Category Archives: The Grapevine WINE

Fogo de Chão celebrates national Caipirinha Day Friday 13th

Caipirinhas are the official cocktail of Brazil, and feature cachaça (the native spirit of Brazil, distilled from pure cane sugar), freshly muddled limes and sugar.

(A recipe for the beverage can be found HERE.)

Celebrate National Caipirinha Day on Friday, Sept. 13 with $5 caipirinhas all day long at Fogo (available on the Patio or in Bar Fogo, and the bar area at Fogo de Chão; not valid in the main dining room).

    Stop by after work  and  check it out!

Fogo de Chão is a fine dining, full-service Brazilian steakhouse or churrascaria, serving rodízio style, featuring roving waiters serving barbecued meats from large skewers directly onto the seated diners’ plates.

Weekday Happy Hour at Bar Fogo, featuring $4 Brazilian Bites & Beers, $6 South American Wines and $8 Brazilian-Inspired Cocktails.

661 N LaSalle,  River  North


Fogo de Chao and VIK Wines

There is nothing better than a fantastic glass of wine with dinner!

We recently visited the Fogo de Chao (pronounced fogo-dee-shown) in River North for their announcement of a new partnership with award-winning Chilean VIK Winery. These VIK wines are only available at Fogo!

The VIK vineyard is affectionately called the “Place of Gold”, offering a variety of unequaled terroir, small microclimates, coastal breezes; giving their wines the complexity sought after to create the best wine in South America.

If you get to Chile, they have an unbelievable hotel and grounds! You can visit the vineyards, the wine spa, hotel and spectacular grounds. (photo to left).

Fogo has partnered with VIK, which is a holistic Chilean vineyard creating world class wines, to offer its award-winning and best in category wines at Fogo de Chão locations nationwide.


These 3 wines join the Wine List:

La Piu Belle, Red Blend, Cachapoal, Chile, 2011
Intense and well-balanced with notes of berries, wildflowers, spices and a touch of oak. Flavor of cranberries, the palate is incredibly fresh, silky smooth, with body and structure.

Milla Cala, Red Blend, Cachapoal, Chile, 2013
Incredibly vibrant red fruit aromas, elegant tannins and incredibly smooth mouth feel. Fresh spices, perfume and berry aromas accented with hints of toast and maple. In the mouth, black cherry and plum are underscored by a hint of black licorice.

VIK, Red Blend, Cachapoal, Chile, 2012
Elegant and balanced wine, dynamic with high precision of tannins and great structure that deliver an exquisite mouth feel. A mixture of aromas, including strawberry, raspberry and vanilla. Spicy and savory dark berry fruit on the tongue, tempered by an elegant structure.


The founders of Fogo de Chão grew up on a traditional Southern Brazilian farm in the Serra Gaucha. It is here that they learned to cook in the churrasco grilling tradition that would become the backbone of their story.

The founding brothers left the quaint, mountainous countryside of Rio Grande do Sul to Rio and São Paulo for formal churrasqueiro training, all while developing the Fogo concept. They had several resturants in brazil before coming to the US. premiere.

At the requests of loyal American guests, the Fogo concept was exported to the U.S. with a stateside debut in Dallas, Texas, in 1997. Between 1997 and 2013, this pioneering churrascaria continued its expansion in Brazil and the U.S. opening 29 new restaurants.

The culinary team has continued the tradition of developing new menu creations rooted in the Brazilian tradition that push forward the Brazilian churrasco experience. In 2013, new seafood dishes were introduced. Later that year, the Bar Fogo concept emerged within Fogo restaurants, introducing guests to new Brazilian-inspired small plates, award-winning wines and cocktails. The culinary team is always testing and tasting new items for possible inclusion.


With the holidays just around the corner, consider Fogo de Chao for a group dining experience!

An elegant Brazilian dining experience presented by their helpful and knowledgeable staff will make Fogo de Chão the perfect location for your group or private dining event. Holiday parties, Corporate events, Lunch and Learn, any celebration!


661 N LaSalle Dr, Chicago, IL 60654. (312) 932-9330

(see the website for suburban locations)

About Fogo de Chão

Fogo de Chão is a leading Brazilian steakhouse, or churrascaria, which has specialized for more than 37 years in fire-roasting high-quality meats utilizing the centuries-old Southern Brazilian cooking technique of churrasco. Fogo offers guests a wide variety of simply seasoned meats that are carefully fire-roasted to expose their natural flavors. The company was founded in 1979 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and expanded into the U.S. in 1997. There are currently 47 locations throughout Brazil, the United States, and Mexico, including locations in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Mexico City.


Additionally, Fogo offers a gourmet Market Table & Feijoada Bar, which includes seasonal salads, soup, fresh vegetables, feijoada (traditional black bean stew with rice, fresh orange and yuca flour), and much more. Southern Brazilian side dishes such as pão de queijo (warm cheese bread), crispy hot polenta, and caramelized bananas are served family-style. To further complement the dining experience, the restaurant offers an award-winning wine list, tempting dessert menu, and creative and classic cocktails. Guests can also choose between lighter seafood selections, or enjoy the gourmet Market Table only option. For more information, visit, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


For a visual representation of the story of Fogo de Chão, watch “The Gaucho Way,” a documentary-style video shot through the eyes of real Fogo de Chão Brazilian gauchos and explores the restaurant’s deep cultural roots in Southern Brazil.


Beers and Soups In Boystown

frost fest boystown chicago


Come out this THURSDAY (FEB 18th)to Replay Beer & Bourbon-Andersonville to sample some of the amazing beers for Frost Fest on February 27th!

The Northalsted Business Alliance delivers festival fun to the waning days of winter with a weekend of special events.


Craft Beer Festival

On Saturday, February 27, craft beer takes center stage at Halsted and Waveland. Chill under a tent filled with favorites from more than 40 brewers.

DJ Marc ‘Moose’ brings the heat to the dance floor. Food trucks from Beaver Donuts,

Chubby Wiener, Ms. Tittles and Pico St. Kitchen help soak up the suds.


Purchase tickets at and choose one of two sessions (1- 4pm or 6-9 pm).


Guest can shed their coat at the check-in for $2, which benefits Howard Brown Health Center.


Soup Walk (FREE)

On Sunday February 28 from 1-5 pm the 3rd annual Soup Walk warms up winter with nine Northalsted and Lakeview East restaurants showcasing their soups at retail business.


Stroll or take a free trolley to hit all nine spots.


  • NoteworthyNotes (3629 North Halsted) with soup from Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club
  • Egoist (3526 North Halsted) with soup from Dive Bar.
  • Boystown Collectibles (3453 North Halsted) with soup from Taverna 750
  • Universal Wellness Source (3324 North Halsted) with soup from The Chicago Diner
  • The Leigh Gallery (3306 North Halsted) with soup from D.S. Tequila Co.
  • CRAM Fashion (3331 North Broadway) with soup from Café L’Appetito
  • Unabridged Bookstore-3521 North Broadway) with soup from The Bagel
  • GAP (3216 North Broadway) with soup from Escencia Urban Kitchen
  • wineHOUSE (3164 North Broadway) with soup from Soupbox

About the Northalsted Business Alliance (NBA)

Formed in 1980, NBA represents more than 100 businesses along the Halsted Street corridor. The organization hosts major events throughout the year including Chicago Pride Fest, Northalsted Market Days, Frost Fest and the Halloween Parade. For information about NBA visit


Taverna 750 in Lakeview New Summer Drinks


Taverna 750

Announces New

Celebrity Mixologist

Taverna 750 is known for their Italian inspired shared plates and martinis, is taking their cocktails to the next level.

Now Taverna 750 will partner with Arnold Myint with inspiration from his alter ego Suzy Wong, to fuse the spirit of cocktails and nightlife with dining.


Taverna 750 is already known for their house made cellos, a traditional Italian liqueur that is used throughout the majority of their cocktails that are exclusive and unique to the restaurant. (FYI, in case you still have not been there – All martinis are served with a sidecar, an extra portion kept on ice, or an extra refill, which makes them fun for sharing for a girls or boys night out or date night).

Arnold Myint is a Nashville native, who is Executive Chef and Owner of three popular restaurants in Nashville; {blvd}, PM, and Suzy Wong’s House of Yum. His establishments have been recognized locally on numerous occasions as “the best of” and he continues to grow his brand on the national level as reflected in publications such as GQ Magazine,, and as a contestant on the popular Emmy award winning television program Top Chef. Arnold’s mixology approach is mirrored by his colorful life and alter ego, Suzy Wong.

Arnold’s Suzy Wong, is a domestic diva, event hostess, philanthropist, and savvy mixologist who is known as “The Cocktail Queen” and currently produces a web series; “Serve Fabulous” She was Miss Gay Tennessee America 2012 and Miss Gay Mid America 2013. She placed in the top ten, sixth over all contestants, last fall as Miss Gay America St. Louis, MO. Arnold is currently working on a new endeavor and creating his own wine label “SHOW PONY”. He has teamed up with some of the best drag queens throughout the country to market and campaign the new series of wine, which will debut in Chicago at Taverna 750. Drag queens including RAJA, season 3 Winner of RuPauls’s Drag Race, and Chicago’s very own, TRANNIKA REX, who you can see monthly hosting Trannika’s Most Wanted at the popular nightclub, Scarlet. Taverna 750 will use the energy of Arnold’s approach to their drink program to continue to grow the popularity of their nightlife approach to dinner service and their popular weekend Martini Brunch.

Taverna 750 will host a launch party of the new wine SHOW PONY along with Arnold’s newest cocktail creations for the restaurant on July 5th, along with RAJA and Trannika Rex in attendance.


Cucumber Caparinha

Cachaca, Limoncello, Cucumber Juice, Rosemary Syrup, Lemon Juice, Mint Leaves


Raspberry Spritzer

Hennessy, Raspberry Syrup, Orangecello, Chandon Brut


Lavender Martini

Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin, Canteloupe, Brovo Lavender Liqueur, Orangecello, Lemon Juice, Lemon/Lime Soda, Chandon Brut


Mezcal Punch

Monte Alban Mezcal, Bacardi White Rum, 3Olives Vanilla Vodka, Grapefruitcello, Grapefruit Juice, Simple Syrup, Lemon/Lime Soda, Grapefruit Zest


Pistachio Sour

Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey, Pistachio Liqueur, Amaretto, Apricot Syrup, Orange Peel


Bay Leaf Martini

Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey, Lemon Bay Leaf Syrup, Limoncello, Lemon Juice, Orange Bitters, Lemon/Lime Soda


Celery Gin Rocks

Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin, Celery Syrup, Green Chartreuse, Fresh Squeezed Lemon, Pink Peppercorn Rim


Sloe Gin Gimlet

Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin, Lemon Bay Leaf Syrup, Fresh Squeezed Lemon, Sloe Gin, Bay Leaf Sugar Rim


Tequila Spice

Maestro Dobel Tequila, Chili Cherry Lime Syrup, Orangecello, Fresh Squeezed Orange, Fresh Squeezed Lime


Cherry Coke

Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey, Cherry Heering, Celloed Cherry Juice, Raspberry Syrup, Ginger Beer, Coke

TAVERNA 750         750 W. Cornelia

Chicago, IL 60657



Willis Tower ABSOLUT Tune Party with Chicago House Jan 24

Chicago House & Co-Chairs Dennis Remer, Sean Kotwa, David Kaufman,Tom Segal, Christopher Hubbard & Sean Ward invite you to enjoy a fresh new fusion of  one-of-a-kind artwork up for auction and windy city views alongside the premiere of a tasty new tune from Absolut!

Thursday, January 24th

Willis Tower Skydeck   99th Floor
233 South Franklin (Building’s East Lobby Entrance)

5PM: VIP Early Arrival

6PM-9PM: General Guest Arrival

LIMITED VIP TICKET 50% Sold Out: $150, includes EARLY ARRIVAL at 5PM, a commemorative visit and photo opportunity on The Ledge, plus a VIP swag bag of treats from Garrett Popcorn, Kiehl’s, Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland, and much more!  


New In 2013!
Expedited Entry through Willis Tower’s multiple passenger elevators!

Early arrival for VIP’s!

Paperless auction with cellular bidding!

More unique artwork!

 NEW year, NEW tune, SAME great cause

 Tickets at or phone (773) 248-5200 x. 303


City Winery Chicago Opens in August

Chicago’s FIRST operational winery, event space with concert hall and restaurant will open in August!  1200 W. Randolph.

We told you about it in January, and this past weekend we had the chance to sample a couple of their wines. EXCELLENT! 

“We take great pride in sourcing our grapes from some of the finest
vineyards in the world – Cabernet Sauvignon from Bettinelli in Napa,
California to Pinot Noir from Hyland Vineyards in Willamette Valley,
Oregon or even Malbec from the esteemed Catena Vineyards in Agrelo,
Medoza Argentina. We are proud to focus on terroir–the French
expression of certain varietals growing better in specific climates and
soils. Being a winery in the middle of the city allows us the luxury to
seek the most expressive and world-class fruit for our customers.

But we are not just winery behind closed doors—our aim is to give
fans of wine, food, and culture the chance to touch and feel all the
aspects of the winemaking process—the crush, the fermenting, the blend
and ultimately, the opportunity to create your own private barrel, or on
a smaller scale to bottle a few cases of our wine with your custom
designed label.”

City Winery is the brainchild of Michael Dorf, founder of the legendary
Knitting Factory, who wanted to create a space in The City where he
could combine his passions for wine and music. The core target audience
of City Winery are people who share those same passions. We cater to
urban wine enthusiasts who desire the experience of making their own
wine, but who are not going to leave their comfortable City lifestyle to
decamp to a vineyard.

First launch in NEW YORK city, and now in Chicago!

“CW Chicago is our 2.0.  We learned a lot in NY and have improved the
physical layout, the operational logistics, taken the best of our menu,
programming, and put together an all-star management team. Very excited
to open in August.
” — Michael Dorf, Founder and CEO


Wine Bars Arrive at O’Hare Airport

Do you remember about 30 years ago, you would walk into the airport, and there was  MAYBE, 2-3 places to get some bad awful airport food?  Then, fast food came to airports!  Followed by Starbucks, which was then followed by big chains. Now anything your heart desires is at the airport!

Two new wine bars opened over the weekend at the O’Hare airport – Bubbles Wine Bar in Terminal 3 (complete with piano!)   and Beaudevin Wine Bar in Terminal 1.

Both are operated by airport foodservice firm HMSHost.

Travelers can drop by either bar to enjoy fine wines and sparkling
wines, which can be paired with gourmet entrées or small plates.

Beaudevin offers more than 20 red, white and sparkling wines by the glass, bottle or flight, along with small plates .

The Bubbles Wine Bar is in Terminal 3 near Gate H4, and focuses on
sparkling wine and craft beer joined with sushi roll pairings. The bar
chain was first introduced by HMSHost at Schiphol International Airport
in Amsterdam, and has been named by Executive Life magazine as one of
the “chic-est airport bars,” the Department of Aviation said.

Sidenote – Starbucks has started offering beer and wine in select cities – I am sure it won’t be long for that trend to arrive at the airport.


City Winery Comes to Chicago Summer 2012

Coming this summer to Chicago’s West Loop is the first off shoot of music/wine impresario Michael Dorf’s City Winery New York. 

City Winery Chicago, a fully operational winery, restaurant with outdoor patio, concert hall, and private event space, is scheduled to open at 1200 West Randolph in Summer 2012.   30,000 square feet!

The venue plans to hire approximately 90 new employees for the facility, which will serve lunch and dinner, offer over 200 concerts a year, and host hundreds of private events and parties.  


The purchase closed in late December and official construction has begun to transform the former refrigerated food distribution warehouse built in the early part of the 20th century into a contemporary winery and hospitality facility, respecting the old brick and timber construction, while adding 5000 square feet of new construction.

and planning for the site commenced this past June after plans to
transform the ground floor of the old Carson Pirie Scott building at
Wabash and Monroe were abandoned when fellow tenant, Target, required
more space.   Dorf and his design team of architect Christopher Warnick
and designer Phillip Katz quickly commenced work on new plans after
securing the West Loop location. 

“We are very excited to bring our unique wine country-meets-culinary and cultural experience to Chicago’s discerning customers,” said  Dorf.  “Our new  home in the West Loop, among all the other great restaurants, is a perfect location and fit for our facility.”


The first City Winery opened in New York in 2008 and has been a huge success with customers and critics, earning industry accolades.


For more information on City Winery Chicago, please visit


Veuve Clicquot at the Willis Tower Sky Deck Jan 26th

Notorious for its history of innovation!  Through the centuries Veuve Clicquot has become known as The Champagne  House with cutting edge ideas!

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin is both a champagne house in Reims, France, and a brand of premium champagne. Founded in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot-Muiron, Veuve Clicquot played an important role in establishing champagne as a favored drink of haute bourgeoisie and nobility throughout Europe. The 1811 comet vintage of Veuve Clicquot is theorized to have been the first truly “modern” Champagne due to the advancements in the méthode champenoise which Veuve Clicquot pioneered through the technique of remuage.

Each year Chicago House hosts a Veuve Clicquot benefit at a different venue. This year the event  reaches  the highest high!

On the 99th floor of the Willis Tower, high flying treats and bubbly drinks await you!

Artists from around the city present their  various interpretations of Clicquot and a fantastic silent auction keeps everyone bidding throughout the evening as bubbly flows.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Time: 6pm

Where: The SkyDeck, Willis Tower
233 South Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL



Wine Tasting Benefit Nov. 9 Equality Illinois

The fabulous Fall Wine Tasting event is THIS WEEK!

Please join EQIL and Sidetrack on Wednesday, November 9 from 6:00 to 9:00pm.

 Tickets are now available

For just $20 you have access to over 99 wines from around the world and hors d’oeuvres provided by J&L Catering!  This super-popular event caters to all palates and budgets.

Plus, those who preregister will be entered into our DRAWINGS FOR FANTASTIC WINE BASKETS!  Due
to the nature of PAC events, each attendee must register and pay
individually.  A phone number is required to complete your online
registration, but will ONLY be used as an identifier at the door at


Spring Time and Grüner Veltliner Wine

 WIKIPEDIA  says …Grüner Veltliner  is a variety of white wine grape variety grown primarily in Austria, Slovakia and in the Czech Republic. It has a reputation of being a particularly food-friendly wine.
It is made into wines of many different styles – much is intended for drinking young in the Heuriger (bars serving new wine) of Vienna, a little is made into sparkling wine, but some is capable of long aging. The steep, Rhine-like vineyards of the Danube west of Vienna produce very pure, minerally Grüner Veltliners intended for laying down. Down in the plains, citrus and peach flavours are more apparent, with spicy notes of pepper and sometimes tobacco.

Favored by seemingly every sommelier in America in the late 1990s, Grüner Veltliner (nicknamed Groovy) was subsequently discarded by those very same professionals when they began looking for something new to put on their lists. Instead, they began touting wines with equally unpronounceable names: Torrontés, Moscofilero, even Assyrtiko.

According to Food and Wine, Terry Theise , an importer of many great Austrian wines, speculated that Grüner may have fallen from grace because new sommeliers were trying to make their mark. “Some of the new guys might feel like Grüner Veltliner was the wine of an earlier generation, and they want to find their own wines,” he said. Who knew there was a Grüner Veltliner generation gap?

I am so tired of food snobs that try to dictate what hot’s and what’s not!  DRINK what you like, and forget about what the IN crowd says is in or out. 

I like Gruner Veltliner! It’s a wonderful spring wine.

Michael Snell
Derrick Sorles
Best of the Best Dining in


Magnificent Mile’s Best Wine Lists

Michael Bottigliero, wine writer at the Windy City Wine Guy, has come out with his opinion on the best Mag Mile restaurant wine lists.  They sure sound right to me. LH

There’s no doubt that Chicago’s Magnificent Mile has alot to offer, and wine is no exception.  Some of the best restaurants in the world are offering amazing dishes for both lunch and dinner.  Besides great company, only wine goes better with the cuisine and scenery, and these restaurant have the cellars to please any afficionado:

TRU. They have over 1800 selections and Wine Director Chad Ellegood is out to make sure diners have all options available.  Wines from Austria, New Zealand, Greece, Chile, Slovenia and more will pair up with any dish Chef Rick Tramonto and their whimsical kitchen can come up with.

NoMI. Though the recent departure of Master Sommelier Fernando Beteta leaves them with huge shoes to fill, he leaves behind a stocked cellar and great list.  Champagne Salon, DRC Le Montrachet Grand Cru, Chateau Haut-Brion, Petrus, Gaja Barolo, Clarendon Hills Astralis, and Araujo Estate are just some of their decadent selections.

Spiaggia. Not only are they a Chicago institution, but Wine Director Stephen Alexander has put together a very good Italian list to pair with Chef Tony Mantuano’s award winning cuisine.  Take a tour up and down “the Boot”!

Pelago. They are one of Chicago’s newest restaurants but are already staking their claim with nominations for Jean Banchet and James Beard Awards.  Located in the Raffaello Hotel, their luxurious setting, excellent cuisine and a well rounded all-Italian list.  Over 150 selections have been picked by Wine Director Domenico Masrici.

C-House. This marriage between the Affinia Hotel and Chef Marcus Samuelsson has made Chicago a real winner.  Not only do they have great dining, but they also have C-Bar, a great spot to share fresh seafood and drink, and C-View, a rooftop bar and lounge.  Plus, sommelier Lucas Henning has put together a fine list full of wine, cocktails and sake.

Les Nomades. Many accolades have adorned this excellent new restaurant and Chef Christopher Nugent, and the list is no let down.  It is mostly comprised of French selections from Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, Rhone, Alsace, and the Loire.


A Courvoisier Mojito Seduction

Allan and I attended a media event the other night sponsored by Courvoisier.  It was held at this ornate bistro called the Crimson Lounge.  The folks at Courvoisier are all about brand and image. They scored by having the event at Crimson; it was a nice marriage of brand and atmosphere. The Crimson has Victorian era  heavy drapery, period piece chairs, chandeliers and lots of dimly lit candles. It’s kind of a seductive place and, that’s the point. Courvoisier wanted to seduce us with their brand.

There were very petite women in high heels and little black skirts strutting around with trays of Courvoisier cocktails, and short male servers quietly passing around tiny bites of shrimp, caprese salad on sticks, baby quiche, beef tenderloin with button mushrooms and a tuna wasable nibble.  The hostess gave us a number to be announced for our blind tasting.  When our number was called, like lemings to the Courvoisier, we gathered in a side room that looked rigged up for a seance. In front of us were two baby snifters of the liquid gold and a blindfold. (Is this getting kinky yet?). 

Our leader asked us to put on the blindfold (to increase our sense of smell). We were then asked to hold the baby snifter up to our nose. As this was going on, one by one, someone went around the room spraying a particular scent:  orange, creme brulee, coffee, vanilla etc.  Each time the scent reached my nose it co-mingled perfect with the scent coming from the courvoisier.  It was quite a multi- scented experience!  Oh, and then we were able to drink the liquid gold. It sure makes your insides feel warm and comforted.

So, now I know that there is more than one way to skin the Courvoisier cat.  I don’t just have pour it for my guests to swill with their stogies.  We can serve tropical like pre-dinner cocktails, and we can all get blindfolded and catch the wave of the scent.

All in all it was a very nice representation of or extension of the brand. And I got to keep the blindfold!



1 part Courvoisier Exclusif Cognac

1 part club soda

2 parts Ginger Ale

Fresh, chopped lime

4 mint leaves for muddling

Mint leaves for garnish

Muddle lime and mint leaves with a splash of club soda. Fill glass with ice and add the Courvoisier Exclusif and Ginger Ale. Gently shake all ingredients together and pour over the ice filled glass. Top off with club soda and garnish with fresh mint leaves.


Wine Shooters

Wine may be enjoying new popularity, but that doesn’t mean the average consumer isn’t still daunted by the knowledge it takes to pick a bottle they’ll like. We’ve written about several efforts to simplify the process, and now WineSide is taking a novel approach by offering wines packaged in sample-sized tubes.

WineSide offers both sweet and classic wines in patented, flat-base glass tubes with screw tops carefully engineered to protect the wines’ flavour. The sweet wines-which include Sauternes and Muscat, for example-are available in 6cl tubes, while the Pomerol, Chateau Neuf du Pape and other classic wines can be purchased in 6cl or 10cl sizes. WineSide’s collection represents a range of appellations and producers; tubes are available individually or by the box, which can be chosen to provide an introduction to a variety, year or region. Kicking off retail sales, the products are available exclusively at Colette in Paris this month.

In addition to giving consumers a new way to sample and discover wines, WineSide’s tube format also promises to give vintners new tryvertising capabilities at relatively low cost. The French company’s website is still under construction, but it says it is looking for distributors. One to get in on early!

Note: I receive a very cool e-newsletter (Spring Wise) that sends subscribers the latest innovative ideas.  This weeks offering included WineSide.  I think it’s a great idea!


Best of the Best Dining Chicago


Booze Clues: “You Know You’re in a Dive Bar When…

 a. Pall Mall and Newports are your options for smokes.
b. Behind the bar, there’s vodka in a machine gun-shaped bottle.
c. Your food options are jerky sausages and bags of Zapp’s shoestring potatoes.
d. Scratch-offs are sold behind the bar.

e. The name of the person behind the bar matches the name of the bar.
f. Behind the bar you’ll find Jeppson’s Malört.
g. Dollar shots is not a one-night-a-week gimmick to bring in the young crowd-it’s an all-day, everyday way of life.
h. Old dudes, chillin’.

i. Promotional beer crap hangs from the glamorous drop ceiling.
j. There’s an ATM- because the bar takes cash only.
k. There’s a sign for the Polish beer Zywiec  somewhere inside, and a “Zimne Piwo” (cold beer) sign over the door.
l. You can grab a sixer to go, to continue the party after-hours.


Other subtle signs of a real dive bar (in case you’re not sure)…

There’s a cigarette machine that also dispenses candy bars.
(Ollie’s, 1064 W Berwyn Ave, 773-784-5712)

There’s no 411 listing, no phone-and no intention of getting either.
(Tina’s Place, 5708 S Western Ave)

The bar opens at 6am so the graveyard shift can booze up before hitting the sack.
(Sky-Ride Cocktail Lounge, 105 W Van Buren St, 312-939-3340)

The mop closet is more spacious than the men’s bathroom.
(Lilly’s, 2513 N Lincoln Ave, 773-525-2422)

None of the pool cues have tips.
(My Place on Milwaukee, 3394 N Milwaukee Ave, 773-286-4482)

You’ll see photos of the owner’s fishing trip-from 1982.
(J&M Tap, 957 N Leavitt St, no phone)

7 There are no cocktails, because there is no ice.
(Ed and Jean’s, 2032 W Armitage Ave, no phone)

There’s a condom dispenser in the bathroom.
(June’s Inn, 4333 N Western Ave, 773-463-3122)

The entrance is locked until the ‘tender feels like getting out of bed.
(Johnny’s, 3425 N Lincoln Ave, 773-248-3000)

You’re not drinking from the same type or size cup as your friend, even though you ordered the same cocktail. (Rose’s, 2656 N Lincoln Ave, 773-327-4000)

Holiday lights are up, but Christmas was months ago.
(Celina’s Place, 900 N Western Ave, 773-486-8737)

There are no windows, making it possible to drink from day into night with little concern for time’s passing. (Sheridan “L” Lounge and Delicatessen, 3944 N Sheridan Rd, no phone)

Thanks to for this great article. 

Boy, does this take me back.  I need to go play in a dive bar again, just for old time sake!

Laura Hansen
Best of the Best Dining Chicago



A “pizza wine”

is shop talk for easy-sipping plonk of no particular distinction. It’s relatively cheap, tastes good and works well with casual foods and informal settings. It’s a wine “you wouldn’t feel guilty opening on a Tuesday night,” said Mike Baker, manager of Wine Discount Center in Chicago.Wine for pizza can be deliciously different.

Though it should be affordable enough to down a glass while sprawled on the couch, the wine also should be something to remember even after stuffing the pizza box into the garbage can. Choosing such a wine can take some thought, but that’s probably appropriate given the food you’re pairing it with is pizza.

“This is Chicago, after all; we take our pizza seriously,” said Ray Denton, wine manager at Binny’s Ivanhoe Castle in Chicago.

Pairing wine with Chicago-style deep-dish pizza can be a challenge. Consider the tomato sauce, gutsy toppings, the high collar of crust and a thick blanket of cheese.

Perhaps that is why Todd Hess, wine director for Sam’s Wines & Spirits in Chicago, said he would drink beer with pizza, specifically “an ice cold Pilsner Urquell” from the Czech Republic.

“The tomato is the difficult thing,” he said. “The tomato sauce has a lot of acidity and sugar, which is why beer works so well. A wine has to have reasonably low acidity and lots of fruit. It also has to be heard over the milky proteins of the cheese.”

When asked to name wines that go well with pizza, a number of Chicago-area wine merchants didn’t blink or cock an eyebrow in derision. Indeed, they treated the question as though weighing which wine would work best with foie gras.

A wine from Italy came to mind first for most. Perhaps the adage “Italian wine for Italian foods” was at work here. But the merchants diverged on specific recommendations.

For example, Mike Maracich, co-owner of The Twisted Vine in Orland Park, suggested a “nice light Chianti” that would help cut the tomato sauce.

Hess said a Chianti is “not bad,” but worried the Tuscan wine’s “acidity tends to be made more shrill by the tomato sauce.” For him, reds from the southern Italian region of Apulia, the “heel” of Italy’s boot, work better. They are “ripe, spicy, fruity and delicious,” he said.

Other Italians to consider include inexpensive barberas, rosso di Montalcino from southern Tuscany or a dolcetto d’Alba from Italy’s Piedmont region.

Brenda Fotopoulos, co-owner of Randolph Wine Cellars in Chicago, touts a Sicilian wine, Val Cerasa Etna Rosso, because the “earthier tones” work well with sausage, mushrooms and other toppings.

Outside of Italy, wine merchants point to hearty, assertive reds, including shiraz from Australia and California zinfandel.

“A zinfandel would be my first choice,” Denton said. “Rancho Zabaco Dancing Bull is a terrific value. It’s not super big, but it’s got some fruit and some pepper and some spice.”

Non-traditional pizzas – “white” pies or those with unusual toppings – can call for more unusual choices. Champagnes work well off the salty spark of white pies, Denton said. Baker recommends an Alsatian pinot gris with a veggie pizza or an Austrian gruner veltliner with an artichoke or asparagus pizza. An Italian chardonnay “not quite as buttery or oaky” as a Californian chard works for Maracich of The Twisted Vine. Or, choose an Italian Gavi, a white wine made with the cortese grape, he said.

How much to pay for wine with pizza? Baker suggests looking for bargains in lesser-known wine regions of Italy.

“The further south you go, the more money you save,” he said.

Denton follows a simple rule: “You shouldn’t pay more than what the pizza costs. So, if you’re eating a Tombstone (brand of frozen pizza) you’re looking at $10 or under.”

The top five wines

We conducted an informal tasting of nine wines recommended by area wine merchants for drinking with pizza. Our “palate cleansers” were two deep-dish pies, one sausage and one spinach, from Bella Bacino’s in Chicago. Some of the wines seemed to pair more naturally with the pizza than others.

Ratings key: excellent, very good, good, fair

2001 Rancho Zabaco Dancing Bull Zinfandel ($7). With its fruit backed up by some tannic muscle, this sassy California wine was our favorite. And the cheapest. Though robust, the fruity zin worked well with the pizza’s sauce and the cheese. Very good.

1999 Manzone Dolcetto d’Alba La Serra ($6). Bright, with almost cherry-like aroma (reminding us of cough syrup), this import from Italy’s Piedmont region offered an intensity and a fruity acidity that held up well. Very good.

2001 Falesco Vitiano ($9). Sometimes, it’s the little things that count. With this wine it was the tiniest spark of acid that seemed to work so well with the salt in the pizza. This Umbrian blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes was dry but with a nice hit of fruit. Good.

2001 Cataldi Madonna Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($13). This wine from Italy’s Abruzzo region matched the pizza well, perhaps too well. One taster felt the wine “disappeared” behind the fennel of the sausage, while another complained of a bland flavor. Good.

1999 Val Cerasa Etna Rosso ($10). A smoldering Mt. Etna adorns the label of this Sicilian red, whose fiery color in the glass was more vivid than any of the others. Too bad the flavor didn’t have a personality to match. Tasters liked this wine for its balance of fruit and tannin, they just wanted more pizazz. Good.

2001 Torre Quarto Puglia Rosso ($10). Tannins are astringent elements in the wine that can, when judiciously exercised, whip a wine into shape. For some tasters, this southern Italian offered a good flavor for pairing with pizza, but others found the wine’s astringency to be distracting. Good.

2002 Fattoria Laila Rosso Piceno ($12). A blend of montepulciano and sangiovese grapes, this wine from Italy’s Marche region shows a bit too much restraint, although one taster said it was “perfect” with the spinach pizza. Another thought the fruit-forward wine held up well to the sausage. Good.

Courtesy: Arizona Republic



POPS for Champagne in Chicago

“Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!”
Dom Perignon, at the moment I discovered champagne.

It was a day to celebrate love.  Allan, Brenna and I had attended our friend Qadree’s wedding.  After the touching ceremony, there was time for a little something before the suburban reception.  On Brenna’s recommendation, we popped into Pops for Champagne.

Brenna and I had a glass of light effervescent Ruinard Rose.  The sun was streaming in and hitting those dancing bubbles. I did not envision how entertaining it would be to watch those bubbles. It was a cirque du soleil performance! Allan ordered a full bodied glass of red “Chateau Jura-Plaisance 2000 Montagne St Emilion.”  I actually did not remember that, but wrote it down on the menu I took with me!  But a sip told me that it’s definitely okay to be a wine drinker at Pops.  If you are in the mood for beer, champagne cocktails (Bellini anyone?), Sake or Cognac – Pops can accommodate.



“I only drink Champagne…when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone.  When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it…unless I’m thirsty.”  Lily Bollinger “Quotation from Daily Mail” 17th of October 1961


Executive chef Andre Christopher has gone to great lengths to create a tantalizing menu of light fare to accompany any flute of the bubbly. We reviewed the chef’s summer menu.  Savory choices include something from the raw bar (Kobe style Beef Carpaccio, Kumamoto Oysters or Tuna Ceviche with avocado, mango and cilantro to name a few.)  On the recommendation of our “very personable” bartender, we tried the Spicy Tuna Roll with cucumber, shallot and wasabi mayo.  This was a party for my mouth!   I am sure they had a live tuna in the kitchen carved up and pared with fresh wasabi.  I am not a fan of chopsticks (I don’t want to have to work to eat), so I ignored that option.  The tuna plate was nicely presented and was just enough food to balance our drinks.

At Pops, you can also choose from a selection of bar plates (edamame, marcona almonds, or marinated olives.)  Their small plates selection includes King Crab Roll, Scallop Risotto, Asparagus Tempura or Baked Goat Cheese to name a few.  Move on and add a few cheese selections – some more than a little eclectic.  Choices include Bucherolle goat’s milk cheese from France, Blueberry Stilton from the UK, or Chatham Hudson Valley Camembert from New York, actually.

If your sweet tooth has been activated – try Strawberries and Chocolate, Vanilla-Sour Cream Cheese Cake or a Turtle Brownie Torte with candied orange, caramel sauce and pineapple.

As with Nomi – I think Pops is a great place to embark on or kindle romance.  If you and your date like Jazz – they offer live jazz five nights a week starting at 9 pm.  There is a modest cover and no reservations are taken for the jazz club.

So pop in for a little bubbly, tap your foot and have a nibble.





The Bellini cocktail is as refreshing as it is simple. And while a Bellini cocktail takes longer than the average cocktail to create, the results of a carefully followed frozen Bellini recipe far outweigh the work involved.

As a mixed drink, the Bellini is one of the more docile you’ll find. Yet docility and blandness should not be confused, as the flavor and aroma of fresh peaches in a Bellini cocktail put the senses into overdrive.


4 oz prosecco (Italian sparkling wine)

1 oz simple syrup

4 white peaches


Peel and puree the white peaches; mix nectar with simple syrup. Strain through coarse cheesecloth; refrigerate until chilled. Pour 1 ounce of puree into a frosted champagne flute; top with prosecco. Serve the Bellini cocktail in a flute glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

Recipe courtesy of BAR TV


Are you a Chicago Sake lover?

 There’s a meet up group for you:

 Sake Meet Up

Sake [sah-kay]

WHAT is it?   Considered Japan’s national drink, sake is made by inoculating white rice with a special mould (Aspergillus oryzae), mixing it with pure water, and allowing it to ferment. It’s a process more similar to beer-making than to wine-making, but sake is nevertheless usually translated as “rice wine.” Also like beer, sake is best drunk young; according to Shizuo Tsuji, author of Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art (Kodansha), experts recommend drinking sake at three months of age.
The best sakes are almost always served cold and they’re categorized by the degree to which the rice is polished before it’s fermented, from a delicate and complex Daiginjo to a pure, full-bodied Junmai. A sure sign of sake’s growing popularity outside of Japan? Esteemed wine glass company Riedel now sells a special stemless glass specifically created for serving premium sake.

Courtesy: Beard Bites….James Beard Foundation



Chicago is a BYOB city.

There are more than 400 restaurants without a liquor license that allow you to bring wine (or beer if you must). Usually BYOB is offered because a restuarant is waiting for their liquor license to be approved or perhaps they cannot get a license because of a restrictive ordinance. For the consumer, you have the luxury of enjoying great food and are able to save big on the bar bill!

Always keep in mind, the restaurant is still providing you a service. They usually open the wine for you and some will chill the wine in a bucket at your table. It is proper etiquette to calculate extra for the tip, since they have provided you with extra service. Some restaurants may also charge a small corkage fee.

There is a great book (and site) out called BYOB CHICAGO, by Jean Iversen, which covers about 150 Chicago establishments. Some that I know of…..

* Always Thai
* Art of Pizza, The
* Bhabi’s Kitchen
* Cafe Suron
* Cathedral Cafe
* Coast Sushi
* Cozy Noodles & Rice
* Cucina di Donatella, La
* Dharma Garden Thai
* F212
* Green Tea
* Hama Matsu
* Hemas
* Kanok Sushi
* Katy’s Dumpling House
* Los Nopales
* Mr. Thai  * Nookies
* Nuevo Leon
* Orange
* Palmito
* Parrot Cage
* Rhythm & Spice
* Rique’s Regional Mexican Food
* Sol de Mexico
* South
* Speakeasy SupperClub
* Tango Sur
* Terragusto
* Think Cafe
* Tre Kronor
* Wholly Frijolies Mexican Grill 

Michael Snell
for Best of the Best Dining Chicago




I think everyone would have to agree, POPS FOR CHAMPAGNE is the best in town!

After spending nearly 25 years in the subdued, elegant and charming spot in Lakeview, owners Tom and Linda Verhey decided to bring the well known lounge to River North. Pops is the nation’s most acclaimed champagne bar and Chicago’s most elegant live music club. And now they are in a spacious bi-level space which is the historic Tree Studios on the corner of State and Ohio.

The new space has everything! Champagne bar, adjacent retail space called Pops Shop(selling an eclectic selection of champagnes and sparkling wines from around the world, as well as unique service and gift items), raw bar, charming outdoor spaces including a courtyard and sidewalk cafe, plus a hip downstairs haven for music lovers. The downstairs space has low ceilings with great sound and a modern feeling.


Andre Christopher, a former chef from Japonais, is in the kitchen here now. Even though most people come for the amazing Champagne selections (125 Champagnes and sparkling wines), the tastings are pretty delightful as well! Contemporary small plates and desserts are mouth-watering. Selections include items from their state of the art raw bar, a caviar selection, hot and cold antipasti, cheeses and unique desserts made in-house.

Whether you stop in for lunch, an after work drink, tasting event , or stop by for the jazz, Pops is the place!

601 N. State St., 312-266-7677

Derrick Sorles
for Best of the Best Dining in Chicago