Seven Notes on Chicago, Wine and Winter Coats

A few notes from my current sojourn in Chicago…

Note #1: Illinois Wine Consumers Rock

Illinoisans tend, in general, to appreciate, be connected to and understand politics better than other city dwellers. This was most certainly brought home to me as I've met a number of wine-loving Illinoisans who are not only irked by their recently reduced access to wine in the state, but seem to understand the nuances of why they were stripped of their access to wine recently. And the word is that they have no interest in sitting around and taking it for much longer.

Note #2: Obama Owns This Town

When I studied Diplomatic History in College I recall looking at many old photos of Moscow during the reign of Stalin. No matter where you went, you'd see the ruler's image on posters, sides of buildings…everywhere. Chicago is not much different today where President-Elect Obama is concerned, except for that small matter of Obama having actually been elected democratically. The Coming President's image is everywhere: posters, tee-shirts, banners, billboards. I don't recall ever seeing an American city so fully embracing a politician as their own

Note #3: Chicago's Arresting Development

It seems no matter what corner you turn in Chicago you are faced with a unique cityscape that is arresting. It's a matter of pride, competition and willingness where architecture is concerned. While architectural themes run through this city's many great structures, there is no common theme making most views of the city as far from monotonous as could be. It makes for slow walking, an arrested gate, many stops along the way and great city viewing.

Note #4…But Wouldn't Want To Live Here
I would a different person were I forced to live through a Chicago winter. Just the taste I got the past couple days of the cold, wind and snow reminds me of the "weather pussy" I've become having lived in Northern California all my life.

Note #5: A Great Wine City

Probably the best indication of just how great a wine city Chicago is can be understood by the amazing array of restaurants this city houses. It is fantasy land for the Foodie which means it is a relative fantasy land for the wine lover. Of course, Chicago's selection of wines seems to be much more partial to diversity than in my neck of the woods, where preference is given to locally made wines. Chicago impresses with its willingness to accept inventory from both east and west of it.

Note #6: Winter Coats Galore
Anyone looking to enhance their collection of winter coats ought to come to Chicago just for this reason. Upon telling a lovely friend of mine I needed a new overcoat, she insisted I wait to buy one until I arrived here. She was sage. The selection of fine winter outerwear on display in this city is remarkable. I picked up two.

Note #7: The Suffering Must End

As many of you know, Illinois recently barred its residents from purchasing wine from out-of-state wine retailers. It was a bad decision that cost wine lovers hear access to many wines, cost the state significant amounts of tax revenue, and further damaged the reputation of the state and, if possible, many of its lawmakers. The suffering of wine lovers that came with the new anti-consumer, anti-free trade, protectionist law must end. And by all indications that I've gathered since arriving, there is a good chance it will.

10 Responses

  1. Rob - November 18, 2008

    This seems to be an ongoing trend of states trying to stop people drinking wine from somewhere else. I don’t get it, what’s the rational? Do states think that the revenue driven to in-state retailers will increase? Or that wines that aren’t distributed in their state will somehow magically find distributors? Very strange…

  2. Chicago Pinot - November 18, 2008

    Hi Tom! Enjoy your stay here in Chicago. Email or call me if you want to taste some wine (I should be free after 9PM the next couple of nights)
    Douglas aka Chicago Pinot

  3. Dylan - November 18, 2008

    It’s not just living in California. I went to college in Boston, which in winter can be windier than Chicago (the ‘windy city’ actually refers to the political nature of the city). Wind is the ultimate kill-joy of winter, it takes what can be an enjoyable cold day and turns it into a nightmare.
    Good investment on the two winter coats, I assume that’s so you could double-up.

  4. Martin - November 18, 2008

    Oh, ChiTown. Yes, people have already nested for the winter. (In the summer people are constantly outdoors.) My favorite thing about my town is the wine and food people. The folks that spark the engine of the industry have the midwestern kindness and a combination of east-coast intelligence and west-coast sense of adventure.
    I hope you have time to get out into the neighborhoods, that’s the real Chicago.

  5. Nancy - November 19, 2008

    Funny you should mention Chicago and wine.
    I just had the brilliant idea that I’d like to teach a couple of wine classes at our local suburban park district, and maybe even include tastings along with that. Then I surfed over to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission’s webpage.
    My, they have a lot of rules. To jump start my little idea, I would have to get (read: buy) a Tasting Representative’s license, but I can’t do that unless I am an “agent” of a retailer that already has an off-premise liquor license, etc., etc., (read: $$$). I can just see myself walking into Joe’s (or whoever’s) Liquors and asking if I can be their agent, so I can do my little class at the park district.
    Do you think people would come out on frigid Chicago winter nights for a “Wine 101” seminar that only included information, but not wine? Talk about dry.

  6. tish - November 20, 2008

    Did you happen to visit the store Just Grapes? People automatically point to Sam’s and Binny’s as great stores, but Just Grapes (downtown)seems to have a great system of keeping only about 300 wines in stock. WHen one goes out, if it is no onger available, it gets replaced with a wine of simpliar style. Net result, the entire universe of wine is accessible to customers at all times. They run good tastings too.

  7. Paolo B - November 20, 2008

    This time I agree with you Tom. ChicTown is a classy city with warm people (downtown or suburbs) and a lot to do. Definitely there is a culture about wines and about food. The only thing I disagree with you is point #4… but hey I live in Boston and here you can chill your b____ (brain) too… and in the end some cold air clears up your mind as well.

  8. Christina - November 21, 2008

    I laughed pretty hard when I read why you wouldn’t want to live here. Didn’t we have that conversation recently?
    Next time you’re in Chicago you know you have a place to stay!
    To Nancy: Twice a year I teach ‘dry’ Wine 101 classes for a local library and a park district and we book up solid everytime. Chicagoans are thirsty to learn!

  9. Lauren - December 2, 2008

    Hi Tom,
    I am really enjoying your blog.
    I used to live in Chicago, relocated to LA, and am now in England where it’s cold but not AS cold as Chi! However, I will be spending a significant part of December in Chicago and will be doing some wine blogging. I’m glad you agree there is a serious wine and food culture in Chicago – it’s one of my favorite things about the city.

  10. Joel Alexander - April 26, 2011

    Hi Tom,
    I hope you had a great Easter holiday. I thought I’d send you a quick note that might be a fun story for your blog followers. Second Glass, as you may know, is bringing the Wine Riot US tour to Chicago at the Great Hall at Union Station on May 21st; from 1-5 pm and 7-11 pm. Wine Riot is a huge, innovative and interactive wine event in five cities across the US, all with the goal of getting people to drink more wine.
    Wine Riot is a not-so-typical expo style wine tasting, where people can discover new wines, remember what they drink and connect with friends. It features over 250 awesome wines from all over the globe and the event is expected to have a turnout of over 2,000 people. Wine Riot is not just about tasting the wine either, Second Glass encourages learning about the wine you’re drinking yet still have fun doing so. This is why at each Riot you will find their “Crash Course Wine Seminars” which offer a complimentary guided tasting with stellar tips for each Rioter to take with them.
    Second Glass developed a mobile app that lets visitors quickly and easily remember every wine they try. The app has every wine name and image pre-loaded so all visitors need to do is mark “like it” or “love it” on their phone and BOOM! It’s saved forever!
    Also at the event is the “Wine Intelligence Unit,” a group of people at the event who know everything there is about wine and want to spread their knowledge to others. The event also features food from the Chicago’s hottest local restaurants, DJ, lounge and photo booth with fun props.
    Prices for the Wine Riot are also only $50! For ticket and more information visit:
    Let me know what you think!
    All the best,
    Joel Alexander
    Second Glass Wine Riot

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