Saturday, May 16, 2009

Wine Tasting Review - The Chopping Block "Six Red Grapes You Should Know"

Recently we attended our first formal "wine class" at the Merchandise Mart location of The Chopping Block.

"The Wine Goddess and The Chopping Block Present: Six Red Grapes You Should Know!"

Here's a breakdown of all the elements:

Class Experience
The Wine Goddess has an entire series of wine classes. She is definitely knowledgeable, very high energy and shares a lot of good nuggets about the wine. Everyone in the class gets a detailed packet with typical characteristics of each grape, some historical perspective, and food pairings.

My only comments would be that the class could be a bit more interactive. We were there with client guests and I would have preferred more of an opportunity to discuss the wine amongst ourselves - not that we were ever 'shushed' for doing so...but I have a feeling we were dangerously close to a shushing once or twice. Also, it kind of took a while to get to that first sip, about 20 minutes, drinking could commence sooner and does in other classes she teaches.

The Wine
Overall, the wine selections were good, we enjoyed everything we tried. The six red grapes we tasted were Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. I liked that the wines she selected were slightly off the beaten path, and none were outrageously expensive. We really liked the side by side tasting of a french Pinot Noir (Burgundy) and a Oregon Pinot Noir. This is a great way to train the palate and recognize specific characteristics that the terroir brings to the wine.

The Highlight for me (the wine we'd buy on our own):
Andrew Rich Pinot Noir "Cuvee B", 2006 Willamette Valley Oregon

It was spicier than the Burgundy, my tasting notes were candied fruit and velvety finish, not too dry. Also learned how to pronounce Willamette Valley, "Will -AM -et" (rhymes with dammit.)

For $60 a person, you don't get a ton of wine, (there is a nice cheese plate though) so this is for the true wine student. There are much cheaper options for a casual night out to try different wines, I'll be recommending some of those as this blog continues. I would say for this one, its worth it if you are serious about learning wine, and even better if you can do it on someone else's dime. Not recommended for a interactive evening, probably better to do with one or two friends rather than a group.

For more information about the wine series at The Chopping Block check out:

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Recession Drinking

Welcome to Vine Times Chicago.

Our blog is about everything wine with a Chicago focus. We're not going to tell you about some fantastic new French wine that's a great value...and impossible to find. What good is a wine recommendation if you can't get your hands on it? We've spent the past few years searching Chicago high and low for the best wine bars, shops, and deals.....we'll pass along our favorites.

We hope you'll keep coming back here to learn along with us.

Our first entry is a timely one.....good & cheap wines! All of these can be found locally between $7 and $10. One of our favorite things on a week night is to grab a cheap bottle and hit a BYOB. If we can get away with spending $30 or less total it's a guilt free experience. If you have trouble finding these shoot us an e-mail and we'll point you in the right direction.

Chris & Kristina

2007 Bodegas Olivares Monastrell Altos de la Hoya Finca Hoya De Santa Ana (Spain, Murcia, Jumilla)
The Altos De La Hoya is a steal for 9 bucks. Grab a bottle of this for your next Mexican or Spanish BYOB night out. Full of blackberry and spice, medium body, smooth sweet tannins and enough acid to drink well with food, as much complexity as anything up to $20 or so.

2005 Azienda Agricola Masciarelli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Italy, Abruzzi, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo)

There's tons of cheap Italian wine out there....the problem is most of it sucks! Not this Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. It's got that dusty Tuscan taste and sweet strawberry fruit, quite acidic so drink this one with food, it matches up great with Italian dishes with marinia sauce. Great deal at 8 bucks or so.

2006 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Estates (USA, Washington, Columbia Valley)

Now usually I wouldn't reccomend a cabernet in this price range. It's just one of those grapes, (espically domestically) that comes with a hefty price tag if you want quality. Columbia Crest bucks that trend. Chocolate, spice and cassis balance out a touch of oak. Good with food or without.