Wintry Wine-Soaked Adventure in Chicago

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…

Locally Made Gifts for Wine Lovers

In keeping with the season of imbibing and gift-giving, I’ve curated a roster of five wine-related gifts. Even if it’s too late to order or give this year, file these goodies away for upcoming celebrations in the New Year. Leather Wine Caddy, made in Milwaukee For the bicyclist who enjoys drinking wine on a hamlet overlooking Lake Michigan, this is perfect: a leather wine caddy that straps onto a bicycle. Made by Fyxation Bicycle Company, a local bicycle-design company that also enjoys tinkering to dream up innovative products for cyclists, it’s the ideal hands-free device for wine drinkers. Photographed: $39.95…

“Duck Dynasty” Stars Pull the Trigger on Wine

First off, know that I have not seen a single episode of “Duck Dynasty,” which follows the Robertson family’s West Monroe, La., business (Duck Commander) that specializes in making duck-hunting products. But because I’m not living under a rock, I do know this A&E reality-television show has skyrocketed into popularity. Naturally, any hit television show deserves a wine vintage. (See last week’s Wine Notes column.) A few weeks ago, a press release floated into my inbox, announcing that the Robertson family had partnered with Napa Valley’s Trinchero Family Estates to develop wines. Labeled Duck Commander Wines, the wines include 2011…

A Wine for “Downton Abbey” Fans

I could hardly believe my eyes upon entering Cost Plus World Market’s Brookfield store last weekend: a display of “Downton Abbey” wines. Although season four of this hit drama does not debut on PBS until early January, you can start stowing the companion wines in your cellar now. Naturally, as a nod to the PBS series’ vintage era, the wines – which include a Claret and Blanc – hail from an Old World region: Bordeaux, France’s Entre-Deux-Mers region. Dulong Grand Vins – a family-owned vineyard and winery with 130 years of experience – was tapped to make the wines. While…

An Artful Pairing with Wine

A friend’s birthday-party invite for a recent Friday night intrigued me: painting while drinking wine? In public? While my oenophile status is widely known, I’m definitely not known for visual-arts skills. Still, I went to Splash Studio: A Painting Bar, in the Third Ward, with an open mind. My mind quickly shut when I saw what we would be painting: a Van Gogh-esque Parisian scene featuring the Eiffel Tower at night. Yikes! Yet my fears were calmed thanks to a glass of Sauvignon Blanc at the bar, paired with swift instructions to don an apron, fill up my painter’s palette…

Thanksgiving Wines

Last Thursday night I dropped by Pastiche Bistro & Wine Bar’s second-floor wine bar for one of its laid-back – but very educational – tastings. How it works is you walk up a flight of stairs via a side door on East Rusk Avenue, pay at the register and saunter over to a table where wines are a-flowing. In a back room there is always a spread of hard and soft cheeses, crackers and spreads. Last week the tasting’s theme centered around turkey- and vegetable-friendly wines, with a nod to Thanksgiving’s rich foods. Here were my favorites. 2011 Champalou Vouvrey…

The Perfect Holiday Wine from Door County’s Oldest Winery

Last December, for a holiday party among friends, I slaved on a recipe for mulled wine. The house smelled like potpourri for a week after. This year, I’m simply uncorking Door Peninsula Winery’s Mulled Christmas Wine. It’s simply divine, with aromas of cinnamon and sweet cherries – culled from Door County fields – and mulled-spice notes towards the finish. Honestly, you don’t need to pair this with anything, but if you insist upon it, I might sip with game meats or desserts. Door County’s oldest winery, based in Sturgeon Bay, releases this wine each year just in time for the…

Lunch with Lapostolle’s Winemaker

Andrea Leon, the 34-year-old winemaker at Lapostolle in Chile, was in Chicago and Milwaukee recently – her first trip to the Midwest – and asked if I’d like to have lunch in Milwaukee. “Why, sure,” I replied. “When?” A few weeks later, we’re at Harbor House dining on spicy-tuna sushi, kusshi oysters and walleye sourced from the Great Lakes, paired with half a dozen of her wines. Located two hours outside of Santiago, the winery doubles as a hospitality venue with Chile’s only Relais & Châteaux accommodations (the swanky four-suite Lapostolle Residence) and restaurant. Wine geeks can sign up for…

Meet Black Sheep

The wind cut through my sweater as I approached the city’s newest wine bar – Black Sheep, along what I’ve come to call the South Side’s Restaurant Row (South 2nd Street in Walker’s Point). Inside a former printing factory, natural lighting snakes across the long, narrow space. Four works of art – all sheep – by Jonathan Warobick are each in a different medium, hanging proudly on one wall. On the opposite wall is the bar, stretching nearly to the back, with a metal top mirroring the neighborhood’s industrial roots. The brick walls are painted white, and there’s a mod, plush…

Fifty Shades of Wine?

It was bound to happen, the convergence of wine and the hottest book published within the last few years. (Full disclosure: I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey, so I am merely quoting the general public – and the New York Times bestseller list – when I make this claim about how, uh, hot this trilogy is.) E.L. James, the British author of Fifty Shades of Grey, recently debuted a white wine (White Silk with Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer) and red wine (Red Satin with Petite Sirah and Syrah grapes) in partnership with wineries in California’s North Coast. Reportedly,…