February 26, 2012
My belief has been that a great wine shared amongst friends is one of life's greater moments. I started taking interest and notes since 1998 and found that the only way to really learn about wine is to....drink it and reveal your own experience.
I'll have become a BIG Rhone based wine fan. It's endless permutation of i)vintage, ii)blend of different varietals, and iii)where the grapes are grown provides an experience sort of like "Lighning tending not to strike the same point twice". The primary grape, Syrah is blended with a number of other varietals; Grenache, Carignan, Cinsaut, Mourvèdre, and Voignier. A wine shop owner at the old Naperville Wine Shop on Jefferson was my mentor. I began my journey with Pinot Noir where the different complexities between what is grown in Burgundy (Santeney, France) and the Russian River Valley (Healdsburg, CA) was stunning. The earthiness common in SW Burgundy I felt held an advantage. Then again France has centuries of root growth of the Pinot Noir varietal. That varietal was brought to CA maybe 100 years ago and is beginning to stand the test of time as is the Rhone-based wines that are produced in CA.
From the Russian River Valley (Davis Bynum, Rodney Strong, J, Twomey, David Bruce (located in Santa Cruz). Wine shops in the last ten years have disappeared in the same manner that coffee shops have disappeared due to the scale of the larger entities and laws that favor locally large distributors/retailers here in Illinois. For example, I have connections with retailers in CA that will have wines you'll never see here in the Midwest. There has been legal debate about buying wines from these retailers online. Binny's is a shop I like to go to because they do have knowledgeable staff. However, you need to know a little bit about wine and what you are looking for, otherwise you'll end up purchasing overvalued wines. Plus it is simply too big. Restaurants in the city that do a full course dinner with wine-food pair matchings are always a good bet.