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Just Back From Chicago’s Top New Wine Bar
Wine goddess Alpana Singh opens the Boarding House in Chicago.

While in Chicago for the Picasso exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago, I couldn’t resist swinging by the restaurant everyone in the Windy City – and in national wine/food circles – is talking about: wine goddess’ Alpana Singh’s The Boarding House. Located in a former River North night club, America’s youngest woman to become a master sommelier (she snagged that title in 2003) and one of only 18 female master sommeliers, has crafted an experience wine lovers won’t ever forget within the three separate dining spaces: the dining room, the bar and the cellar. (Singh was formerly the director of wine and spirits at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises in Chicago, whose empire includes Tru and L2O.) The Boarding House opened in December, with chef Christian Gosselin at the helm (though he has since been replaced by Bjorn Rasmussen) and Julia Fitting dishing up decadent desserts. Naturally, Singh is in charge of the 500-selection-strong wine list. For my dinner (kale Caesar salad, and Scottish salmon with cheese-curd mashed potatoes, finishing up with Julia’s Carrot Cake, its cream-cheese frosting light as a feather) in the third-floor dining room, I opted for a glass of 2008 Burgundy Chardonnay (the producer’s name I quickly forgot, but not the palate, which featured a lengthy finish preceded by apple notes, a buttery profile and lots of minerals). A glass of Domaine de la Janasse (a white Rhone blend) exhibited a soft mouth feel and was very food-friendly.

Oh, and if you go, definitely look up at least once while on the third floor: There’s a chandelier made from 4,000 wine bottles. Paired with floor-length emerald-green curtains, exposed-brick walls and slate-gray plush banquettes, you’re definitely dining in style at the Boarding House.


Sendik’s Food Market is having a fire sale – actually, they’re calling it a “mega sale” – on wine and sent out an email this week with details. The deals, which take up to 50 percent off on selected wines, kick off today and last through May 18. Some of what you’re going to find on the shelves: Borsao for $6.99, which Wine Enthusiast gave 90 points. The blend of 85 percent Grenache and 15 percent Tempranillo is a good wine to stock up on.


Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar – the closest one is in Brookfield – just launched a special that’s perfect for a weeknight indulgence for those evenings you simply don’t want to slave over the stove at home. The “Small Plate, Big Pour” promotion runs $24.95 and includes one of seven small plates – ranging from braised short ribs to lobster tempura – matched with a jumbo glass of wine that puts the standard 8-ounce pour to shame. The deal launched yesterday and runs through June 30. If you aren’t familiar with Fleming’s extensive wine-by-the-glass program, which features around 100 selections that are above and beyond the expected, this is a good chance to give it a test drive.


You probably know Duckhorn Vineyards for its fabulous Merlot, and a few of you might be familiar with the new Decoy label from this Napa Valley winery (it’s budget-priced, thus the “decoy” reference). Recently, I uncorked a bottle of the 2010 Duckhorn Vineyards Goldeneye Winery Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley, California, $55) and it was smooth sailing. The silky wine features 19 clones of Pinot Noir along with raspberry and cocoa notes and some pops of cherry near the finish. goldeneyewinery.com

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