar at all. I was happy that I got booted just minutes later as Blackbird's room was a lot more traditional, relaxed, and welcoming. To top it off the folks at the bar were all good company, and the waiter and I instantly connected, after I ordered the wine he mentioned Peter Wasserman was there just the other day (part of Wasserman selections, Burgundy and other European wine importers).

I did share the wines, not only with the waiter but with other new acquaintances sitting at the bar, and later the wine director had a small glass of the Mazy. He took tasting it very seriously, demanding to know right away how much air it had received.

Definitely a great trip, thanks for living vicariously through me, was a nice change to have the time to report on the experiences. I guess I'll have to take my laptop on these types of trips more often.

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Reply by outthere, Oct 28, 2015.

Great reading! Thanks for sharing the experience.

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