Friday, March 26, 2010

Moving Day!

Just a quick note to inform you that I am moving my host site from Blogger to WordPress. Still not quite sure what that means, but I am told that WordPress allows more flexibility and features to the blog. I hope you follow me to my new home! Here's a quick reminder of everywhere you can find me online.

Chicago Pinot 2.0: Available at

Facebook: Search for "Douglas Trapasso"

Twitter: Search for "demilove"

YouTube: Search for my new wine videos at "chicagopinot"

and you can still email me at

I hope we meet soon, either online, or in person at one of Chicago fine wine stores or wine events!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

It's Time for Open That Bottle Night!

What's the most romantic holiday occurring every February? As opposed to that Valentine thing, I would make a case for Open That Bottle Night, which restaurants and couples throughout the world celebrate on the last Saturday in February. Created by former Wall Street Journal wine columnists John Brecher and Dorothy J. Gaiter, OTBN is their invitation to create a bond between a memorable wine bottle, and the special people in your life.

John and Dorothy generously agreed to an email interview describing the evolution of OTBN.

How did you come up with the idea for Open That Bottle Night?

We listened to readers. When we began writing our “Tastings” column in 1998, we received the same question over and over again: “I have a cherished bottle of xxx that I received for my wedding (or was left by the father, etc.). When do I open it?” We always said the same thing: Open it this weekend and celebrate the memories that splash out! But finally we realized, wow, we should just all bite the bullet and open those bottles together. We set a date for September 1999 and the response was incredible. It turns out that everybody has a bottle like that!

What are some tips you have for making your OTBN extra special?

Open a bottle that really is special to you in some way, that brings back very special memories, that you might not otherwise ever open. This doesn’t necessarily mean the “best” bottle in your collection or the one that was most highly rated by someone else, but the one that will bring back the warmest, happiest memories.

Have you heard from wine stores and restaurants, regarding if
OTBN has provided any bump in business on that day?

Many restaurants over the years have had special events for OTBN and some – even the great Windows on the World -- waived corkage on that night. We certainly hope it helped business, but we know it made people happy and that’s always good for business.

Can you share some memorable stories from readers about their OTBN (or your own?)

We have always had a soft spot for John Watson. He wrote us the very first year about his special wine and added: “Had we found an occasion last year to open this great ‘gift of the grape,’ my bride of over 50 years could have been present to enjoy this event in person rather than in spirit only.” We kept in touch with Mr. Watson after that and, because of wine, he ended up meeting a woman, Mary, and they ultimately married. They sent us pictures of their wedding, which really touched us.

Have you found that certain regions or specific wines make frequent appearances at OTBN? What are some of the more unexpected wines you have heard have been served?

It depends on the year. During the fat years, there were a lot of cult Cabernets from California and first-growth Bordeaux. Jordan Cabernet has always been big. The biggest surprises to us are the ancient Blue Nuns and similar wines. We mean, gosh, it’s great that people are finally opening these wines, but what were they waiting for? It just goes to show that some wines, whatever they may be, are always too special to open.

Do you think there is something intrinsic about wine that makes it such a catalyst for memories, storytelling, laughter, that I have read in your book are often the best part of an OTBN?

Absolutely. Smells and tastes spark memories in a way few things do. Far too much discussion of wine focuses on vintages, reviews and hints of leather, but what people really love about wine is how very, very personal every bottle is and how it connects us with people, places and good times in a very special way. OTBN is one way to reconnect with those good times.

Michael Bottigliero, who writes an excellent blog called Windy City Wine Guy, described his special wine he will be tasting with his special recipe for Farfalle al Salmone e Piselli (please email me for the recipe!)

"For this I will be opening a bottle of '01 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo "Cicala". Barolo wines come from Piedmont in the Cuneo province, just southwest of Alba. They are made from the Nebbiolo varietal and produce wines which are lighter in color, but higher in acidity and tannin, and full bodied. They typically have essences of earth, roses and tar, along with ripe red fruit flavors. They react well with heavy sauces and both fat and proteins and the acidity matches well with tomato sauce. They were traditionally cellar aged for many years, to mellow the tannins and acidity, but new style producers have been making them a bit more ready to drink upon release, though it still is better that they age. Since the Cicala is an '01 vintage, I feel tonight is a great time to open it! I will be sharing it with my wife and a few candles, while we eat and watch our baby. Sounds like a great Saturday night to me!"

Another blogger you should read is author/poetress Jacquee T, who writes A Romantic's Perspective. Her thoughts should definitely inspire your Open That Bottle Night:

"This is a fabulous celebration because we all have “that bottle” we’d purchased and earmarked for a special occasion. That we’d stashed in a place distinguished from other wines, to be opened “when ....”

We have visions of “when” that precious bottle is to be uncorked. A step up in the career, a new home, a homemade dinner by candlelight. Or we might rely on knowing when “when” arrives when we see it.

Either way we envision the occasion as grand, and quaint. And the wine set aside for it to be delicious, better with age, better with prolonged anticipation.

Yet the genesis behind “that bottle” is the initial purchase.

One of my “that bottle’s” is from a trip to Spain. I love it because I’d purchased it during a magical trip. It could only be uncorked for a special occasion. Without that occasion, the bottle remained in its special place.

“Open That Bottle Night” asserts permission I haven’t given myself to make the wine the occasion.

Given that, I realize the biggest anticipation behind “that bottle” is the people with whom I want to share it. When I do, I will tell them, with a toast, why I invited them."

Please share with me your Open That Bottle Night stories, and I will include them in an upcoming post. And check out the Open That Bottle Night website!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Talking Valentines and Pinot with Anthony Terlato

Anthony Terlato, the Chairman of Lake Bluff based Terlato Wines International has earned a reputation for quality wines sourced from vineyards throughout the world. Some of the brands he markets include Domaine Chanson from France, Santa Margherita from Italy, Angelo Gaja's wines from Italy, the classic Champagne house Bollanger and the Rhone based Michel Chapoutier. He produces wine at his family owned wineries Rutherford Hill in Napa and Chimney Rock in Stags Leap and Sanford in Santa Barbara. He also bottles under his own family name Terlato Family Vineyards, with grapes grown in Sonoma, Santa Barbara and Napa Valley.

In his book, Taste: A Life in Wine, Mr. Terlato engagingly wrote about his fifty year career. Like the late Robert Mondavi, Mr. Terlato is one of a handful of American winemakers and executives who have promoted wine as a lifestyle; a desirable, almost necessary addition to the American diner's table.

With Valentine's Day approaching and the release of Terlato Family Vineyard's first Pinot Noir, Mr. Terlato graciously agreed to a phone interview to discuss romance, Pinot, his career, and of course, more PInot!

He first mentioned his preferences about Pinot Noir, and how he decided where to grow the grapes for this project. "I am a Francophile; I admire the California style of Pinot Noir, but prefer Burgundy. I represented some excellent Burgundy houses early in my career such as Louis Latour and Domaine Chanson. Several of my winemakers spent time in Burgundy houses, studying rootstocks and clones. We want to make the most French style possible and believe that the regions of Santa Barbara and the Russian River Valley are the most similar."

This follows a pattern that he has applied to his other Terlato Family wines; finding the best region to cultivate a specific grape whether it's Stag's Leap for his Cabernet, Rutherford Valley in Napa for his Chardonnay and Dry Creek Valley for his Syrah.

He described Pinot Noir as typically having a strawberry or raspberry aroma; using adjectives such as delicate, elegant and voluptuous; especially praising the wine of Domaine Trapet for its soft elegance. The best have a potential for aging that may not seem obvious at first because of their light color. "I still have some 1955's in my cellar that are softer now but more flavors become apparent over time."

Mr. Terlato didn't specific recommend a Pinot Noir for a Valentine's Day dinner, but did mention that it might be a more appropriate choice than some more "vigorous" wines. He didn't give specifics, but (listen up, guys!) I suspect a Cabernet or a higher alcohol Zinfandel might work better on another occasion.

After tasting his Russian River Valley Pinot, he recommended both some Old World producers (Domaine Dujac, Domaine Chanson in the Cote - d"Or) as well as the New World (Rochioli Vineyards from the Russian River Valley).

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bottlenotes Tasting at MCA

My favorite tasting event this summer took place June 26 at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The event called "Around the World in 80 Sips" was sponsored by Bottlenotes, an online wine store/community whose president, Alyssa Rapp I profiled last November for this blog.

Leaving aside the wine selection for a moment, I can compliment Bottlenotes and the event organizers for providing an excellent setting and atmosphere. The MCA provided plenty of space to move around, and seating in one of the back galleries where one could relax with some of the various breads and cheeses provided.

Bottlenotes also provided a booklet with details about many of the wineries featured. Many wines were poured by the actual winemakers or other staff, and they were pleased to answer all my questions (even the dumb ones; I am sure I asked some of those too!)

I took the opportunity to expand my palate by trying wines from countries such as Greece and Thailand, which are not always easily available. My favorite wine of the evening was a Pinot Noir (lucky guess!) from the Santa Lucia Highlands called Notoriety. Normally I am partial to the Burgundian (rocks, mushrooms, earch, etc.) style of Pinot over the more opulent California ones, but this had a little mixture of both, subtle cherry and blackberry fruit, and plenty of that sandy, stony French texture.

Hopefully, Bottlenotes will return to the MCA for another worldwide tasting next year!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

BOKA Blind Tasting - Can you Name That Wine?

Can you name that wine?

A popular parlor game among wine nerds is "blind tasting"; the identifying of a wine simply by observing and tasting it. And by "identifying", I mean not only the grape variety, but also the country and vintage of the wine.

As a sommelier in training (assuming I survived my first WSET test on August 2), I figured I should start practicing this, and Boka Restaurant on 1729 North Halsted is helping my untrained taste buds by hosting a free "Taste Your Palate" contest the first Tuesday of each month. The most accurate taster each month receives a $100 gift certificate to Boka; all players receive $10 off a $25 or more check if used the night of the contest.

Just before the August 4 tasting, I spoke with Matt Schneider, General Manager and Wine Director of Boka, to explain the game to me, and hopefully pick up some pointers.

There are four wines featured each month, and each player needs to identify the grape each wine is made from, and whether it comes from an Old World or New World country. Old World refers to countries such as France, Germany and Italy, i.e., they have made wine for hundreds, of years. Schneider identified some Old World wine characteristics which could include a rustic,
"barnyard" aroma, and more of a mineral feel on the palate. Wine made in New World countries (such as Austrailia and the United States) generally play up the fruit and structure.

Schneider advises wine consumers to take notes, take the opportunity to try new wines, and if a wine particularly impresses you, to research it online.

Join the Chicago Crushpad Team!

The grapes for our wine will come from this vineyard, called Two Pisces!

If you ever wanted to create a wine from scratch, without the expenses of land and labor, then you need to seek out Crushpad. Located in San Francisco, this is a "custom crush" facility in which makes wine for clients all over the country. You can delegate the winemaking as an individual or part of a team, and the Crushpad staff will customize your order based on your requests.

A Chicago team is currently forming, and I had the pleasure of interviewing via email, the team's coordinator, Carol Ludwick.

How did you first come aware of Crushpad?

I read about the company several years ago and was intrigued from the start, but I joined a winemaking group for the first time last year when my husbandand I made Pinot Noir with a group out in San Francisco.

Take me through the process of how the Chicago team will make our wine.

We've been assigned an awesome winemaker, Chris Nelson, who is a master with Pinot Noir. (He did ours last year as well.) He'll be leading us through the process from grape to glass. We'll start with a kick off party on September 9 at Taste Food and Wine where we'll taste barrel samples from a 2008 vintage produced from the same vineyard, Two Pisces (Sonoma), as our wine this year. He'll be sending either a video or notes for me to present and we'll learn how Pinot Noir is made, what makes it different/more finicky than other wines, etc.

As the grapes mature, we'll be sent samples from our vineyard so we can taste them, and we'll be able to attend a virtual Crush Camp where members of the team can watch the sorting process live and ask questions. Members will have access to the abundant information on the Crushnet sitewhere they'll find what's called Winemaker's Minutes, segments that explain each step of the winemaking process. We will all become familiar with terms like de-stemming, cold soak, punch downs, brix and more.

We'll be having a label design contest with the winner receiving 6 bottlesof our wine! This is a great opportunity for local artists to enjoy a bounty of premium wine while earning recognition for their work.

The group will receive on-line updates about the progress of the wine as it makes its way from vineyard to bottle.

We'll be able to watch the bottling live via Crush Cams.

All group members will receive a tee shirt with the Community Crush Chicago design. We'll celebrate next year with a big release party when our wine arrives.

What variety of grape will you work with, and have you tastedother wines made from that region/grape?

Crushpad has allocated a barrel of Pinot Noir from the Two Pisces Vineyard in Sonoma. This 10-acre biodynamically farmed vineyard sits on the southwestern edge of Petaluma. In this section of Sonoma, very chilly ocean breezes and fog are funneled through the Petaluma Gap, keeping temperatures up to 15 degrees cooler than the rest of the county. The moderate rainfall totals and cooler weather conditions are idyllic for growing high-quality Pinot Noir. This rolling hillside property features a variety of Dijon clones planted on 101-14 and SO4 rootstocks. I am a big fan of Pinot Noir and have enjoyed many from the Sonoma region.Our group will get to taste barrel samples from that same vineyard at our opening party.

What can participants learn about wine through their involvementwith a Crushpad team?

The beauty of it is, as much as they want to! I'm a wine geek, so I read every one of the Winemaker's Minutes so I could become familiar with the more technical side, but participants can dip in to the website and read blogs, connect with other wine lovers and learn as much as their interest allows.

What is the cost to participate on your team? How can one register?

There is no cost to join the group, but we ask that participants agree to purchase at least one bottle of the wine, which is $26. You can register at Crushnet via this link:

When you are done bottling your project, do you think you will drink your share right away, or will you cellar some of your bottles?

I've signed up for a 1/2 a case, so I will for sure be cellaring some of them to enjoy down the road.