Here's The Jist:

As a Drink Editor I receive a lot of requests for restaurant, bar and nightlife recommendations. So I started a blog to chronicle Chicago's social scene which eventually morphed into New York's drinking and dining scene. After years in Chicago, I'm now a full time resident of NYC, the East Village to be exact. Look forward to sharing the latest and greatest from the wine & spirits world, straight from the Big Apple.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wine from Down 'Unda

In order to get Chicagoans to open up to Australia’s wine diversity and to encourage city dwellers to look beyond Shiraz, Wine Australia worked with the City of Chicago to develop a unique Australian Wine Oasis in tandem with Chicago Jazz Fest. The chic urban oasis provided a relaxed atmosphere where you could experience 24 wines by the taste and the glass. All of the wines were between $9 and $15: a budget friendly price for you Cheeky girls saving up for this season’s Louboutins. Be sure to visit where you can enter to win a trip to Australia to visit their wine country.

This Cheeky writer chatted with James Gosper, Director of Wine Australia for North America to get the deets on the wines that grow in the Southern Hemisphere.

Cheeky: What’s unique about the climate and land of Australia that lends to producing such great vintages?

Australia has a huge diversity in climate and soil which lends to amazing diversity in wines styles and varieties. You can enjoy cool climate Pinots Noirs on one hand, and warm climate full bodied Shiraz on the other. We had wines of many styles and many climates at the festival to demonstrate this diversity.

Cheeky: Tell me about the most under-rated Australian wines

Australia is regarded as Shiraz - so all other varietals and styles are under rated. At the Festival we had extraordinary interest in many alternatives varietals such as Viogniers, Pinot Noirs, Grenache, Pinot Gris, Roses, sparklings, and some very interesting blends. The objective of asking the consumers to “Open Up” was achieved with great success. One consumer stated that he did not know the Australia produced Pinot Noir, and then proceeded to say he was blown away by the quality the Pinot noir had to offer.

Cheeky: Share some thoughts on what separates the wines from Australia from those produced in other regions of the U.S.

Many wine drinkers know they can get Pinot Noir from Oregon and cabernet from Napa, however they are completely unaware of the diversity of Australian wine regions. Our wine regions stretch from east to west coast, and many have been producing wines for more than 120 years.

Cheeky: Who do you predict as the new “It” girl, the up-and-coming wine varietal that Chicagoans should have their pulse on?

Check out Aussie Rieslings (Clare and Eden valley), Pinot Noirs from Victoria and Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blends from Margaret River. And you can’t forget old vine Grenache - yummy.

Open up to Australian Wines

Midwest Wines

With September comes the fall harvest of grapes growing ripe in the vineyards of the Northern Hemisphere. Late August through October are prime months for harvesting grapes, known as the vintage. A vintage wine is one made from grapes that were all, or primarily, grown and harvested in a single specified year. In certain wines, it can denote quality. But don’t be mistaken; vintage doesn’t mean that the wine is made with the most mature grapes.

If the weather in 2004 was particularly dry and temperate for, lets say, a Pinot Noir, many houses will produce a vintage and market it as such, rather than create a non-vintage which is a blend of two or more grapes from different years. The wine that you are currently drinking is most likely a non-vintage because it’s an easy way to produce a consistent wine such as a Pinot Gris, Cabernet or a Malbec. A perfect vintage is like the perfect storm: the powers that be mandate the weather. From my experience, if you know that 2004 was THE year for Pinots from the West Coast, then my reco is to opt for the less expensive bottle.

With these tid bits of wine knowledge in your pocket, it’s time to explore the great wineries of the Midwest. In the early 20th century, Illinois was the country’s fourth-largest wine producer. Then that little thing called Prohibition was put into place and vineyards were transformed into corn fields. It’s been over a century and now Illinois is home to 80 wineries.
I know what you’re thinking:

What? Wine in Wisconsin? Gewurztraminer from Michigan?

Yes, my Cheeky girls and, ahem, boys, the Midwest is Pandora’s box. Once you open it up, the possibilities are endless.
And who better than Kyle McHugh, owner and proprietor of Drinks Over Dearborn (650 N. Dearborn) to share his favorite selections of Midwest varietals.

1) Lynfred Winery, Roselle, IL
“Vin de City” Red, a jammy, medium-bodied wine that, according to Lynfred’s blog, swears it pairs perfectly with a Chicago hot dog. BYOB and head to Hot Doug’s. And stock up for fall entertaining with their Cranberry Vino.

2) August Hill, Utica, IL
Seyval, Blanc, 2008, similar to a Pinot Grigio, this is a light-bodied, semi-dry table wine. The Seyval Blanc grape is a French-American hybrid, relatively unfamiliar to consumers, but undeniably tasty.

3) Black Star Farms, Traverse City, Michigan
2006 Arcturos Cabernet Franc, a result of premium fruit from three vineyard sites: Black Star Farms estate, Montague estate and Nelson Road Vineyard - one on the Leelanau Peninsula and two on Old Mission Peninsula. Different vineyards have different soils and growing conditions and thus, have differently flavored fruit. Combining them makes this a more interesting and complex wine.