5/23/09

the unhearalded wine country of Lakeview

the chicago neighborhood i live in is known as the home to lots of things - Wrigley Field, Boystown, and Ronnie Woo Woo, to name a few.

what's remained largely unrecognized until today, however, are the neighborhood's wineries. turns out, the locals have been producing wines that stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the finest in the world. so we did a winery tour. our first stop was a family-owned winery called "WineStyles."
this winery is growing grapes on the south side of Belmont Street, and while you'd think some of the taller rehabs in the area would create too much shade, that's simply not the case. their tasting room features a chiller.
some of the wines were quite pleasing. however, based on our experience today, some of the employees at the WineStyles vineyard may have accidentally fallen in the chiller for 7 minutes.
next on our winery tour was Howard's, which uses the more fertile south-facing side of Belmont Street. i asked the vintner there how much longer the growing season is vs. the other side of Belmont. he just smiled - trying to keep his competitive advantage, i s'pose.
judging by the dominant flora and fauna (not to mention concrete and asphalt) of Southport Street, one would assume it to be unwelcome terrior for a grapevine, yet in the midst of this challenging environment is the winery known as "Que Syrah." (Syrah - like the wine, i believe.) though Que Syrah doesn't have an abundance of real estate, they make the most of it by barrel fermenting off-site. in fact, there was not even a single trellis visible to the naked eye.
we only had time for one more vineyard before calling it a day, and while we know the winemakers at Arminetti (located on quiet Lincoln Avenue near Addison Street) have received rave reviews for their recently released meritage, we chose Galleria - another product of Southport Street - to compare the differences with Que Syrah's offering. i for one am glad we did, as they compared quite favorably.
by the end of our tour, i'd collected my bounty. from Howard's, i chose their Alto Montoya Veraton varietal. sure, it's from the young vines, but the old vine version was twice the price without being twice as good. from Que Syrah, i added their Edmeades Zinfandel - a complex character you would never have guessed was grown right here in chicago. the contribution from the Galleria wine family was the Velvet Devil - a merlot, yes, but a spicy merlot.

overall comments: a few bed and breakfasts would certainly add to the allure of the territory. but all in all, it was nice to visit a wine country that wasn't dominated by professional tour guide companies. i'd highly recommend visiting while this undiscovered wine region remains undiscovered.

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