Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: A Year in Wine (...and Craft Beer)

Another good year spent drinking tasty wines and craft beers, getting a little travel in and adding varietals to my Wine Century Club list and another state to our 50 States Of Wine project. Besides traveling to drink, many great opportunities presented themselves to us right here in Chicago, truly a great opportunity to taste great libations and meet people from all over the world. Here are a few of the highlights.

Wine video of Noboleis and Montelle

In conjunction with a trip to St Louis, we also got the chance to visit a few Missouri wineries, making this our 6th state since we started keeping track again.

Provence in the City 2014 - Chicago

What better, in winter with the cold and snow, than to attend the Provence in the City 2014 - Chicago, and imagine myself beachside, sipping dry Rosé? Though slightly crowded, the Pump Room restaurant was a classic and classy place to hold this wine tasting. While we were uncertain where to get started, it turned out that it didn't matter - the Provencal winemakers are a friendly bunch, and held to strict standards in the production of Rosé, so every wine was pretty much amazing.

Michigan Wine Showcase

We were so excited that the wineries of Michigan were coming to the City Winery in Chicago. While we've tasted quite a bit of wine from the Southwest corner of the state, we've not had many chances to try those further from home. Having them come to us was quite a treat. With more than 20 wineries represented, each pouring at least 4 wines, there was the possibility of over-doing it, so we decided to divide and conquer, limiting our tasting to Pinot Noir, rosés and sparklers. It's both a blessing and a curse to have so much to choose from, because we missed some wines we really wanted to try.


You might find a nicer group of winemakers, but I doubt it. Walking into the bar of Brixen Ivy, a rooftop restaurant built specifically to watch the Chicago Cubs, we were approached immediately by the vintners, introductions soon followed by glasses of sparkling wine in our hands (yes, NZ has sparkling wine!). This was the beginning of two days spent in the company of the Kiwis, courtesy of Complexity, a group dedicated to getting the word out on how great New Zealand wines are. The next day we met up again in more formal circumstances, sitting down for a masterclass at Rebar, a beautiful bar overlooking the river in the Trump Chicago Hotel. The focus of the class was to demonstrate the ageability of New Zealand wines. Aging? New Zealand wines? I had honestly never considered it.

Beer Camp Across America - Midwest Edition

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. invited every craft brewery in the country – more than 2,700 – to take part in a multi-weekend traveling beer festival this summer. Beer Camp Across America is a celebration for the entire craft beer community, bringing together brewers and the fans who have buoyed their success. The Midwest Edition took place on July 27th, on Navy Pier, under a full sun and blue skies. Partly indoors, partly outside, this was a well-designed event that, while crowded, never felt uncomfortable. It was awesome to be able to walk in and out as desired. Food trucks parked at the end of the Pier offered lunch with a view and plenty of opportunities to try a variety of beer and food pairings. As always, too many beers to drink, so much good stuff had to be bypassed in the name of health.

Berghoff Taste of Oktoberfest

An invitation to the The Berghoff's media preview of their Taste of Oktoberfest menu was a no-brainer. I work nearby and stop in occasionally for lunch at this true Chicago classic. Why wouldn't I want the opportunity to preview Chicago's largest, longest-running Oktoberfest celebration - Berghoff Beer and good food, can't be beat. Good food and good beers, great combination.

United Wines of Veneto Master Class

I was doubly excited to attend the United Wines of Veneto Master Class last week. One, I love the wines from that area (a Soave Master Class some time ago was another recent highlight). Two, I'd never visited the venue, Eataly Chicago, where the seminar was being held. 8 consortiums, 8 wines, with 3 small bites to accompany - sounded pretty good.

Pretty great year, and this does not include all the virtual wine tastings I participated in this year, from Lodi Old Vine Zins to saké to wines from Uruguay, it was an unbelievable year for tasting some amazing things, often paired with fun and/or unusual foods. Here's hoping your 2015 is full of good food, good drinks, and good people to share it with!

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