I haven't been to the Windy City in years, so I was determined to duck into a local wine shop (or two...). A special thanks to Dr. Vino, whose Chicago wine shops page allowed me to quickly locate those shops nearest to my hotel, including Bin 36 and Binny's (a future post).
Bin 36, located right next door to Chicago's "House of Blues", was a rather modest wine shop, with a short (but carefully selected) list of unusual (i.e. no big names or standard Wine Spectator fare) items, but it was also a wine bar. Alone for the evening and in need of dinner, I figured I could grab a seat at the bar, have some dinner and try some unusual wines - now that's a Friday night!
While this sounds like place you would need wild horses to drag me out of, I was hesitant at first, as the "too-hip" atmosphere combined and no-name wine list was surely a recipe for disaster? Wrong.
My appetizer was an asparagus salad with honey goat cheese and a pink grapefruit dressing. Jimmy, the head of the wine bar, was an excellent host, and encouraged me to pair this with a gruner vetliner. The 2005 Laurenz V. "Sophie" Gruner Veltliner was an excellent choice for this dish - on the nose were toasty scents of apricot, banana and pineapple, followed by some white flowers. Almost white burgundy in style, with a crisp, minerally structure, this was a more full-bodied gruner vs. all my previous experiences with the grape. Nicely done at this price - great value!
Price: US$15 (Bin 36)
The main course was arctic char, and once again it was Jimmy to the rescue. In this case he even allowed me to sample a few of his wares before making my final selection. Now that's service! We decided on California for some new world chardonnay. The 2005 Foxglove Chardonnay was a rather simple affair, with classic buttered toast aromas but not much else going on. Rather one-dimensional, but very well balanced and a nice pairing for the meal.
Price: US$16 (Bin 36)
Other wines sampled this evening included an Austrian red, the 2004 Zantho Zweigelt, a modern styled red with aromas of fresh crushed blueberries. Rather uncomplex, but a very nice quaffer and cheap ($10.95). The 2005 Earth, Zin and Fire "Front Row Zin" was a terrific take on this grape. Pink cava, South African chard, and a strong finish with the 2005 Kracher Beerenauslese.
If you are ever in Chicago, stop by Bin 36 and tell Jimmy I sent you.