Southern Wine

Kevin and I are headed to NOLA this weekend to watch some football and sample the delights of the city. He asked me to see if we could stop at a winery on our way there. I checked my map. Each dot represents a winery.

It appears that we will have plenty of choices depending on what route we take.

Good thing we don’t live in a wine producing region, eh? It appears that we will have 20 options in the deep south.. and more as we head north.

Laissez les bontemps rollez.

What’s your favorite southern winery?

Gretchen Neuman, Editor, September 13, 2011

Show Me Some Goals….

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

The nice part of goals is missing them sometimes. Yes, it was your editor’s goal to complete podcasts for all four Missouri viticulture areas before leaving for the Show Me State… but that sadly hasn’t happened. Something about teenagers and their crazy schedules screwed that up. Oh, and randomly placed Spring Breaks. Ahhh.  Good times…

So, instead of showing you are about the Ozark Mountain and Ozark Highlands AVAs, I will postpone the publication of these videos so that I can gather some footage of my own…. and instead will talk about where I am planning to go on my Missouri adventures. While I am only going to be in Missouri for a long weekend and most of that time will be spent in St. Louis, I have found that I will be able to visit all four viticultural areas. Yeah!

As you can see, I have gotten lucky that all of these appellations are located at least in part near St. Louis. So naturally, given that I have no obligations to teens and/or volleyball (like last year or next week) I get to explore Missouri.

The conference location is the starting or ending point of the trip. At least from a planning perspective this is the raison d’être for my get away. Kevin is watching the teens, which earns him my pity as it is their spring break. He initially wished to join me along this journey but thought better of it as it is likely teens would have sucked all the joy out of me for this adventure, and I thank him profusely.

Why Ste. Genevieve? Simply, it is the oldest town in the state. Founded by the French along the Mississippi River before even the French and Indian Wars, the town has a collection of Creole-French buildings that were common among French settlers or habitants…  Obscure?  Perhaps.  But I love that kind of stuff.  Plus there are wineries there too which are located within the Ozark Mountain AVA. This AVA is the biggest in Missouri (especially since it extends into Arkansas and even Oklahoma) and the Ozark Highlands and Hermann appellations are located within its boundaries.

My next must see stop is the town of Kaskaskia, Illinois.  Crossing back over the Mississippi, you say?  Hardly.  Kaskaskia, also a French settlement, was located east of the Mississippi but as the river has changed course, so has the location of the town and it is currently located just a couple of miles south of Ste. Genevieve.  Actually, most of the original town has been lost to flooding and hardly anyone lives there anymore (the 2000 census indicated a population of 9).  The appeal of Kaskaskia is twofold.  It is the original capital of the state (or maybe territory) of Illinois.  Also?  It has a bell that was a given to the local parish church by Louis XV (Yes.  Louis XIV is dead, to answer my husband’s snappy response whenever hear hears the name of a monarch with a number attached to his name.. Thanks so much, dudes from Monty Python).

The next goals of the trip are to visit all three appellations that I haven’t been to before.  This means, stopping at wineries in Ozark Mountain (done… with stops in Ste. Genevieve), Ozark Highlands  (done with stops in and around Leasburg or Steelville, MO) and in Hermann.

As if this isn’t a busy enough weekend, I will then be attending the conference in St. Louis.  Whew.  I am going to be tired come Monday.  But I will have lots to talk about when I get back!

Hope you have as much fun this weekend!




Next stop

My Folks Went to Israel and Egypt and All I Got Was This Bottle of Wine

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

My folks just got back from their fantastic vacation to the Middle East. When they left I asked them to keep an eye out for interesting wine.

I was excited to hear that they managed to snag me a couple of bottles along with some other goodies.

Here they are:

Saffron and Cumin... Where is the Wine?

Where is the wine, you ask? Good question. It was confiscated.

Why? Well obviously it was over 4oz of liquid.

Never mind that it was bought at duty free after my folks cleared security. Which leads to this question: What is the earthly point of liquor in the duty free shop? So you can bring the people that you are visiting something that they can already lay their hands on? To swill cheaply in the airport during a particularly long layover?

I have to admit to being disappointed. One bottle was Israeli, the other, Egyptian. Egyptian wine would have been fascinating. I have read that there is a small number of wineries around Alexandria and would have loved to try some. But I got a other fun gifts as well.

Black cumin (which smells great) and the most saffron I have every personally owned. Dad found them in a suq in Cairo.

I don’t even want to know where they came from. But I have a couple of ideas and need to find something amazing to make with them. Ideas?


Stone Faces WineryGretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Whenever I plan a cross country trip, I get a list of places that my folks think that I should. When I told them I was heading to Walla Walla, they immediately started forming the list. Wall Drug. Devil’s Tower. Mt. Rushmore. Deadwood. Deadwood was especially high on my folks list as they were lovers of the HBO series, ironic given my mother’s basic prudish nature and sheer volume profane language leaving Al Swearengen (Ian McShane)’s mouth. Nevertheless, I readily assented to that stop.

And why? Well, there is more than just gold in them there hills. There happens to be wine too.

Now, now, now… I know what you are saying… WIne in South Dakota? Well, yes. There was even a winery near the Laura Ingalls Wilder homesite, wine that I didn’t get to…. this time anyway.

Anywho, I was discussing Deadwood. So, I was gleeful as I reached the Black Hills. Wall Drug was stupid and a tourist trap that makes no sense to me. In all truth, I didn’t even stop. I know myself enough to understand that crowds and crap don’t attract me, but if that is how the town gets by? Go with God. You will get no complaints from me. Just don’t ask me to visit.

Tasting Room at Stone Faces WineryAs it turns out there are five wineries in the Hills and two along my route. Stone Faces Winery, which had only been opened for a couple of months and the winery that I was originally heading for in the region, Prairie Berry. Stone Faces was so new that it had no offical signage. Not that this stops me.

I pulled into the new winery and walked in. The room was largely taken up by the large tasting bar, currently empty. But it was a Tuesday. It seems unlikely that this early in the summer that there would be a full room and during the Sturgis Rally? Well, forget about it. The place was probably packed. The winery is owned by the Nygaard Family of Valiant Winery, South Dakota’s first. In fact, Eldon Nygaard wrote South Dakota’s Farm Winery Act.

Having the winery pretty much to myself, I looked over the list and decided to try four options (my limit when I am on the road)

First up was the up was the Dakota’s Best Chardonnay. This wine had a light oaky flavor, but was generally too bland for me. I find that small wineries often have a harder time producing a full bodied dry white and this was true at Stone Faces. More impressive was the Canyon Lake White. This wine is semi-sweet and more like a Gewurztraminer though it is a predominantly Seyval blend. Still, a nice choice for spicy food or fresh caught Walleye or Catfish as is recommended by the winery.

Dakota's Best ChardonnayCanyon Lake White

Full Throttle Wine

Next up was the Sturgis Merlot. This wine had the proper body and juice but fell a bit flat at the end for me as there a smokiness that I wasn’t expecting.

The final wine that I tried was also related to Sturgis. The Full Throttle Wine is the Black Hills answer to Port. It is a fortified wine made exclusively for the Full Throttle Saloon. This was the best wine I had at the winery. I brought home a bottle for my Dad which we shared later.

So, yes. There is wine in the Hills. So get out there and start prospecting.

Stone Faces Winery
12670 Robins Roost Road
Hill City, South Dakota, 57745

Philadelphia Freedom with Vino Volo

Kevin Neuman
VinoVerve Contributor

Coasters from VinoVolo

Coasters from VinoVolo

No, I’m not talking about Founding Fathers or any such history. I’m talking about securing freedom from flight delays, boring food, and stale bars at Philadelphia International  (PHL). After wading through airport security (“Hey TSA agent, that’s my butt”), I stumbled upon a neat wine bar called Vino Volo. According to an internet search, these oases within airports have been around a few years and can be found in a handful of airports across the country with plans to expand. I can’t wait until they reach O’Hare.

I think the concept is fairly unique. Well, at least in airports. Vino Volo offers a tidy selection of wines available by the glass or in tasting flights based on themes like “Old World Reds.” I chose wines by the glass as a taste just doesn’t do it for me sometime. The picture accompanying this piece shopws the wines I had served on cool “coasters” describing the wine including varietal, winery and year. each “coaster” was accompanied by tasting notes, which according to the website is descibed thusly:

Our wine flavor comparison tool Vino Chart allows you, the wine lover, to easily understand wines based on their flavor profiles, and it doesn’t require you to spend years of academic wine studies to do it. Whether you’re a wine novice or wine pro, you can use the Vino Chart to think about differences between wines and decide which you prefer, and when.

Fruit and complexity. That’s it!

Vino Chart looks at wines based on how much FRUIT and non-fruit flavors or COMPLEXITY each wine has. That’s it.

Wines with richer, brighter, and more varied fruit flavors are higher up on the chart map, and wines with deeper and more-layered complexity are further to the right side of the chart. This wine chart works with both red and white wines.

Oh, and did I mention that they have a food menu that accompanies the wines quite nicely. I stuck with a plate of marinated olives. A perfect match to the variety of wines I had. I look forward to getting stuck in an airport again – as long as there’s a Vino Volo.

Report from San Francisco

By Don Holton ©
Contributing Writer

Albona Ristorante. You won’t find these dishes anywhere else in SF:

  • Pork loin stuffed with sauerkraut, prosciutto, apples, plums, served with red cabbage
  • Braised rabbit with onions, juniper berries, honey, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, served with soft polenta
  • Filets of fried sardines with glazed onions, marinated with red wine vinegar, raisins, pine nuts

What’s so rare about these and other offerings at Albona? They’re authentic dishes from the Istrian peninsula, now part of Croatia, a gateway to the Adriatic where its food is influenced by Austria, Hungary, Turkey, and Italy.

Photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved

Kuleto's, photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved

Opened in 1988, Albona’s greatest virtue is its simplicity. There’s a single dining room, with about 10 tables (take your reservation seriously). Service is done by owners and family. The wine list is a 41-bottle mix of St. Francis whites and reds, California chardonnays and cabs, plus wines from areas close to Istiria –Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Slovenia, and Piemonte. All wines by the glass are under $10, a smart move in today’s economy.

The menu’s theme is one of quality ingredients, simply prepared. We started with Ortolana ($9), grilled slices of eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash over a bed of baby arugula in a light vinaigrette. Sounds easy, but that’s the idea. This is the kind of authentic, unadorned dish you’ll find at a seaside restaurant in the homeland, then reach for your pen to remember it later. I enjoyed the pork loin, tightly rolled around the kraut and ham, floating in thick brown gravy. Valerie chose the Strudel — pasta roll filled with prosciutto and Lappi cheese, baked in a casserole with breadcrumbs, béchamel and tomato cream sauce.

Albona is a few blocks from Fisherman’s Wharf, but not part of it. From Powell St. take the cable car ($1.50), check the map and get off while clanking along Columbus Ave. at Francisco St. Walk the neighborhood two blocks east. Taxi back to Union Square, $10.

Albona is not high style, but a gentle family place that embraces its traditions, food and wine. Wine List: 16/20. Food: 17/20. Service: 20/20. The Feeling: a welcomed break from downtown, with proud owners, happy staff, a good value.

Photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved

Hotel Villa Florence, photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved

Kuleto’s. When planning a trip, I often call the hotel’s Concierge in advance and ask for local dining ideas, routinely dismissing any food option in the hotel itself. How foolish this time, for when we checked in the Hotel Villa Florence, a block off Union Square, we strolled to the Front Desk and looked left to see a packed house for lunch at Kuleto’s, the Italian restaurant, just off the lobby. A convention going on? No, this is not a hotel for big meetings. We were witnessing pure market demand for the imaginative Northern Italian cuisine at Kuleto’s, with the same phenomenon occurring each night for dinner, well past 9 pm.

Our first taste at Kuleto’s was at breakfast the next day. Egg Benedict? Warm eggs, proscuitto on muffins with real-thing hollandaise. Check. Lunch the next day after a morning appointment: creamy risotto with spicy shrimp, crusty bread bathed in olive oil, and a small salad. Check again.

The hotel lobby and Kuleto’s share a classical interior (one part was a small theater years ago, someone said), with high ceilings, columns, separated by glass panels and tall drapes. We highly recommend the hotel (modest-sized rooms, but all renovated, many under $190 and worth it).

On our last day, our return flight departure to Chicago was delayed to 6 pm, so we looked at each other and stepped directly to a comfy booth at Kuleto’s. Lunch at 2:30, winding down, and now, in slow motion with time on our hands, we shared a huge bowl of fresh-made raviolis stuffed with smoked salmon, covered with an elegant white sauce, garnished with orange zest. Heaven, pure heaven, with a Syrah/Merlot, “Suyrage” from Mara, California. By 4 pm, we were set up for a mellow ride on the BART to the airport.

Wine List: 18/20. Food: 20/20. Service: 19/20. The Feeling: Milanese actually, with brainpower, creativity, and talent in the kitchen. One of the top hotel restaurants in our 40 country travels.

Photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved.

Golden Gate Bridge, photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved.

Biking the Bridge: Terror on a Sunny Afternoon

How does riding a bike on the Golden Gate Bridge relate to wine? Be patient. Alone for the day, I rented a bicycle at Fisherman’s Wharf, intent to ride four miles west to the Golden Gate, where cyclists are permitted on the west walkway of the bridge for a ride across to Sausalito. It was a sunny day, 65 degrees — a superb scene riding along the shore through Crissy Field and the huge Presidio park, birds soaring, kayakers out beyond the breakwater, joggers, skaters, kite flyers, you name it.

It took me a full hour to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, where a path takes you under the south end of the bridge and circles back up a hill to the roadbed. But look out! The bike lane is a superhighway of Lance Armstrongs blasting down the incline toward you. Either you get in the flow one direction or another or just get out of the way. With a low railing, a 500-foot drop to the sharks below, and an east wind building, I cruised up for several hundred yards then came back to the sidelines and a safe place. Seriously, I thought I was going over the edge. Maybe next time.

My return to the Wharf was a 1 1/2 hour glide, culminating at Alioto’s bar for a bowl of clam chowder and a glass of wine. There’s the wine.

For a day in the park, visit:

Four Restaurants, Four Wine Lists, and Cheating Death on the Golden Gate Bridge … on a Bike

By Don Holton ©
Contributing Writer

Flying to San Francisco brings the most pleasant anticipation: you sense that – if you’ve planned things right – unique food and wine experiences may await you.

So it was with our recent trip there. No Napa/Sonoma wine cruising. This time, the city only. We stayed near Union Square for five days and struck it rich in and around this commercial and tourist part of town.

Jardiniere, photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved

Jardiniere, photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved

Our restaurant finds were Jardiniere, Gitane, Albona Ristorante, and an Italian surprise in our hotel, Kuleto’s.

Jardiniere (French/American). A 10-minute taxi ride just west of the Civic Center lands you at the classical front of a landmark building. Inside, a spectacular bar with a two-story oval atrium rises to the main dining room on the second floor. The wine list: a diverse mix of Old World and New, organized by Wine Director Eugenio Jardim. Strong French representation: red and whites from Burgundy and Bordeaux, six Chablis, 14 choices from Meursault and Corton. Wines from Italy, Spain, Portugal, and up and down the West Coast. The list hits a satisfying note: six “Villages” wines, obviously Jardim’s picks for taste and affordability, including Olivier Leflaive, Bourgogne “Les Setilles” 2005 for $65. And down the list, look, there they were — my measure of a thoughtful Euro carte – 14 choices from Alsace and Germany, two categories often ignored by unfounded fears of “sweetness.”

The food? Excellent. My wife, Valerie, and I shared a mixed greens and citrus salad (these days, restaurants rarely deny a request to “split”, except a snobby waiter last week in Scottsdale; times are tough, reservations easy, don’t you find?), then lamp chops, filet mignon, both very nice. Dessert: Banana Cream Pie – good to very good, but needs more cream filling. Choose from an a la carte menu or a tasting menu at $125. Check out the new Monday night fixed price menu for $45, including wine pairings; given the quality here, a real value.

Our wine choice: from a list deep in California blends, pinots and cabs (up to Screaming Eagle, 2004, $1800), we sought a name unknown to Sam’s or Binny’s. The winner: Kathryn Kennedy Meritage “Lateral,” Santa Cruz, 2005, a smooth cab/merlot blend that’s just the kind of small lot discovery you hope for – light, layered, different. Sorry, their ’06 is sold out at the vineyard, making our dinner all the more special. Look for their next release. Wine List: 19/20. Food: 17/20. Service: 19/20. The Feeling: organized, a clear zeal for the grape, food worthy.

Image courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved

Jardiniere, photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved

Gitane (Franco/Iberian, etc). How could you resist a restaurant that describes itself as: “modern, funky, and artistically bold … drawing inspiration from Spain, France, and Portugal … exotic tastes and sensations with sherries, cavas, madieras, hand-crafted cocktails and small-estate wines … interior decors from Mr. Important Design (really), vibes from Euro-themed 50s, Hippie-Driven 60s and Big Bling 70s … artwork from Turkey and the UK, Goya-esque photography.”

Well, of course, you’ve got to try such a place! And it’s only a few blocks walk east of Union Square, downhill on Sutter and a left on Claude Lane (trust me, this is an alley with its own street sign). But maybe SF is a place where you can sit at one of four outside tables, under heat lamps and an awning — in an alley — and think it’s cool. But inside? There’s the cool. The place feels like an exotic private club. Warm greeting, nice people, small dark entry area, but peek around the corner – a colorful, hip, but low-keyed bar scene, high ceilings, giant bulbous chandeliers, two-story high draperies, soft lights, tapestries. Best yet, walking by, and no one looks over his or her shoulder to check you out. But maybe you want that.

Most at the bar are dining “a la placemat.” The bar is full, but it’s … quiet. A smooth and orderly beat going on here, at least at 8 o’clock.

Our table, like most, was up the stairs. Breathless at the top, ah, this is cool too: weathered brick walls, covered with glass, bricks flooded with light (shining up from lights in the floorboards, whoa), a moody/mysterious room, enameled black tables, effective use of mirrors to enlarge the space, red/orange light shades. But where are we? This could be that hidden gem down the hill from the Alhambra or somewhere in the back streets of Alfama. Cue the Fado and the handkerchiefs.

Ever had a Pimm’s Cup? It’s a cocktail for old guys like me. I used to knock them down in London just to feel that Park Lane thing, but there it was on Gitane’s drink menu, bringing back memories of Robert Morley in “Halfway Up A Tree” at the Strand. I ordered one, and the result was a soft sweetness, mildly herbal, refreshing — Pimm’s Cup No. 1, with assorted berries and ginger beer on the rocks. Could have had one of 20 sherries or other inventive cocktails from the list, but we went to the wines.

Photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved

Gitane, photo courtesy of Don Holton, all rights reserved

The list is straightforward, 31 whites on the left – Spain, Portugal and France. On the right, 34 reds from those three countries. Great balance all around, tilted toward Spain – Riojas, Alicante, Priorate from Castilla y Leon, North-Central, Catalonia, and one from Mallorca. From Portugal, Vinho Verde, the national jug wine, and some familiar friends from France – Corbieres (Domaine St. Eugenie, Languedoc), and Coteaux du Languedoc, Mas Julien. One in four wines is available by the glass, some in half-bottle carafes. Not a huge list, but one that forms a clear link with the restaurant’s theme and cuisine. I also like how Gitane chose French wines produced from regions that nestle close on the map to the Pyrennes.

OMG, given all this, what must the food be like? The menu has three parts: appetizers (did not say tapas), entrees and sides. We liked Piquillo ($13), peppers stuffed with fresh crab salad. Bastilla is one dish that competently showcases the restaurant’s diverse cultural intent — a sweet and savory pastry with duck, chicken, raisins, almonds, Moroccan spices and orange gastrique. A pop-in-your-mouth winner.

My half-order of Ribs ($12, $23 full) featured natural pork, soy glazed, with parsnip puree and Brussels sprouts (please cook a little longer to release the bitterness or douse them with balsamic vinegar). Rich molasses-type sauce on the ribs, very meaty. Valerie’s Sea Bass ($23) was not distinguished, but it was her fault, as she was influenced by the asparagus.

We recommend Gitane, a great concept, its multi-national theme creatively integrated, from wine, to spirits, to food and décor. Wine List: 17/20. Food: 17/20. Service: 18/20. The Feeling: fun, funky in a friendly and textured environment, with memorable spicy hits.

Next up… more food and terror!

Destination Sommelier NYC – A Message From Belinda Chang


As many of you are aware, I ended my time with Cenitare in Chicago (well, Buffalo Grove, really) several weeks ago, and I start my new position as Wine Director of The Modern in NYC next week! I am so excited to be living in New York (finally), to work for Danny Meyer, and to see all of you at MOMA (53rd btw 5th and 6th, I think). I found an apartment in 1.5 days – don’t let them tell you that it can’t be done, I had an incredible broker. Here is my new contact information:

Belinda Chang

On another note, I am looking for a fabulous renter for my Chicago condo at 2 E. Erie #3212. There is a great legacy of serious dining, wine drinking and general enjoyment of life in this place (on the balcony over looking the city and indoors). It is a wonderful place to live – it accomodates a sit-down dinner for sixteen or a DJ party for 100 (and I broke in the neighbors…)- it is walking distance to everything (2 blks to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Neiman Marcus, etc). I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED living here. For the individual who refers a one year term renter for my beloved #3212, I offer a bounty of 6 bottles (full size) of Krug or the cash equivalent. Name your price…

Thanks – I’ll see you in the city.

2 E Erie Street # 3212
Luxury Condominium in Chicago
Offered at $1,899 / month

• 1 Bedroom
• Garage Available
• Eat in Balcony
• 1 Bathroom
• Corner & Hi Floor
• Doorman Bldg

New Conversion, Corner 1 Bdr, Urban Hi-Rise, Great Lake Views
Sunny, High Floor, Spacious Floor Plan, Lrg Living Room w/ Floor-to-Ceiling Windows New, Open Kitchen, Granite Bkfst Bar, In-Unit W/D, Walk-in Closet, Enclosed parking available for $225/month

Quiet, Full Amenity Doorman Building, Roof Top Deck on 40 Flr, In Bldg Gym, Dry Cleaner, Bijan Restaurant downstairs open until 4 AM, Walking distance to everything: Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Michigan Ave Shopping, Restaurants and Bars, and the Lake.

It’s the fabulous life in Chicago! You will love living here!

Grace Sergio
Sergio & Banks
435 W. North Ave
Office:(312) 440-0045
Fax:(312) 440-0062

Sergio & Banks

Bob of Chicago

Below is a a bio I have seen floating around the web for Robert Bansberg. I have only met him but a few times, yet even in those modest encounters I sensed a genuine warmth and depth of character.
(copied from

Robert (Bob) Bansberg is an award winning sommelier and wine educator, formerly at Chicago’s four star restaurant Ambria for its full twenty-five year run, and currently a faculty member at the School of Culinary Arts at Kendall College in Chicago. Since 1992, Bansberg has taught a Wine and Beverage Management Class at Kendall College’s School of the Culinary Arts and for five years has hosted the The Wine Series, a wine appreciation and food-pairing course for the community. Since 2000, he has lectured at the Alliance Français and The Calphalon Culinary also based in Chicago. He is an active board member of the “Toast to Humanity” charity and has donated his time to the National Charity “Share our Strength”.

In 2004, Bansberg was one of five nominated for “Best Sommelier” in the Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence. In their July 2000 issue, Food & Wine magazine Bansberg selected in a national poll of their readership as “The Best Sommelier in Chicago”, Chicago Magazine also listed Bansberg as the cities best in their August 2000 issue. In 1999, Bansberg was nominated for the highly coveted James Beard Award. He has won regional French sommelier competitions. He is a senior wine judge at the Beverage Testing Institute and has judged for the National Restaurant Association’s Wine Classic, and has served on numerous panels for the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times.

He has written for Wine & Spirits and The Wine Enthusiast, and has lectured at the Midwest International Wine Exposition as well as Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. He has been writing wine tasting notes for Santé Magazine in 2004. Bansberg is a graduate of Northwestern University and studied in the Neurophysiology Graduate Program at the University of Illinois Medical Center. He resides in Evanston with his wife and their two children. He continues to be a leader and educator in his community. A gifted and gracious man in many respects, he is truly the “Sommelier’s Sommelier.”

Destination Sommelier

Some of us choose a restaurant based on the wine list. Quality of food, of course, is a factor, as is the friendliness and efficiency of service, but, if you are like me, it is the wine program, or the Sommelier responsible for it, which matters most.

Henry Bishop is a name I had heard more than a year ago from a trusted member of the Chicago wholesale community. The name Henry Bishop surfaced again last week, when a new colleague of mine mentioned that she had dined at a mexican restaurant called Salpicon. She spoke highly of Henry Bishop, specifically a sense of humor and a penchant for the esoteric. I looked at the restaurant’s website,, which has the wines organized by country, and in some cases by producer. At that moment I had decided that I was going to eat there. I was not phased by the quixotic combination between a serious wine program and a mexican concept, and didn’t even look at the dinner menu.

I met Kevin and Maman for dinner at Salpicon last Thursday. We started with guacamole and chips, and three ‘Salpicon Margaritas’ (when in Rome…). It felt like a typical mexican restaurant experience. We asked if Henry was in, he was. Henry Bishop approached, introductions were made, common acquaintances referenced. We asked him to pair wines with our ‘tasting menu’ (always order the tasting menu). What happened next turned our typical mexican restaurant experience into a stimulating and thoroughly unique adventure into the [other] world of wine.

Henry Bishop’s Wine Pairings
1.Pere Ventura Brut Nature NV Cava, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, Spain
2.2005 Firelands Winery Gewurztraminer, Isle St. George, Sandusky, Ohio
3.1997 Villa Guntrum, Oppenheimer Schützenhütte, Kabinett Halbtrocken, Rheinhessen
4.2006 Dubaril Gamay Romand Rosé, Cave de La Côte-Uvavins, Morges, Switzerland
5.2005 Summers Winery Charbono, Villa Andriana Vineyard, Calistoga, Napa, California
6.2006 Emilio Bulfon Piculìt Neri, Valeriano, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
7.La Face Cachee de la Pomme, Neige, Apple Ice Wine, Quebec, Canada
8.Mount Pleasant Tawny Port, Augusta, Missouri

Each of the above wines delivered quality and balance and would have been acceptable under any circumstance. But what occurred that night was special, an adventure through six countries, two forgotten but important historical wine producing states, and french canadian apple orchards that employ cryoconcentration and cryoextraction to produce a unique and exotic ‘wine’. Henry had us in the palm of his hand. Each time he arrived at the table with a new wine meant a new surprise and new fork in the road of our conversation.

If you are like me, you choose a restaurant because of it’s wine list. And if you are like me, and enjoy to place yourself at the mercy of a talented and intuitive Sommelier, visit Salpicon and ask for Henry Bishop. Or, if you have a Sommelier that has earned your trust as Henry has mine, then please share your story and contact us at Destination Sommelier.