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Representing Ohio and Michigan at Bottlefork

I was in Chicago for a few days and using it as a base for my attendance at a Notre Dame football game. Since I was primarily there to hang out with friends and see the city and then tailgate and go to the game the next day, I didn’t seek out any area wineries. Though I have to tell you that on my drive through northern Indiana from Chicago to Notre Dame in South Bend, I saw signs for three wineries – Anderson’s Winery in Valparaiso, Butler Winery & Vineyards in Bloomington, and Shady Creek Winery in Michigan City. Tempting as it was to try stop, there was tailgating to be done and a football game to attend so these would have to wait for another visit.

But my wine taste buds did not have to suffer on this trip as excellent options for wine tasting in Chicago was not a problem. One evening I went to dinner at a trendy restaurant called Bottlefork. It’s located in the happening River North area of the city and is in the midst of many restaurants, bars, and clubs. While the reviews were good and it was packed (we had to wait about 35 minutes past our reservation time), I wasn’t all that inspired by the food. It all sounded great but the execution wasn’t all that memorable. I did have their “Bag of Crisps + Eggs” which was some house made potato chips seasoned with sea salt which was then shaken up with an over easy egg. After the waiter described it, I was intrigued and have to say it was the best thing I had of the various small plates we tried. While the other things I tried weren’t terrible, they just didn’t stand out to me. But I do think I would give them another shot if for nothing else but to try some of the many other things that interested me. Buffalo Chicharrones, anyone? So even though I wasn’t awed by the food, all was not lost. I absolutely loved their wine list and sometimes that’s enough.

I always like it when restaurants not only use some crowd pleasing favorites (you know, stuff from CA), but also focus on area wineries when crafting their wine lists. I was thrilled to find wines from Michigan and Ohio – and both were offered by the glass which was very important as my dining companion wasn’t quite as excited about these as I was.

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That they also had some wines by the bottle from places such as Greece and Lebanon only made it better.

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So while my first glass of wine was predictably a glass of Pinot Noir as I hung out and waited for my table, once I got seated and actually had time to thoroughly review the wine list, I made the discovery of these two surprise gems. The first wine post-Pinot Noir was a Dry Riesling from Chateau Grand Traverse in Michigan. Although described as dry, I picked up some sweetness (not overly so) which was actually quite pleasant. It was a very refreshing wine and went nicely with the aforementioned bag of crisps. I still had some left when the scallops arrived and that wasn’t a bad match either. Next was a Cabernet Franc from Firelands Winery in Ohio. As I’m a big fan of Cab Francs (they really don’t get enough love) I was so happy to see this. Love, love, love! Nice and juicy with lots of fruit. I must say that I was impressed with the entire selection of wines by the glass. It’s easy to have a diverse selection by the bottle but to offer such a diverse geographic representation, including places like Ohio and Michigan (not to mention Greece) by the glass, was nice to see. And one of my favorite things about picking up a wine list is finding many wines I’ve never heard of.

After I got home, I did some additional research on the wine industry in both Michigan and Ohio. Both states have extensive wine industries with seemingly well-traveled wine trails and a diverse selection of wines from which to choose. I can’t wait until my life finds me up north again and I’m able to experience these wine regions. That Firelands Winery is in Sandusky Ohio, home of the awesome Cedar Point Amusement Park, is just icing on the cake. Now that’s just too much fun in one city!

Enolo Wine Café

During my time in Chicago, I also made my way to Enolo Wine Café. This swanky wine bar is also located in the River North area of Chicago and would be perfect for a date night or just getting together a group of friends to have some wine.

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And while I didn’t eat here as I had dinner reservations elsewhere, they seemed to have a really nice menu with a respectable selection of small plates including some cheeses, charcuterie, and truffle fries (you just can’t go wrong with truffle anything). This would definitely be a great place to go for a lighter dinner or even a late night bite. I saw the waiters bringing around some bruschetta that looked amazing and the couple of salads I saw looked tasty as well. But I digress as I was here for the wine.

I was happy to see that in addition to the regular wine list, they had a selection of wine flights available. As I’ve said before, flights are a fantastic way to try a variety of wines without committing to a full glass. I wasn’t sure what I was in the mood for so it was a tough choice. They had available a “Bubbles of France” flight that featured (obviously) wines of the sparkling variety form France – Loire, Bordeaux, and Champagne to be exact. This is the one I really wanted to try, but I was pacing myself and bubbles always seem to go straight to my head. They also had a Rose flight which I was also very intrigued by. For white wines, they had three flights available called “Floral & Fruity,” “Textured & Complex,” and “Crisp & Sassy.” The Floral & Fruity jumped out at me as one of the wines available in that flight was a Malvasia from the Kozlovic Winery in Croatia. As I had been to that very winery and loved the wines from the very under-represented country of Croatia, I was quite excited. OK, these people were legit now! For red wines, they had four different flights available – “Light & Juicy,” “Well Traveled,” “The Usual,” and “Bold & Beautiful.”

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I was torn between the French bubbles, the Rose, the Light & Juicy, and the Well Traveled. Well, at least I’d narrowed it down to about half! I ultimately chose the “Well Traveled” and it ended up being an excellent choice.

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While I thought the Cab Franc would be my favorite, I ended up being quite taken with the Tempranillo. And that’s why you have to taste the wines. I definitely enjoyed hanging out and tasting and evaluating the wines. It’s dark in there, so the visual evaluation doesn’t work so well. But my nose and mouth worked just fine. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend this spot.

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