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Tasting opportunities - Chicago?
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Hello,


I have been lurking on these forums for a few months and have gotten a lot of great information. I appreciate how freely everyone shares their experiences.

My wife and I are fairly new to wine and taking as many opportunities to sample different wines as we can, I have found that buying bottles blindly can be fun, but a very limited and expensive way to sample what is available. Living in the Chicago burbs, I have been to a few tasking events at Sam's and one very small one at Binny's. These were a lot of fun, but were still a bit limited in what was available to taste. It seems that these types of tastings are limited to fairly low end wines, some of which I enjoyed but I feel like I am missing a lot.

Does anyone know a good way to be able to sample better wines? I did get an e-mail from Binny's about an event at Arlington Race Track next month claiming to have over 400 wines to sample. Sounds like a blast but I am looking for other suggestions.

When you were in your early learning stages, where did you find opportunities to taste good wines?
 
Posts: 11 | Registered: Jul 03, 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Originally posted by Briantime:
When you were in your early learning stages, where did you find opportunities to taste good wines?


Good friends. My best resource by far.

Good clerks at good wine stores were another wonderful help to me. As they learned my preferences and we fine tuned that process, they were able to make wonderful recommendations for me across multiple price ranges.

400 wine tastings are virtually useless to me. The cattle call atmosphere, palate fatigue and overall overwhelming nature of these things long ago lost my interest.

PH
 
Posts: 15313 | Location: Maryland, USA (DC suburbs) | Registered: Nov 22, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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i bit the bullet and actually went out and bought em

then some good friends came around who were into wine and we all bought 1 or 2 great bottles and just started our own little tasting.

then i met folks on this forum and now I beg for allocations and don't bother drinking at all Big Grin


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Posts: 12367 | Location: NYC | Registered: Feb 16, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Originally posted by PurpleHaze:
quote:
Originally posted by Briantime:
When you were in your early learning stages, where did you find opportunities to taste good wines?


Good friends. My best resource by far.

Good clerks at good wine stores were another wonderful help to me. As they learned my preferences and we fine tuned that process, they were able to make wonderful recommendations for me across multiple price ranges.

400 wine tastings are virtually useless to me. The cattle call atmosphere, palate fatigue and overall overwhelming nature of these things long ago lost my interest.

PH


I can certainly see how 400 wines available for tasting my be a bit too much, or more than a bit :-)
 
Posts: 11 | Registered: Jul 03, 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Briantime, first off, welcome to the forums!

Binny's used to be a great learning experience when they had larger themed tastings at their various locations. I'm not sure of all the details why, but they are pretty much no longer allowed to have these events. What you see there now is usually one table of 4-6 wines on a saturday being poured into Nyquil cups. If you are familiar with Wine Discount Center, I believe they usually open 8-10 random bottles on Saturday afternoons. They usually have a good mix of types in the $10-$40 range. The Naperville location is only allowed to offer samples of three at a time.

The event Binny's is doing at Arlington will be the second one this year. Supposedly this one is going to have more wines, more people pouring and have capped ticket sales. I guess the one earlier this year was a real madhouse. As Purplehaze said, these types of events can be a little chaotic and after 15-20 samples you lose ability to taste the nuances in a lot of the wines.

Do you and your wife have a preferred style? Also, if you don't mind posting what general area of the 'burbs you are in, some people here can probably steer you to a good wine shop with knowledgable staff. Good luck!
 
Posts: 5517 | Location: Aurora, IL | Registered: Jul 29, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Brian - I think this question or something like this comes up every six months or so, so do a search and you'll find all kinds of ideas.

But in the fall, a lot of retailers are doing big events, often with a charity connection. Go to those. Go to all of them. The fact that there may be 500 wines poured is irrelevant. You don't need to taste all 500. Simply figure out before what you're interested in and taste those specific wines.

For example, say you want to taste CA Chardonnay. Look at the list and go to the tables and if they don't have CA Chardonnay, move on. The pick something else. Say Zin, or pick a region and taste wines from Ribera del Duero or Burgundy. Each time you have an opportunity to taste, do something like that.

Don't go to a table and taste their whites, their rosados, their reds, and then move to the next table. And don't worry too much about tasting the famous wines. It's nice to do so, but don't let that interfere with your learning. Use the opportunities to learn.

And spit!!! Most consumer events are filled with people who drink everything they can. They don't learn a damn thing about wine. If you want to learn, make those tastings your school.

And of course, ask questions. Sometimes the people pouring will really know their stuff. Not usually, but often enough to make it worth giving it a shot.

Finally, do as suggested and get some wine and open it and spend time analyzing the bottle. I kinda do that at home by myself tho. There are some people who can't look at a glass of wine w/out taking a picture and writing a tasting note. They think the whole point of wine is posting on what you just tasted.

It's not.

Don't forget to enjoy yourself.


"The best part is how he said the ENGLISH language. Fine irony. Use American next time."
 
Posts: 2662 | Location: NY | Registered: Dec 09, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Thanks so much for taking the time to give such complete responses. I really do appreciate it.

I am in the western burbs, Elmhurst specifically. There is a Sam's right down the street and the Binny's in Downers Grove is not far away either. I have been to a tasting at the Sam's. It was a nice time. There was a group of college kids there who apparently found a cheap way to get drunk and that was a little annoying, but nothing too serious. I would go again for the experience.

My wife and I share similar tastes with her being a little more reserved in her desire to try newer things. We enjoy Rieslings a great deal, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Shiraz, Beaujolais and Gruner Veltliner are also varieties we have really enjoyed. My wife has an unnatural fear of tannins, so that has limited our choices a bit :-)

Our number one favorite so far has been the Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Pinot (2008) we had at Maya Del Sol in Oak Park on our anniversary. It blew me away and fueled my desire for better wines, but at $65/bottle, I have to be wise about my choices.

Thank you for the tips on navigating the tastings as well. You are so right. About two thirds of the way through it, all the wines started to taste the same...

Again, your help is very much appreciated.


Brian
 
Posts: 11 | Registered: Jul 03, 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Originally posted by Briantime:
Thanks so much for taking the time to give such complete responses. I really do appreciate it.

I am in the western burbs, Elmhurst specifically. There is a Sam's right down the street and the Binny's in Downers Grove is not far away either. I have been to a tasting at the Sam's. It was a nice time. There was a group of college kids there who apparently found a cheap way to get drunk and that was a little annoying, but nothing too serious. I would go again for the experience.

My wife and I share similar tastes with her being a little more reserved in her desire to try newer things. We enjoy Rieslings a great deal, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Shiraz, Beaujolais and Gruner Veltliner are also varieties we have really enjoyed. My wife has an unnatural fear of tannins, so that has limited our choices a bit :-)

Our number one favorite so far has been the Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Pinot (2008) we had at Maya Del Sol in Oak Park on our anniversary. It blew me away and fueled my desire for better wines, but at $65/bottle, I have to be wise about my choices.

Thank you for the tips on navigating the tastings as well. You are so right. About two thirds of the way through it, all the wines started to taste the same...

Again, your help is very much appreciated.


Brian


you could have her give port a shot as I have the same fear of tannins.

however with port tastings you'd definitely need to spit!

I think the domaine serene evenstad can be had for only 35-40$ on retail.

restaurants probably are not the best places to go on a tasting spree due to mark up


This is my sig -> www.brownteacup.com
www.wsqwine.com
(Wine distributor)
 
Posts: 12367 | Location: NYC | Registered: Feb 16, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Originally posted by Briantime:
Does anyone know a good way to be able to sample better wines?


I can't believe I missed this one. OFFLINES!!! Even if you need to do your own, get a group of like minded friends together, have a little food handy and open a few bottles. The Chicago area has a vibrant wine community and I know they do offlines pretty frequently. Keep an eye on the boards and don't be shy!

Post a thread from time to time. I'd suggest in the Wine Conversations board, as you'll get more exposure. Someting like, "My wife and I really enjoyed <insert wine here> Can anyone suggest wines that are similar in profile and price range?

You'll be amazed at the level of expertise and helpfulness you'll get.

PH
 
Posts: 15313 | Location: Maryland, USA (DC suburbs) | Registered: Nov 22, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Originally posted by PurpleHaze:


I can't believe I missed this one. OFFLINES!!!


You really are getting old, and being retired does not help. Razz
 
Posts: 30280 | Location: Dallas, TX & Santa Fe, NM | Registered: Feb 21, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Originally posted by PurpleHaze:

You'll be amazed at the level of expertise and helpfulness you'll get.

PH


A great big +1 on that - for what it's worth from someone who was in your space not that long ago I've learned more, tasted and experienced more, and made more friends from these boards than I ever would have imagined. This community is pretty amazing and I highly recommend you get active in this forum.


"They speak of my drinking, but never consider my thirst..."
 
Posts: 1966 | Location: Austin, TX | Registered: Sep 07, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Originally posted by PurpleHaze:
I can't believe I missed this one. OFFLINES!!! Even if you need to do your own, get a group of like minded friends together, have a little food handy and open a few bottles. The Chicago area has a vibrant wine community and I know they do offlines pretty frequently. Keep an eye on the boards and don't be shy!


Briantime, keep an eye on the Off-Line Events area of this forum. We have a pretty regular group that gets together every month or so, usually at a restaurant and usually in your general area. Next time you see an event, throw your name down and come on out to an off-line. Everybody brings a wine (or wines) and you get to taste everything and meet the locals. You will be amazed at the generosity of the people you meet and the quality of the wine you will get to taste, including many wines that you would never otherwise have the chance to taste.

I think the next offline will be sometime the week of September 17th, so keep checking.
 
Posts: 3602 | Location: Algonquin, Illinois | Registered: Jan 06, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Thanks again for everyone posting and providing tips.

I love the idea of the off-line events. I would be happy to share some good wine with local enthusiasts. It sounds like a lot of fun and I will keep my eye out. It feels a little strange and hope I don't come across as inviting myself.

Thank you again...think it's time for some wine...hmmm....Elk Cove Pinot Blanc? That might just hit the spot :-)


Brian
 
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Originally posted by Briantime:

It feels a little strange and hope I don't come across as inviting myself.



Just about everyone here that has been to an offline has invited themselves. It's the only way we would know you were interested. Wink
 
Posts: 3602 | Location: Algonquin, Illinois | Registered: Jan 06, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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hart davis in chicago seems to have some pretty swanky tastings. Probably one of the cheaper ways to get exposure to higher end wines without needing to outlay for the purchase of wines unseen (or tasted).

http://www.hdhwine.com/hdh-events


If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door.
 
Posts: 468 | Location: Minneapolis | Registered: Aug 01, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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If you're in Elmhurst have you tried Tannin's? It's a wine bar with some events. Something there might be interesting.


"Wine, one sip of this will bathe the drooping spirits in delight beyond the bliss of dreams. Be wise and taste."
- Milton
 
Posts: 3496 | Location: NW Suburbs of Chicago | Registered: Aug 16, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Is Bin 36 any good? Seems interesting.


"The hardest thing to attain ... is the appreciation of difference without insisting on superiority" George Saintsbury
 
Posts: 1656 | Location: DC Suburbs, Potomac MD. | Registered: Dec 12, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Originally posted by Merengue:
Is Bin 36 any good? Seems interesting.


I like it quite a bit. They offer a lot of different kinds of wines in flights so good opportunities to compare kinds/styles of wine. Lots of snacking options to go around those. They have cheese flights also.

This reminds me of another place downtown - Avec. Not really structured for comparative tastings if I recall but a ton of different wines by the glass, so you could roll your own that way. Boisterous and fun.


"Wine, one sip of this will bathe the drooping spirits in delight beyond the bliss of dreams. Be wise and taste."
- Milton
 
Posts: 3496 | Location: NW Suburbs of Chicago | Registered: Aug 16, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Originally posted by thelostverse:
quote:
Originally posted by Briantime:

It feels a little strange and hope I don't come across as inviting myself.



Just about everyone here that has been to an offline has invited themselves. It's the only way we would know you were interested. Wink


Unless someone posts for an offline and specifically says: "Briantime is NOT invited."

Then it might be a little weird if you insisted.

I don't know if they're such a great way to learn about wine, but you should definitely go and meet some people and drink some wine!

And, there's no reason not to organize one yourself. Call around to some restaurants if you don't want to host at your house, and get some ideas as to what you'd be charged for corkage, if you can get a menu put together for some theme, etc. Then post some dates and ask if anyone is interested.

Or do it in reverse order - post suggested dates and wine suggestions and then figure out when and where.

A free-for-all works, or you can suggest 2005 red Burgundy or whatever. My suggestion is not to suggest Burgundy because it's better to have wines you'll actually enjoy, but that's up to you.

Ideally, you would go out and get some ribs and a few steaks. Then you'd announce a date and time when you'd BBQ those ribs all day long and offer about six or seven bottles of your own. Invite people to bring a bottle of something if they want to.

That's the ideal. If you fall short, there's always a next time!

Good luck.


"The best part is how he said the ENGLISH language. Fine irony. Use American next time."
 
Posts: 2662 | Location: NY | Registered: Dec 09, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Originally posted by GregT:
I don't know if they're (offlines) such a great way to learn about wine


The question was, "When you were in your early learning stages, where did you find opportunities to taste good wines?"

Back when I was beginning to get a little more interested in wine, having the ability to experience a broad range of wines with people who knew a good bit more than I did, and were able to make usually good recommendations (and selections for offlines Winner) was a great way to taste good wines. I didn't like them all, but they were mostly pretty damned good examples of their genre. I got a pretty quick idea of what tasted good to me at the time and what directions I was going to start with in beginning a cellar.

quote:
Originally posted by GregT:
you should definitely go and meet some people and drink some wine!


Cannot agree more. I've met more Grade A™ caliber folk at offlines than I ever could have imagined.

PH

<stumbles off Offline soakbox to the loo...> Red Face

PH
 
Posts: 15313 | Location: Maryland, USA (DC suburbs) | Registered: Nov 22, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Briantime, if you are still watching, check the Offline section. There is something in the works for Tuesday, September 18. No exact venue yet.
 
Posts: 5517 | Location: Aurora, IL | Registered: Jul 29, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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