Back in the day when Chicago was earning its reputation for cool blues and hot jazz, a lady might slip into a red dress for a night promising candle lit clubs, and slow drags on the dance floor. Well I can attest they are still dancing and partying in the city the old-schoolers call Chi town. But during my visit last week I also sampled Chicago’s vibrant food and wine scene. Nationally recognized celebrity chefs abound, as do celebrity sommeliers. Earlier this year Gourmet Wine Cellar named Brian Duncan as the city’s Wine Director of the Year. Quite an honor in a town populated with wine focused restaurants. Duncan is the wine director of Bin 36, one of the city’s popular wine bars. He is also one of the few African-Americans who are top sommeliers and leaders in the wine industry.
I’d heard about the accessible wine list (all easy drinking, no precious vintage bottles), so I wanted to check it out for myself. The Bin 36 menu features kicked up American continental cuisine as well as specialty cheeses -– all perfect accompaniment for wine. In the tradition of wine bars, Duncan’s wine list is an inventive mix of boutique and some better known bottles. There are wines to sip alone or to match specific menu items. Brian Duncan has devised a system by which diners can mix and match guided by his suggestions, or choose for themselves. You can have the standard by-the-glass serving, or a flight of two or more tasting pours of 2 ½ ounces. Choose if you must, but his suggestions are on the money. First, I sampled champagne -- NV Brut Duval-Leroy (the only real champagne is from France ’s champagne region) to accompany the appetizer of mussels in tomato saffron broth that I shared with my friend. (BTW, next time I’d order this appetizer just for me. It was slammin’). The champagne was delicious as were a couple of other wines I had with my entrée of peppercorn encrusted marlin -- Huber ‘Hugo” Gruner Veltliner and Feital, “Auratus” Alvahrino/Trejadura. Don’t be distracted by the long names, both are crisp white wines that are food friendly and reasonably priced.
But for me, the sip of the night was one my friend selected -- “Jezebel Blanc,” a blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer. The name is appropriate. “Jezebel Blanc” from Oregon’s Willamette Valley is a come hither juicy white wine tasting of honey, citrus and flowers. Wine experts call it aromatic. I call lip-smacking good.
You know the stereotype of a Jezebel, a brazen hussy with plenty of attitude. I’m no brazen hussy (not yet anyway) but Jezebel Blanc is just the ticket for this woman in a red dress kind of mood.