“Mine Eyes do Smell Onions” – OR – Rogue Valley Wine

September 21, 2009 at 9:27 am (Current Events, What we are thinking) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

by Jane

What a great line. Lafew, an emissary of the King of France, says these words in a tender moment at the end of Shakespeare’s Alls Well That Ends Well. Lafew, a rather rigid and impersonal sort, shows his soft-side (as well as his desire to hide said side), by blaming his tears on onions. This line also displays the culinary and gustatory thread through many of Shakespeare’s plays: from [spoiler alert!] Tamora eating her own sons baked in a pie in Titus Andronicus to the illusory feast of the sprites in The Tempest. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Wizards of OZ

September 21, 2009 at 9:20 am (Current Events, Our Favorite Things, What we're drinking) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Thirsting for Aussie wine and wildly exciting times at your favorite wine shop?  Well, we have the Wizards on call and slated to raise a ruckus at LUSH.  Drink up and sip with us and a handful of the world famous winemakers at a complimentary wine tasting and edumacation in all things fermented from Down Under.  Choose your LUSH location and your particular yummy, juicy poison…luscious refreshment from Longview Vineyard and racy, spikey wine from Pikes…OR…quirky, funky Hay Shed Hill with classics done with a twist and the circus freaks of Vinaceous with a side of prim and proper Maude.

WEDNESDAY, September 23rd, 2009

6-8pm

University Village: 1257 South Halsted [Peter Bentley of Pikes and Mike Saturno of Longview].  RSVP – 312.738.1900, erin@lushwineandspirits.com

AND

Roscoe Village:  2232 West Roscoe [Michael Kerrigan of Vinaceous/Hay Shed Hill and Dan Dineen of Maude].  RSVP – 773.281.8888, rachel@lushwineandspirits.com

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Swan Creek Chef Auction

September 10, 2009 at 10:35 am (Current Events, Our Favorite Things, What we are eating, What we're drinking) (, , , , , , , )

Recently, a local farmer suffered the tragedy of having his truck and all his produce burst into fire.  To help him out, 15 Chicago chefs donated a private, in-home dinner to an online auction on Twitter.  All proceeds directly benefit Swan Creek Farms and help the farmer to get back on the streets delivering delicious goods to our favorite dining establishments.

It just so happens that Carrie and Joe Becker bid on the dinner with Chris Pandel of The Bristol.  And, it just so happens that Carrie and Joe Becker are dear friends of the Lushes.  Ms. Erin, Ms. Jane, and Ms. Rachel were graciously extended an invitation to join in the dining and drinking extravaganza.  Of course, it was BYOB…

8 guests, copious amounts of food, and 14 bottles later…

Read the rest of this entry »

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Random Snippets: Edition #4

September 8, 2009 at 4:47 pm (Current Events) (, , , , , )

by Rachel

Just got word…Rioja, Spain will allow bottlings of Chardonnay to be labeled as Rioja beginning with the 2010 vintage.

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Drinking at Work: Israel

September 8, 2009 at 4:44 pm (What we are thinking, What we're drinking) (, , , , , )

Happy Thursday, y’all! To celebrate the approaching weekend (and my victory over a tower of boxes), we’re popping open a few bottles. Stacking, cleaning, sniffing, slurping…it’s all in a day’s work at LUSH.

But, what to open? Something eccentric…something not often had…something, perhaps, WHITE, to juice what feels like the last days of summer…aha, perfect! Two new whites from ISRAEL. These beauties have just landed in the country and have promptly found a home at LUSH, friend to all wines novel, obscure, and delicious.

Chilled and opened: the 2008 Pelter Sauvignon Blanc and the 2008 Tulip Winery ‘White Tulip’. The former is from Galilee, in the high basalt land of the northern Golan. Fresh cut grass and white grapefruit on the nose, with a light, bright body. Only 11.4% alcohol, which makes me happy (and would make me even happier after the second glass). A delightful wine.

The ‘White Tulip’ is a blend of 60% Gewurztraminer and 40% Sauvignon Blanc, from the upper Galilee. Floral and earthy on the nose. Like muddy lilacs. Maybe with a little bit of honey and pear skin. A little prickly acid on the front palate that mellows out. Sweet spices on the mid palate (Cardamom? Cinnamon?) that dry out on the back. Very clean, but lingers in the upper reaches of the mouth. Delicious!

Posted by Jane.

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Shower beer.

September 8, 2009 at 4:42 pm (Beer, Current Events, What we are thinking, What we're drinking) (, , , , )

by Erin

There are plenty of Friday nights when the rest of the world is out pounding the pavement, drinking it up at bars, clubs, rock venues, and house parties all over the city. Drinking, and probably drinking too much. After all, it’s the weekend! What we work for all the week. A time to unwind, be social, and do things ill-advised for tamer evenings, like Tuesdays.

Unless you work in the hospitality industry, that is. We of the bizarro schedules are usually working our hardest on Fridays and Saturdays, while early on in the week–school nights!–are usually the best times to really tie one on, if so inclined. It is a fine balance; plenty of my friends work ‘normal people hours’ and as such they expect me to come hit it, hard, with them on weekend nights. And sometimes I join them, occasionally making a visit to Jim’s Original before the Sunday shift a complete and total restorative necessity. All that said, there are plenty of weary Friday evenings when I refuse to join the crowds and instead opt to settle in, have a glass of wine, maybe two, and conk out.

When thinking of drinking, I feel like many people have some idea about when it ‘should’ occur. Of course, this idea varies tremendously across different cultural groups. Many French will drink some wine with lunch, while here in the States, we joke about having to wait until 5 PM to have a cocktail–and then go get obliterated. For me, I sometimes opt out of when it’s ‘normal’ to have a few drinks, like on the weekends. But I do sometimes just want some wine, or a beer. In the morning. And so, if I am not heading to work, I have one! And that, my friends, is balance– don’t drink if you don’t feel it. And have a beer if you want one. I recommend the lazy morning shower beer, personally*. Try it out sometime!

*A special occasion variation is the shower flute of Champagne.

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Drinking at Work: Rodenbach Grand Cru

September 8, 2009 at 4:41 pm (Current Events, Our Favorite Things, What we're drinking) (, , , )

By, Colyn and the “Employee of the Year,” Kelly

It is important at any given shift at LUSH to imbibe in some delicious potables.  Colyn and I (or Kelly and I, depending on who is writing at any given moment) have a tradition of sharing a beer and enjoying Jim’s.  However, today Kelly is resisting the call of Jim’s sweet sweet hot dogs and only indulging in delicious beer.  Rodenbach Grand Cru to be exact.  Mmmm sour ales!  How wonderfully perfect on a Friday evening in fall, oops, it’s still August, but you know what we mean.  Pause for sip.  Colyn believes it smells like a track with a hint of gym shoe (in a good way, ie, not Colyn’s gym shoe).  Kelly (giving Colyn a sideways glance at that last comment) believes it has more of a stinky sour patch kid.  Yum, so tart and refreshing.  Actually, it’s really refreshing.  Probably one of few dark, oak aged beers that you can say that about.  We would love to write more and explain how it tastes in many details, but alas, there is work to do and the bottle is still full.  Come check it out for yourself, it’s well worth it, we promise.

Happy Friday everyone!  High Fives all around!

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A Quick and Dirty Intro to Bordeaux

September 8, 2009 at 4:40 pm (French Wine, What we are thinking) (, , , , )

In honor of our Merlot tasting this week, we thought we’d talk a bit about this grape’s birthplace and noble heritage, which lie in the tumultuous and prestigious river banks of Bordeaux. Being the largest fine wine region in the world, and having no fewer than 57 appellations to speak of, with loads of history, intrigue, and hype, Bordeaux can be a little bit intimidating to the everyday wine drinker. But lucky for us, there are a few sweeping generalizations that can be made about Bordeaux, which can help us to get a grasp on this all too mysterious region.

Let’s talk about the rivers: Bordeaux is cut down the center by the Gironde Estuary, which splits apart into the Dordogne River and the River Garonne. You’ll hear a lot of wine folks talk about Bordeaux in terms of ‘Right Bank’ and ‘Left Bank’, and the land that straddles these rivers is exactly what we’re talking about. The Left Bank/Right Bank distinction, however, is not just something wine snobs throw around to look smart: it is the most fundamental step to understanding Bordeaux. Not only does a huge shift in terroir occur from one bank to the other, there is also a major switch in terms of grape variety planted (and if you master this one little bit of information, you will know a lot more about Bordeaux than you think!): Merlot is the dominant planting on the Right Bank, and Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant planting on the Left Bank.

If you can remember a few other differences between the Left Bank and Right Bank, you’ll have enough info to not only make some educated wine decisions, but also impress friends at cocktail parties (well, maybe).

Left bank:

  • Planted largely to Cabernet Sauvignon, with some Cab Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Malbec.
  • Gravelly top soil with a limestone bedrock. The stony top soil makes the vines reach down deep for their nutrients, creating a more desirable environment for old vines that create age-able wines.
  • Generally flat
  • Most famous regions: Medoc, Graves, Sauternes, St. Estephe, Paulliac, Margaux, St. Julien
  • All the original chateaux from the original 1855 classification are on the Left Bank.

Right Bank:

  • Planted largely to Merlot, with a lot of Cab Franc, some Cab Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, and Malbec.
  • Limestone emerges at the surface here (rather than being buried, as it is on the Left Bank). Gravel is less predominant. The only exception is the Pomerol (called by some a mini-Medoc), where a tributary of the Dordogne has dumped millions of tons of gravel and created a bed rock of sandy clay deposits and a layer of iron rich sands.
  • Generally flat as well, with the exception of St. Emilion and Cotes de Castillon, which make a dramatic slope toward the river.
  • Most famous regions are St. Emilion, Pomerol, and Fronsac.

Both the Left Bank and the Right Bank are home to some fantastic wines (and even — shocker! — some good value wines). And the best way to get a grasp on the differences is to taste, taste, taste. Hard work, we know.

Posted by Jane.

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On Plastic Cups

September 8, 2009 at 4:35 pm (Our Favorite Things, What we are thinking, What we're drinking) (, , , , , , , )

by Jane

As much as ‘wine people’ talk about the right glassware to drink out of, with our cognac glass different than our American whiskey glass, our Cabernet glass different than our Burgundy glass, there comes a time when we all drink wine out of a plastic cup (or maybe even paper!). Perhaps it’s a street fair; it’s a concert in the park; it’s a Sunday picnic. In these situations, it is ridiculous to even think about the ‘proper’ glassware. But the question arises: if you know that you’re going to be drinking out of a plastic cup, what do you drink? If you know that the ‘glassware’ d’jour is actually plastic and horribly unsuited for fully expressing a wine (yes, I am a wine geek at heart), what do you choose?

I was presented with this exact conundrum the other day when heading to an outdoor concert at Grant Park with my family. A casual picnic dinner that needed a couple bottles of wine (and, of course, my parents volunteered me to provide said bottles). So what tastes best out of a plastic cup?

And there lies the answer: what tastes best. The aroma is going to be lost to some extent. The slanted little sides of a plastic cup provide no room for swirling; all the luscious smells fall flat and recede against them. So you need a wine that is both wildly aromatic (to get even a faint hint of what the smell should be), but more importantly, super flavorful. Subtlety is lost in plastic cups. And younger wines tend to work better. Nothing that needs any ‘opening up’ is going to work. You don’t bring a decanter to a picnic.

And, I suppose, the most obvious answer to the question at hand is also: something cheap. Because, let’s face it, you’re really not getting all that the wine has to offer.

So, armed with these general notions, I chose the following for a Friday night listening to music in the rain at Grant Park:

1. 2008 Scarpetta Pinot Grigio, Friuli, Italy

Probably the weakest choice of the three. A little too subtle on both the palate and the nose to beat the plastic cup. A truly lovely wine, though! I am a huge fan of all the Scarpetta stuff. Very tropical on the nose, with notes of papaya and pineapple. Delicate and fat on the palate, with fruitiness up front balanced by a bitter floral finish and great stony acidity. Lavender, pear, and even a leesy note. Just awesome.

2. 2008 Tcherga Cab/Merlot Rosé, Bulgaria

Totally worked in a plastic cup! You still got faint hints of watermelon and strawberry on the nose. A less acidic rosé than most, with a nice roundness and a hint of sweetness. Very playful and fresh. Great with a shrimp salad and some fresh fruit.

3. 2008 Forlorn Hope Suspiro del Moro, Lodi, California

My favorite of the three. This is a light, young, fresh, low alcohol red that is outrageously flavorful and aromatic. Smokey, with loads of grilled strawberries and raspberries, and a chalky minerality. Pristine, plush texture. Goes down easy and invites sip after sip. The plastic cup had nothing on this wine.

The night was a smashing success, and everyone really liked all three wines. And no one had any idea how much thought went into choosing what wine they would be drinking out of a plastic cup.

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Mission Ploussard: Drink it.

September 8, 2009 at 4:32 pm (Current Events, Our Favorite Things, What we are thinking, What we're drinking) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

by Rachel

Get your WINE GEEK on: Grape of mystery… Ploussard is on my mind. One of the lushes has requested a number of specific bottles, from a specific producer…a bottle she drank at a restaurant in New York City. So, I consider it a personal mission to track this wine down.

2007 Philippe Bornard ‘Point Barre’, Arbois Pupillin, Jura, France

So, I do know that Jura, France is a fairly small wine region 80 kilometers east of Burgundy, tucked into the Alps, just outside of Switzerland. Other than that, I have sipped on Chardonnay from Arbois, the town on the north side of the Jura wine region, and we currently offer a bottling by Rijckaert. Super tasty. But, I digress. This intriguing and complex little place apparently only grows Chardonnay and Savagnin as the official white grapes and Ploussard/Poulsard, Trousseau, and Pinot Noir as the official red grapes. And, vin Jaune, a wine very similar to Sherry, is another bizarro traditional libation. Wha? Labeling is a bit wonky, too, but I will not accost you with nitty gritty details, but do inquire if you would like more details.

Every so often, us Lushes will stumble upon a grape that we have never previously tasted, and very rarely something we have not heard of, but it’s not everyday that the complete trifecta of obscure, and tiny, wine region jumps us on knowing the grapes and style of wines, too. Back to my focus, the elusive Ploussard…red wines, vinified as such, are often pale enough and labeled as if they were pink. Yep, confusing. The soils range from limestone to clay and marl, the gently rolling Jura hills begin reaching taller into the Alps. The cool climate produces bouncy, lightly tinted, but fairly high acid, tannic reds. The reds are aged in large, old oak foudres and often bottled and released prior to the whites. Ploussard, although I have never tasted and therefore can’t really personally attest to this, but trust the tasting notes of those familiar with the region and the grape, tends to taste of raspberry or red currant, and smoke, and may show oxidized characteristics. And, apparently, the wine pairs smashingly well with charcuterie and smoked sausage. Basically, I have now discovered that at least one bottling of Ploussard from Arbois lurks in Chicago, but not the label I am searching for and I still have yet to taste this curious beast. So, bring it on! I want.

Cheers, rd

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