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Hungry Magazine - All Things Tasty
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Feature Archive 'Grape Pun: All Things Wine'

06.14.09

Grapes of Mirth

Grape Pun: All Things Wine


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There may be no better time in our history to hit the bottle. Certainly we are not lacking for motivation, what with all the layoffs, pay reductions, bankruptcies and mortgage adjustments. But, more importantly, even with thinner wallets, because of the over-production of wine, the growth in negociants (folks who often capitalize on that over-production by buying great wines for a song and selling them for a comparably low price at retail), and increases in manufacturing efficiencies, we’ve never had greater opportunity to buy relatively low-priced wine. More »

01.18.09

Helen Rosner vs. Food and Wine

Grape Pun: All Things Wine


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Though she claims a limited repetoire as an oenophile, Menupages Chicago super-blogger Helen Rosner bested Food and Wine grape genius Ray Isle this week. This month, Isle lauds affordable Argentenian Malbec and calls out the 2007 Clos De La Siete Malbec blend as his “Star Selection”. At about the same time I was flipping through Food and Wine, and just before I went to Binnys, I came across Rosner’s posting about her love for Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling, 2007. I decided to pick up both. The Clos had a lot of fruit but ended up totally bitter and highly alcoholic in the finish and I’d felt like I’d wasted $16 and would have been better off with some Charles Shaw Shiraz and 12 Super Lotto tickets. Whereas, last night the Kung Fu girl full of citrus and lots of acid cut right through the heat and sweet of a schwarma and falafel throwdown from Baba Pita. For $11.99 (at Binny’s) it was a brilliant wine, and easily as good as some 20 or 30 dollar Austrian or German rieslings. Though be warned, it doesn’t have the minerality of the Euros, but displays more of a lemon and grapefruit New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc profile, albiet with a touch more sweetness. One thing’s for sure, it’s the perfect wine for a Cantonese or Thai chowfest. I suspect Isle was swayed a bit by the Clos’s pedigree via French superstar wine consultant Michel Rolland. The lesson here is that wine (and food) critques have nothing to do with superior knowledge, but rather, about being true to your palate.

11.18.08

Q and A with Winemaker Steve Rogstad

Bites: News and Miscellany, Grape Pun: All Things Wine


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stever

Steve Rogstad is a winemaking wunderkind. Raised in the Pacific Northwest, the man knows a thing or two about the grape. What does come as a surprise however, is how charmingly different his demeanor is compared to the prissy wine snob we’ve all inevitably had the displeasure of dining with. His cool-dude ‘tude, rounded out by the funky tie-dye T-shirt he was sporting when we met, made this California native an enigmatic lunch companion. In town for Chicago’s Pinot Days event taking place on Navy Pier, Steve managed to squeeze in a few hours of his day to sit down with me and discuss his prized wines (Cuvaison wines), the effect media has on wine trends, and a discussion of the Pinot Days wine event in Chicago. More »

03.21.08

No Booty, Just Good Bubbly

Grape Pun: All Things Wine


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It’s hard to resist the allure of Champagne that’s been poured all over some hip hop groupie’s booty. But, if you find yourself in a wine store contemplating a bottle of Cristal this weekend, I got a better bottle that’ll save you some Benjamins.

Launois “Cuvee Reserve” Brut Blanc de Blancs - found at Binny’s South Loop.

Blanc de blancs translates as white of whites, which means this bad boy is 100% chardonnay grape. It comes from Mesnil, the southernmost Grand Cru in the Champagne region of France. The grapes come from neighboring vineyards which produce Krug Clos de Mesnil and in very very special years Salon. Salon and Krug are regarded as some of the best bubbly in the world and not because Jay-Z says so. Though Jay-Z apparently rocks the Krug now, so maybe he does say so… Either way, the prices on those bottles runs well into the $200 range, but the Launois is only $35.99.

So why so cheap? Well, no one’s writing about Launois in the US and no ones filling hot tubs with it in rap videos.

Launois is highly regarded in France, and hold on to your freedom fries, those dudes definitely know a thing or two about wine.

Though why take their word for it. I broke open a bottle yesterday to celebrate my son’s 1st birthday. The first sip fills you with a full bodied warmth of honey and toast. It’s a champagne like this which makes you realize that the reasonably tasty bubbles clocking in at $10 bucks a Trader Joes have nothing going on (and I’ve been a big booster of say Segura Viudas and some of those other value brands).

This Launois is everything champagne should be. It’s aged on the lees for four years and vinified in stainless steel tank. Lees, are not old vintage bargain basement jeans, rather they are the dead yeast left over from fermentation. By leaving the wine on the lees for so long, it adopts that toasty characteristic I mentioned earlier. With Bollinger clocking in $50 these days because of the Euro and demand from the rising middle classes in India and Asia, this is now my new go to special occasion bottle.

02.29.08

Wall Street Journal Wine Writers Protest Too Much

Grape Pun: All Things Wine


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The Wall Street Journal wine team of Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher examine what happens in high end restaurants when you request by the glass wine pairings to accompany a tasting menu.

What could have been an interesting nuanced exploration turns into the typical crochety affair of a couple of journalists living high on the hog and their expense accounts hoping to be taken care of at high end restaurants. They seem to be more obsessed with rejecting tables they don’t think are good enough and communing with head sommeliers than parsing their pairings. More »

02.20.08

Really Love Your Peaches, Wanna Shake Your Tree

Grape Pun: All Things Wine


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Some of you may remember I interviewed Cameron Hughes about a year and a half ago. Hughes owns no vineyards, makes no wine, but he has an inside connection to some of the best wineries that do. The way the model works is many top wineries produce wine that either doesn’t fit in to their profile or they make too much of a wine. That’s where Hughes steps in. He buys up the excess lots and then markets them under his own label and sells them direct on his website or through Costco. Because Hughes bypasses traditional middle men and marketing fees, he’s able to offer incredible wines for a value. More »

02.18.08

TRU: The Next Generation

Grape Pun: All Things Wine, Podcasts, Profiles in Food: Interviews


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TRU sommelier Chad Ellegood. Photo by Lara Kastner

With sommelier Scott Tyree’s departure for Hart Davis Hart last year and Rick Tramonto splitting time on his Cenitare restaurant projects (though he’s still very much involved at TRU), we wondered how TRU restaurant was faring. Turns out it’s in the able hands of chef de cuisine Tim Graham and wine director and sommelier Chad Ellegood. In this podcast I get to know Ellegood and Graham a bit and we discuss their new paradigm shifting wine service and the future of cooking at TRU.

If you have Adobe Flash installed, you can play the file right on this site, below, by pressing the play button. If not, download the file and play it on your PC or on an MP3 player here: Tim Graham and Chad Ellegood Interview

02.14.08

BYOB Recon

Grape Pun: All Things Wine


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Dr. Vino has created a Google map of Chicago BYOB spots. We’ve seen something similar, but he’s color coding the spots that are better than your average noodle joint, which should prove useful as more spots are added.

01.31.08

Grape Expectations

Grape Pun: All Things Wine


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This last week I’ve been drinking more than Charles Bukowski and Orson Welles at an Arizona State Keg Party. Speaking of which, I found some pretty funny (actually sad) drunken outtakes of the eminent Shakespearian actor and celebrated director slinging Paul Masson plonk. But I digress. I’ve been drinking a lot of wine and I came across a couple of bottles this week worth mentioning…

2005 Muller Catoir Haardter Burgergarten Riesling Spatlese (Pfalz)

Forget Bogey/Bacall, Brad and Angelina, Jay and Silent Bob, the front end citrusy sweetness and backend acidity on this bottle along with my Thai chili and limey crispy onion topped banana blossom salad from Thalia on Monday was the perfect match. One of the best German rieslings I’ve had in a while. You’ll find it at Sam’s.

2007 Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough)

One sniff of this crisp number is like getting a swirly in a toilet filled with ruby red grapefruit juice. The fruity splash here is atypical of your normally arid Savvy Blanc. At only like $16 bucks a bottle at Binny’s, if your palate agrees with me or not, it ain’t no big thang….nice sipper to wash down some Harold’s fried chicken.

01.29.08

Taking on Theise

Grape Pun: All Things Wine


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Terry Theise, the Lon Chaney of wine

Terry Theise is a man of a thousand faces. Well, at last five or six. In the introduction to his 2007 German wine catalog, the legendary importer’s Fu Manchu-ed visage and hands are engaged in a range of poses including rapture, self-strangulation, a Humbert Humbert-style leer, mock-contemplation and a potential gang sign (Austrian Riesling represent.)

Theise’s pictorial is accompanied by a “War and Peace”-length manifesto punctuated with quotes from poets and philosophers. Some of his personal tenets: “Harmony is more important than intensity”; “The whole of any wine must always be more than the sum of its parts”; “Soul is more important than anything, and soul is expressed as a trinity of family, soil and artisanality.” More »

12.05.07

Grace in Bubbles

Bartender, Pour me a Drink: Alcohol and Spirits, Grape Pun: All Things Wine


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While most men of my generation rocked Kurt Cobain and “Pulp Fiction” posters in their college dorm rooms, I had a vintage poster of a Grace Kelly Taittinger champagne ad mounted above my bed at the University of Michigan. At that time, my cinematic interests were mostly of the “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” genre, but on the advice of a stoner/aspiring screenwriter I worked with, I started checking out the Hitchcock canon in my free time. More »

08.20.07

Release the Grapes

Bites: News and Miscellany, Grape Pun: All Things Wine


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I love champagne like fat kids love cake. Of course I’m a fat kid and I love cake, too. But the state legislature isn’t banning the out-of-state retail sales of cake. On August 7, both houses of the Illinois legislature passed bill HB429, which is supposed to reconcile state law with a Supreme Court ruling that requires states to treat in-state and out-of-state wineries the same. More »

03.09.07

The Devil’s Wine

Grape Pun: All Things Wine


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I had this 2005 Carmenere from Concha y Toro the other night, and went back and bought five bottles this morning at $6.99 a pop at Trader Joes (also available at Sams for a buck more locally here in Chicago). It’s honestly one of the best wines I’ve tasted this year. It reminds me of a $50 Bordeaux. It’s basically way more Salma Hayek (big, spicy, and deep) than it is Penelope Cruz (whispy thin and fruity).

Carmenere is thought by some to be an early genetic pre-cursor to more famous Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet. Vine grafts were preserved in South America, Chile etc, because the grape tasted so much like Merlot. This particular label, Casillero del Diablo has a nice backstory as well. In the 19th century, the founder of Concha y Toro, Don Melchor, discovered that his vineyard workers were sampling his greatest wines. To discourage this action, he spread the rumor that his deepest, darkest cellar was the Casillero del Diablo (Cellar of the Devil), so that no one would dare go in there. It worked, for a while, but it seems the poor hired help, writers like me, can once again drink the good stuff for a steal.

08.18.06

Cheap Wine, Oh So Fine

Grape Pun: All Things Wine, Podcasts


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Cameron Hughes

This week I sit down with Cameron Hughes, the man some folks are dubbing the robin hood of wine. Hughes owns no vineyards, makes no wine, but he has an inside connection to some of the best wineries that do. The way the model works is many top wineries produce wine that either doesn’t fit in to their profile or they make too much of a wine. That’s where Hughes steps in. He buys up the excess lots and then markets them under his own label and sells them direct on his website or through Costco. Because Hughes bypasses traditional middle men and marketing fees, he’s able to offer incredible wines for about $10 bucks.

Now I know this all sounds too good to be true. I was skeptical myself. I’m very concerned about craftsmanship and it seems that if this excess wine was any good, it would be selling, or the wineries would market the wines themselves. I don’t know why I decided to listen to Hughes. I guess part of it was the Two Buck Chuck, or Charles Shaw cheap wines phenomenon. While I don’t drink it everyday, Charles Shaw is a good drinkable wine and it’s cheap. I was curious why I’d want to pay more. As you’ll hear in the interview, there is no comparison. Hughes wines are superior to Charles Shaw and only for a few bucks more.

If you are in Chicago, Hughes will be in store at the Lincoln Park, Glenview and Oakbrook Costcos this weekend telling his story. My personal favorite was the Lot 14, a nice spicy 2003 Merlot.

If you have Adobe Flash installed, you can play the file right on this site, below, by pressing the play button. If not, download the file and play it on your PC or on an MP3 player here: Cameron Hughes Interview

02.06.06

Glass Half Empty

Grape Pun: All Things Wine


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Wine Glass Spilling Target may not be a shiny food retail mecca like Sur La Table or Williams Sonoma, or a secret grungy restaurant supply shop, but they have mastered the merchandising of designer flair and offer the occasional good deal on cookware.

A week ago as I was walking down the aisle at Target, I spotted the Riedel glass logo. I am not sure I buy the whole argument that Riedel’s wine glasses alone offer superior taste. I do believe glass shape and construction enhances taste, but Spieglau offers similar glassware at half to a third of the price of Riedel. I do recognize the grace and balance in a Riedel glass. The lightness of the bowl, the sharp thin lip, and the slender stem conjure a prima ballerina in mid-arc. For me, I suppose Riedel is what super high end amplifiers and speakers are to audiophiles. That being said, I still couldn’t justify 30 bucks for a wine glass, but when I saw the sign for Riedel Vivant at Target, I thought, hey, Riedel design at reasonable prices. In fact four red wine glasses were 39.99, still alot of money, but rather good for a Riedel. More »

01.19.06

Tradition

Grape Pun: All Things Wine


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Beaujolais Bottle with applesI started drinking in elementary school. My tipple of choice was a Beaujolais Nouveau. Unlike most young drinkers, I was lucky enough to avoid the Wild Irish Rose, Mad Dog 20/20, and Boone’s farm, though I would revisit these malted fruity classics in college.

It is not that I was a sullen young drunkard, but that my father, an amateur wine buff, allowed my brother and I a small sampling, usually during Thanksgiving dinner. We would trade our taste impressions across the table. At the ripe age of 10, unaware of phrases like “tannic”, “leathery, or “hint of cassis”, I would usually declare the wine to be “bad grape juice”. More »


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