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City Winery Chicago opened last week at the west end of the Randolph corridor, anchoring restaurant row and extending the repertoire of venues. It’s Wine Country in the West Loop. With a bold focus on wine and a fully functioning winery, City Winery crafts a culture of music, food and entertainment hinged upon the cornerstone of great wine as envisioned by founder and owner Michael Dorf.

Building a wine list in this milieu has been an intimidating venture, for serious. As the opening Beverage Director I have dedicated months to wine research, tasting, eating, drinking (yeah, tough job) and creating a list that speaks wine eloquently, with relevance, in a language we all understand. It’s a counterpoint to the wine created by the resident winemaker. Wine on tap, in carafe, by the bottle. Wine paired with music, and wine pairings to complement custom dinner menus. It’s a delicate balance.

This is especially relevant based upon the current critics’ debate over eclectic wine lists.  Eric Asimov of The New York Times , and one of the most pertinent and captivating wine writers of our time, squares off against Steve Cuozzo of the New York Post, challenging his commentary about edgy, sommelier-driven wine lists. We are thrilled at the resulting dialogue and the thoughtful response by the wine community. It reiterates our philosophy that balance is key.

City Winery Chicago debuts with not so much of a wine list as a wine tome. A hefty, delicious, delightful tale of grapes, deeply rooted in Chicago palate trends. It offers wine that appeals not only to you and your dinner companion, but also to guests attending a concert, wine class or private event. Of course, Silver Oak is featured prominently (check out the history!), but also an amazing array of Kosher wines, and even an orange wine, a white expression of a red grape and an edited selection of classics. We have an extensive spectrum of biodynamic wines, a collection of winemakers who are farmers with vineyard dirt under their fingernails and wild yeasts in the winery. Our wine events run the gamut from “big” names to more obscure, including an upcoming biodynamic seminar with Emmanuel Pageot of Turner Pageot.

For every mainstream wine with a predictable profile, we’ll slide down the scale to provide the counterpoint. We encourage you to drink wine and support all manner of wine drinkers from conservative to adventurous. City Winery would like to put you into your second glass, right after the first.

Rachel Driver Speckan, Beverage Director


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