Last week, Matt and I traveled to Chicago for my birthday. I was thrilled because we hadn’t been on a big trip together in over a year. However, the day before we were supposed to leave, I came down with a cold-y/sinus-y something awful that left me feeling drained and like my head was going to explode. I texted my friend in Chicago that I was sick and she asked if we were still going to go to which I said, “OF COURSE.” When I set my mind to something, I do it. I mean, sometimes with things I don’t really care about, I quit because I get bored, but I am serious about travel, so off we went.
When we got into town, we checked into our Airbnb which was in Wicker Park and close to tons of shops, bars and restaurants. After I downed three packs of emergen-c and some Dayquil, we headed out to meet my friend for drinks. She suggested this cocktail bar called Billy Sunday in Logan Square. They happened to be having a Campari event (have I ever mentioned how much I love Campari? I don’t think I have, but I could drink a negroni every day) so we ordered boulevardiers. Lots and lots of boulevardiers. They were delicious and I had convinced myself that the bourbon would help my cold-- I’ve watched Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, mind you. I ordered something else at one point, I think it was called a heart. All I can remember is that it had rum in it but it tasted like gin… Idk, I was pretty drunk.
The next day was my actual birthday and it started with a fucking hangover which was compounded by my cold. Every time I coughed, my head throbbed. Matt and I made eggs and then decided to go get gelato because, hey, it was my birthday. I wasn’t really feeling well enough to go to the museums or walk around much, so after gelato, we watched a few episodes of really old Law and Order (Criminal Intent, not SVU). Sidenote-- did you know Jeff Goldblum was on Law and Order in the early 2000’s? I did not! Eventually we left the house to walk around the neighborhood. We hit up my favorite bookstore in town, Myopic, and then found a bar called Links that I decided I needed to go into cause that’s my last name. It was really great and Matt had some local beer whereas I had something from Prairie Ales out of Oklahoma. After drinks, we headed to an early dinner at The Winchester. I drank the Tendu red blend from Matthiasson, which I’d first tried in KC and loved. We also tried an Amaro flight and soon realized Amaro was not our thing.
By Friday I was feeling much better and we actually spent most of the day out and about. We went to the Art Institute of Chicago, where I haven’t been in probably 12 years. Their modern wing was absolutely incredible, especially their Magrittes. Contemporary was great too and impressionist was amazing. After the museum, we walked around Millennium Park a little bit and then decided to check out a wine bar I had heard about. We went to Webster’s in Logan Square, a wine bar that focuses on natural and low-intervention wines. I flipped when I saw their wine list and immediately got a glass of this Georgian orange wine by Do-Re-Mi. I fell in love with Georgian orange wine in L.A. and have been told it is impossible to get in KC so I was thrilled to see it on the menu at Webster’s.
Do-Re-Mi uses traditional winemaking techniques that have been used in Georgia for forever. The wines ferment in Kvevri, large buried clay vessels. The juice is left to ferment with its skins for quite a while resulting in a deep orange-red hue. While the Do-Re-Mi smells floral like many orange wines, it tastes nothing like it smells. On the palate, it is super funky and tart like fresh rhubarb and underripe cherries. It has a full body, even for an orange wine, drinking much more like a light to medium-bodied red.
Matt and I decided to get a bottle so we skimmed the list and I think I shrieked when I saw one particular bottle on the wine list. It was the Cruse Wine’s Monkey Jacket, a Valdiguié blend from Michael Cruse that is hard to come by in general and nearly impossible in KC (unless you order from the coasts). Matt humored me and we got a bottle. Its bouquet was fucking beautiful. So bright and fresh, it smelled of red berry cobbler and juicy plums. On the palate, it is all currant jam and fresh sage. It is technically a blend of Valdiguié, Carignan, Tannat. Cruse is based in Petaluma, CA and focuses on sustainably producing natural wines. When I tasted the Monkey Jacket, all I could think was “holy fucking shit, this is good.” And that is the best feeling.
I was told by multiple people that I needed to check out Red and White Wine, a wine shop that focused on natural wines. Our last night, we decided to check it out and buy a few bottles to take to dinner at our friend’s house. I was overwhelmed by the quality of the selection at Red and White. I saw wines that I had only read about in the flesh, which is one of my favorite things. The main one that had me freaking out was La Boutanche by Selection Massale. I’d read about these wines and had seen them all over instagram but was told they couldn’t be imported to KC. I picked up the Gamay since Gamay is a favorite of mine. It was only like $18! We also grabbed a bottle of Dao by Casa De Mouraz, a natural and biodynamic winery out of Portugal.
The Dao paired nicely with the roast my friend made. It smelled like cranberries and pistachio while on the palate it tasted of anise and overripe bing cherries. It was so smooth and was just full-bodied enough to hold its own against the beef. We had the Gamay after dinner as we watched this Will Smith movie, Six Degrees of Separation (have you seen it? Super odd and interesting. Not what you would expect from Will Smith). The Gamay was so bright and fruity, smelling like fresh raspberries but tasting like watermelon and arugula, which sounds like the most incredible base for a salad. After Monkey Jacket, I would have to say the La Boutanche was my second favorite wine I had on the trip. It was just so damn drinkable (I may have even chugged some…)!
All right, I feel like I just wrote a novel about a five day trip, but I have to say, we packed a lot of eating and drinking into it. Although I was sick the majority of the trip, I had an amazing time. Chicago is one of my favorite cities and probably the out of state city I’ve visited the most. If you make it to Chicago, you have to check out Webster Wine Bar and Red and White Wines. I already miss them both dearly.