"Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever" - Aristophanes - (from the menu at Eno)
Walking back to my hotel in Chicago from an evening business meeting, I spotted a sign: "Oenology". Hmm...promising...yes...a wine bar! Now, a wine bar in a big city like Chicago is not a surprise, but it was not on my schedule for the evening so I can call it a surprise...
A few comments on "Eno". Yes, it is located in a hotel (the InterContinental), but therein lies the charm - it was modern, but not so hip that I had to deal with the extra loud thumping of music, servers in tiny black minidresses and 25-somethings who already know everything about wine. But I wouldn't dare call this a "library" - yes there was modern music background and a youngish crowd, but the atmosphere accented the wine, not suffocated it. Perhaps even a detectable seriousness in the air which, for anyone who has seen me tasting, was absolutely perfect...
Most wine bars feature various wines by the glass and featured flights, and so did Eno, but Eno also featured thoughtfully prepared flights of cheeses and meats to pair with the wines, a simple, but well executed, touch - I highly recommending some of the meat and cheese flights.
Flight #1 was a "Festival of Whites", paired with a flight of Wisconsin cheeses (perfect for this Cheese-head), olives and nuts, and a curiously delicious jam with mustard seed:
The 2006 www "Bordello" Verdelho (Lodi) showed a fresh greenness on the nose, with green melon and floral, woodsy, notes as well. Refreshing and flavourful with decent acid, but with higher alcohol and a heavy oaky hand.
13.4% alcohol, Score: 16/20
My favourite of the flight was the 2005 Atrea "The Choir" (Mendocino), a Rhone blend of Roussane/Viognier, had a nice earthy, musty nose, butterscotch (Werther's) and oregano later on. Smooth, soft, and luscious mouthfeel, very flavourful and poised, nice persistency. There's amazing juice in there if they just laid off the oak a tiny bit...
14.2% alcohol, Score 17/20
On the right was the 2006 Brooks "Amycas" (Oregon). A blend of Pinot gris, Pinot blanc, Gewurtztraminer, and a dash of Muscat, it showed a simple nose of honeyed apples and wet bread dough, some citrus. Simple and refreshing, but a bit thin.
13.7% alcohol, Score: 15.5/20
Flight #2 was "Pinot Envy", paired with a unique selection of dried meats from around the world:
Pinot envy was not just Pinot Noir, and first up was the 2007 Yamhill Valley Vineyards Pinot Blanc (Oregon). Very minerally, with green grass and yeasty limes on the nose. Dry, limey, very nice acidity and minerality on the palate. Great persistency, very nicely balanced, this is quality wine making.
??% alcohol, Score:17/20
The 2006 Eola Hills Pinot Noir (Oregon) featured ripe raspberries, oak, vanilla, cocoa, white pepper, and a hint of cloves - more like a Californian Pinot on the nose - but back to Oregon on the palate, with good acidity, substantial tannins, and crisp fruit - better structure than the nose hinted at, nicely done.
13.8% alcohol, Score: 16.5/20
So here's one reason why I like wine bars - where would you try a STILL Pinot Meunier?Apparently Chandon's Napa estate has decided to set aside some of this classic champagne grape and use it in a dry, red wine. The nose of the 2006 Chandon Pinot Meunier (Carneros) was over-the-top California Pinot Noir at first - all ripe fruit and chocolate - but later opened up to reveal an appealing earthiness. Rather hot and unbalanced on the palate, with smokey dark berries (gooseberries?), modest tannin, and a deceptively long finish that lasts longer than you think.
14.3% alcohol, Score: 16/20
After the flights I had a craving for something European so I finished with a glass of Italian Cabernet Franc, the 2004 G. Puiatti "le Zuccole" from Friuli. Ahh, now there's the stuff...earthy green pepper, black pepper, tobacco, espresso coffee grounds... velvety dry tannins and crisp cherry fruit on the palate, a bit thin but still very good and nicely balanced, would work great with a wintery stew.
12% alcohol, Score: 16.5/20
For me, a wine bar should tease, taunt and educate, and it should be serious about the wine, not the bar. So in that sense Eno was a great success. No, it was not cheap, but not excessive, and I don't mind paying for the infotainment on occasion.
And for those of you looking for a hipper, trendier wine bar, Bin 36 is nearby.