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Wintry Wine-Soaked Adventure in Chicago
Think you have to have a warm-weather winter wine vacation? Think again.

Flipping over to the first few months of 2014, Chicago might not be the first destination you ponder for a vacation. But because a beach is not always in reach, at least one Chicago hotel is rolling out all the stops through the end of March, especially for wine lovers. Palmer House Hilton – the city’s most storied hotel, with spectacular food-and-wine options at Lockwood (including a Michigan Riesling by the glass plus Old World Pinot Noirs by the bottle and a $105 chef’s-tasting menu paired with wines) – offers a “Just Chillin’” package this winter. It includes a room rate from $99/night that folds in unlimited hot chocolate or coffee, breakfast buffet for two, 2-for-1 on the hotel’s “History is Hott” tour and 30 percent off spa services, leaving plenty of room to splurge on dinner. Bonus: the Art Institute of Chicago’s current traveling exhibit (“Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine,” through Jan. 27, 2014) is all about food and wine, and just a few blocks away.


If you happen to be at Uihlein Hall inside the Marcus Center on New Year’s Eve there’s a free perk – flutes of Champagne at a no-cost reception … so long as you have a ticket to that night’s Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra “New Year’s Eve Celebration” performance, which highlights Viennese waltzes.


Ray’s Tasting Room and Education Center brings in a lot of big-name winemakers and winery owners to its second-floor space above the store. But it’s neat when a local guy or gal hosts a tasting, too, particularly someone keyed into Ray’s impressive stock. On Jan. 16 at 6:30 p.m. the “ABC’s of Wine” tasting ($15) puts the store’s wine specialists into the soapbox to chat about not only the basics of vino but to go as deep as the crowd will allow. It’s the first class of 2014 and promises to be a solid study. To sign up call Paul Edwards at 414-258-9821.


Because this is the last Wine Notes of the year, I’ll leave you with this parting note: a recommendation for a high-quality, low-price sparkling wine. Proseccos are thought to be fairly sweet – because they are – but this departure is worth hunting down. Enza Prosecco (Italy, $15) is a refreshingly extra-dry sparkling wine, with notes of peaches and flower petals, along with nicely balanced acidity.

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