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!

Firelands Wines

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

So after all that discussion of the Ohio and the Firelands, did I finally get around to tasting any wine? Of course I did!

Firelands Tasting RoomI began with the Pinot Grigio, currently the most popular wine according to the ladies in the tasting room. I could taste green apple and grass. It was a little less crisp than some of the pinot grigios than I have had in the past, but this is a good thing… Sometimes, those wines get too bitey and for some reason that makes the hinge of my jaw hurt. (I never said that logic was my strong suit).

Next up was the Riesling. This was advertised as tasting of apples but I thought it had more of a honeyed flavor that reminded me of pears. This is made in what I consider a more traditional style, in that it was semi-sweet. I love the new modern dry Rieslings as well, but there is something to be said for the full, fruity and floral tones of the traditional method.

I even sampled the Gewurztraminer which I had tasted with Henry Bishop, Rory and Kevin (albeit not the same vintage). It is still an excellent blend of tropical fruits and rose petals. The best of two different worlds.

Home Wine Making at FirelandsAdditionally, I tasted both the Pinot Noir (a wine that I have enjoyed from Great Lakes regions, i.e., Niagara Escarpment) and the Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet was herbal and lightly spicy and nicely dry. The Pinot Noir was smoke with anise and cherry.

Additional offerings under the Firelands label include:

Cabernet Sauvignon
Barrel Select Chardonnay
Rose de St. George
Country Estate Red
Walleye White and
Ice Wine

Additional wines from the other Lonz, Inc. labels were available including the Mantey, Dover, Mon Ami and Lonz (from grapes produced on Middle Bass Island). I picked up a Mantey Cream Sherry for my father. He has always been a fan of Ohio sherries and am looking forward to tasting it with it in the near future (most likely Thanksgiving).

Additionally, the winery is a source for homewine makers and sells juice in the autumn (until it runs out).

Isle St. George

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Tuesday as it turns out, is a much better day for trying to find an open winery. At least it is in Ohio.

Firelands WineryTuesday morning, bright and early I pulled into the Firelands Winery parking (please note if using GPS to find this location, there is construction in the area and you will be rerouted).

I was excited to visit this winery as I had actually tasted the wine from here before. Back in 2007, when VinoVerve was young, Rory, Kevin and I had dinner at Salpicon in Chicago and drank wine and chatted with Henry Bishop. During that dinner, while eating great Mexican food, we drank wine from all over the world. This included wine from Missouri, Quebec and Ohio. This is one of the reasons that I have become so passionate about local wine. The Ohio wine was the 2005 Firelands Winery Gewurztraminer, Isle St. George, Sandusky, Ohio.

I have to admit that I was curious about the locations listed for the wine. Isle Saint George is on an island (duh) in Lake Erie but is the name of a community, not the name of the island, itself. It is located on North Bass Island and is part of the Put-in-Bay Township in Ottawa County, Ohio. The township consists of 7 of the 31 Lake Erie Islands (some of which are now just reefs) that are shared between the States of Michigan and Ohio and the Province of Ontario. Several of the Lake Erie Islands, including North Bass Island are known for producing wine grapes. In many cases these wineries declined after prohibition but have resurfaced since the 1980s.


Created by NormanEinstein, June 23, 2005. Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike (CC-BY-SA)

In the case of Isle Saint George, the community was designated an AVA in 1982. By law, the AVA must be listed “St.” instead of “Saint” George (government often confuses me to the point of creating a headache). The weather in the area is milder than the surrounding mainlands as the waters of Lake Erie are the warmest of all the Great Lakes. As a result, vitis vinifera grape varietals are able to thrive. The island is famous for producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Riesling far more north than usual.

However, the Firelands Winery wines also list Sandusky, Ohio (home to Cedar Point) on their labels. This is because the grapes are grown in Isle St. George but are produced at the winery in Sandusky.

Confused yet? Wait until you hear about the rest of the history of the winery.

I will give you a hint: It has something to do with Marguerite’s VinoVerve posts! The first person to most fully explain the connection (correctly, obviously) will win a Locapour T-shirt. Entries must be received before Thursday, October 22th at midnight CDT (yes, we are on Daylight Time).

Firelands Winery
917 Bardshar Rd.
Sandusky, OH 44870
(419) 625-5474

I was In-N-Out

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

For the last week and a half I have been posting about the events of one day, July 25th, 2009. It was a long, fun and exhausting day where I drank a lot of wine, learned a lot of interesting facts and met a lot of interesting people. But the day, like every day must eventually end.

The Order BoyIn the morning I got up and went down for the break out sessions of the conference. Apparently these were strategically arranged for Sunday to keep people from sneaking out of the conference early. And as they were sessions about how to figure out ways to monetize or improve your blog, I was there. But I am not going to bore you with the how-to minutiae of blogging. If you want a blog, you can figure out easily enough for yourself the relative ease of creating one and the difficulty of getting it to work the way that you want it to.

This post is not really going to be about wine, but rather the environment where I was finding the wine that I was drinking – California. Specifically some of the delicious options that can be found in Golden State.

WaitingCalifornia’s development as a major state in the Union was predicated on the completion of the two major transcontinental highways: The Lincoln Highway and Route 66. It is in this environment that the drive-through restaurant was born. And the first of its kind was the In-N-Out Burger that being in 1948.

In the weeks before the conference I heard people outside California posting on their blogs, Facebook and Twitter about the need to get themselves over to an In-N-Out Burger stand. As I had never had one, it seemed like a plan to go and see what the fuss was about. So I did. After the formal programs for the conference were over I got into my car and looked around for the nearest In-N-Out Burger joint (Which was easily found due to my onboard GPS system).

The place was packed. So I got in the line and waited for my turn. The boy in the headset soon came up to my car (or I moved up to his position) and placed my order. As instructed, I ordered the double-double (per Rory Gurland) animal-style (per Bill Daley and eaten in the same manner, no doubt). Next came the long drive up to the windows. First to pay. Then to collect my meal.  In fact, when I got to the pick up window, I announced to the woman manning (womanning?) it that this was my first In-N-Out Burger.  She smiled and said, “It won’t be your last… You enjoy that burger”.

What a Burger!I took it back to my hotel room where I ate it with relish (which is a description and a pun at the same time).  Oh, I did drink wine with it.  A Yellowtail Rose (which I have never seen in Chicago before).  The fries were perfect (ok. I ate those on the ride back to the hotel as they hold their temperature as well as an icecube in Death Valley).  The burger was delicious and juicy and I made a mess of myself… enjoying it thoroughly.

Afterwards, I took a long, long nap.  To prepare me for the day to come.

Should I use a witch or a wench for that job?

I guess I have loaded these videos in backwards… or more likely, I am a spazz… as I have just discovered that this and the previous video were our introduction to Christophe Baron of Cayuse Vineyards.

But I am grateful for any additionally video from M. Baron as he is as witty as he is talented as a vigneron… at least as far as I have heard… Rory hasn’t been sharing an samples he brought back with him!

Anywho, as my grandmother used to say, I like this video because it involves some confusion with the attendees about what kind of equipment is used to plant the vineyards. Although I must say the thought of wenches or witches being involved is certainly colorful… Enjoy!

Washington’s Second Favorite Crop

Apples of course! I am sure that the Washington Apple Growers Association wouldn’t agree, but then they are probably not hanging around here at VinoVerve either, are they?

Anyway… Here is Rory taking a break from his wine trek to eat an apple and hear about how the cultivation of apples and wine grapes are similar!