Here Come the Portuguese!

They are coming to Chicago. Or another Midwestern city near you!


Ryan Opaz of Vrazon and Catavino fame is leading a caravan of Portuguese winemakers throughout the Midwest. The stop in Chicago will be hosted at Bin 36 and has an amazing menu with pairings! Hope to see you there on June 3 and 4th between 5-9pm.

Tickets are available at Bin36 or OpenTable.

Wineding Road – Michigan

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Yes, I have a lot of material from places that I have already been, but I have a little ADD. I sometimes, just need to move on to a new topic and this is one that I am pleased to get to… as it is about local wine. It is my home state of Illinois’ neighbor to the east, Michigan.

Why Michigan? Well, a lot of their wines are within 100 miles of my house making them very locapour…

Michigan has been producing wine from local wine grapes since the late 1600s. Yes, 1600s.

Currently the 2,000 acres of wine grapes planted in Michigan are a mixture of American (vitis labrusca), Eurasian (vitis vinifera) and hybrid varietals. Michigan is home to over 100 wineries and four viticulture areas: Fennville, Lake Michigan Shore, Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula. Michigan is famous for its fruit wines, ice wines and also for their sparkling wines that have made the wine lists of some of the best restaurants (Charlie Trotter, The Girl and the Goat to name a few).

So let’s begin our exploration of Michigan wine! As always, if you have a favorite, please let me know (and Marguerite too).

Michigan Wineries

Things To Do This Weekend in Chicago

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Looking for something to do this weekend? Something where you can have good food and drinks? Want to have the added bonus of doing some good?

Well, I have the event for you!

Via Facebook:

Please join us at the James Hotel, on 11/22/09 from 4-7:30 to help show our love and support for our good friend Jeffrey Hemmings. As our dear friend continues his healing battle with Germ Cell Cancer, we want Jeff to know how much we all love him and that he only needs to focus on getting better. To that end, we are getting together to raise money for Jeff to cover his expenses until he can get back to the normal business of life.

We’ll gather for a late afternoon of joy to celebrate and laugh in his honor. There will be a cash bar and appetizers, as well as a raffle. We’re asking for a $20 donation to attend the event, and ask that you bring your hearts and your checkbooks! Our friend needs our help.

The specifics:
When: Sunday, November 22nd 4:30 – 7:00pm
Where: The James Hotel (Great Room) 55 E. Ontario, Chicago, IL 60611
Cost: Door Donation $20 includes buffet.

Purchase tickets and/or donate here:

You have the option of donating and/or buying tickets at the EventBrite page. If you would like to donate, you decide the amount you would like to contribute. The system will then tack on an EventBrite service fee to cover the cost of credit card processing.

If you’re buying tickets, you need to simply choose how many you want.

You do not need a paypal account to buy tickets or to donate. Please let us know if you have questions.

We’re also offering raffle tickets for purchase at the event as well as a cash bar. All proceeds will go directly to Jeff.

Please RSVP so that we know how many to expect!

Mark, Rachael, and Jeff

If you have dined with Kevin and I at David Burke’s Primehouse, chances are you have met Jeff.  He is a great guy and deserves our support.  Kevin, Rory and I will be there… Hope to see you too!

Because I always listen to Marguerite

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Naturally, when Marguerite writes about Frescobaldi wine, I search it out.

Kevin and I were at our local Italian place, Sabatino’s, perusing the wine list looking for something to drink with our Steak Diane (a dish for two, I think Kevin was trying to be romantic). There were actually two Frescobaldi wines on the list. I don’t quite recall why, but I went for the second option from Castello di Pomino.

Apparently when the family returned to Italy after being banished by the Medici’s (Thank you for the reason why, Maggie) they brought back with them cuttings of Pinot Noir that they had come to love from their French exile. The Castello di Pomino Rosso is a blend of that Pinot Noir, some Sangiovese and a bit of Merlot.

The wine was full, rich and smooth although it fell it bit flat at the end. But overall all was quite tasty.

Oh, and regarding the photo? Sorry, I didn’t have my camera with my and Sabatino’s is full of mood lighting… the camera that I got was terrible… sigh.

Image Via: Folio Wine

Catching Up

It has been a crazy week. Between computer disasters, basketball and early holiday angst I have not been pulling my VinoVerve weight. Luckily, I have been able to rely the ever clever Aunt Maggie!

I was lucky enough to be able to get out of the house this week. And for once not only were there not children involved but there was no Kevin either! I got to have dinner at Bin 36 with fellow wine lovers!

While there, I was so caught up in the conversation that I almost forgot to be my usual nerdish self… though I did manage to get a couple of pictures of what I was drinking.

The 2006 Falanghina, Vesevo, Campania, Italywas a pale white wine that was minerally and crisp with green apples. It was almost effervescent though this wasn’t mentioned in the tasting notes but melon was and I didn’t catch that. It just goes to show, everyone tastes individually.

The second type of wine that I drank was also a 2006 Falanghina/Cappretone, Bianco Lacrima Christi del Vesuvio. Lacrima Christi del Vesuvio translates roughly as Christ’s tears on Vesuvius and I remembered that was an old fashioned type of wine from vineyards near Naples. Naturally an old fashioned kind of wine appealed to me. So naturally, I ordered it.

The color of the wine was amazing, a rich old golden color. In fact, it was remarked on by either Marc or Matt. (I can’t remember… I had a glass of wine!) When I saw the color, I expected full, sweet wine. But it wasn’t. It tasted of golden raspberries and melon (strangely not noted in the description… again! I taste what I taste!)

Oy! Such delights!

And to make it even better, I got to meet Tom Wark! I am hoping to have similar adventures in the future! The only thing that I was surprised about was that we didn’t get to meet the wine director, at Bin 36, Brian Duncan. Oh well, perhaps next time.

Tablas Creek Wine Dinner

I think that I mentioned last week that I was planning on attending the Tablas Creek wine dinner at David Burke’s Primehouse. Well, on October 15th, I did. And so did Kevin.

I love these kinds of events because you get to hang around with foodies who are passionate about their vino as they are about their food. Add in winemakers who are passionate about their product and you have a great evening.

The menu:

Halibut Gravlax
bay scallops, citrus and avocado
Cotes de Tablas Blanc 2006

Pan Roasted Alaskan King Salmon
stir fried lobster, pea pods and mushrooms with spicy herb sauce
Roussanne 2006

Pork Belly “Au Poivre”
dried cherried, griddled ricotta dumpling
Mouvedre 2006

Petite 35 Day Dry Aged Kansas City Sirloin
chorizo whipped potato, garlicky swiss chard
Cotes de Tablas Rouge 2006

Bosc Pear Tarte Tatin
bleu cheese flan, apricot black pepper ice cream
Vin de Paille Quintessence 2005

More about the wines later…..

The Perfect Dinner

Kevin and I don’t get out much without the kids Particularly when we are on vacation. See, our vacations pretty much always include family. And this last one was no exception.

I did try to arrange for us to meet up with Lenn from Lenndevours, but schedules conspired against us. We even hoped that Champagne Rory would join us for a day or two…. but again, no such luck.

So we did what sane grownups do all over the world.. We escaped. We went out to dinner.

And what a dinner it was!

We went to our favorite romantic dining place in the Hamptons:

The Plaza Cafe

As always, our dinner was amazing. We enjoyed the tasting menu and asked for a wine pairing with each course. The wine list consists of Chef Doug Gulija’s personal collection and has in years past been exclusively American wines. This year the list has been amended to include one European wine, a Croatian selection, Bibich which represents Chef’s heritage.

Amuse bouche of a seafood sausage over braised cabbage and topped with a lobster sauce
This we ate while finishing our cocktails (me: lemon drop; Kevin: Campari and Soda)

Tuna and Crab Tian which is a crab ceviche and tuna tartare layered with an avocado puree finished with a yuzu sauce. This was served with a Kung Fu Girl Riesling

Local Lobster Corn Chowder finished with basil oil and corn shoots

Sauteed Local Day-Boat Scallops served with a sweet corn polenta, shiitake-sea bean ragout, basil oil. Have you ever had a sea bean? You are missing out! They are crunchy, salty and a bit like asparagus at the same time. If anyone knows how one lays their hands on a sea bean I would love to know.. though no doubt, I would screw it up.

Striped Bass served over black beans with a tangy mango salsa and chipotle aoli. This positively exploded with flavor.

The chowder, scallops and bass were all served with a 2006 Grigch Hills Fume Blanc. Divine.

Next up was my favorite dish of the night. A soy-acacia honey marinated black cod served over an edamae puree with a yuzu vinaigrette. The flavors permeated the cod making it both sweet and savory at the same time and it was topped with a crisp slice of lotus root. I have every intention of trying to reproduce this back at home. Wish me luck! It was served with a 2004 Martinelli Vineyard Gewurtraminer.

Jurgielewicz Farms Duck Three Ways… or as called by the wait staff, Duck, Duck Goose. It consisted of sliced breast, leg confit, and a savory foie gras bread pudding.

Pesto Crusted Rack of Lamb served with ratatouille and fried goat cheese and a port wine reduction.

The “red” meats were served with the Bibich, which according to our server, the very knowledgeable Bari Citron, is made along the Dalmatian coast of three local varietals: a Babich, a Lasin and the Plavina. The wine was full and soft and perfect with meats.

Our dessert came in two parts… first a selection of sorbets. Blueberry, raspberry and white peach. For the final part of the meal Kevin selected a cherry bread pudding with cherry sorbet and candied cherries whereas I selected the tried and true (and exceptionally luscious) chocolate mousse cake.

Will we be back to the Plaza Café? Your darn tooting! Chef Gulija’s staff was attentive and friendly.. even putting up with my oddness (like bringing a big camera into the restaurant and taking pictures of all of the courses) and the food? Wow. It was the highlight of my vacation.

Remember that if you are in the Hamptons, do yourself a favor and have dinner there. And tell Chef Doug that those crazy Chicago people sent you!

Plaza Cafe
61 Hill Street
Southampton, NY 11968
(631) 283-9323

VV in the News!

Kevin brought home a little treat for me today.

The latest copy of the David Burke Magazine. The magazine which features the various David Burke restaurant properties contains an article in this issue about our favorite sommelier, Rory Gurland.

Specifically, the article discusses Rory’s enormously popular 777 Wine Weeks, which allow diners to travel around the world tasting seven wines and seven dishes from seven places. Proceeds from the tasting benefits Common Threads, that educates children about nutrition and cooking (Those of you following Bravo TV’s Top Chef may have seen the episode that featured the kids from that program).

Upcoming events have been scheduled for lunch during the weekdays instead of including the weekends, but patrons will continue to taste seven wines for the very low donation of $7.00 (again going to Common Threads). As mentioned previously, the themes for this year’s 777 Events have been set.

The week of June 2 thru 6 will feature:

  • Chardonnay
  • Cabernet
  • Summer
  • ‘New’ Old World
  • South America

The week of December 1 thru 5 will feature:

  • Sparkling Wine and Champagne
  • Winter
  • Italy
  • France
  • Spain

So come on by, taste some great wines, hobnob with Rory and make a donation to Common Threads! Oh and if you see some crazy woman with a camera taking pictures of her food, say hi to me as well!

Oh and as note, the photograph featured in the article was taken by yours truly.