80 Sips Challenge Chicago

“Oh I see the light, or maybe it’s that bottle of wine.”
– Motel Motel

A few weeks ago, I mentioned a wine tasting challenge (really the kind I most excel at) presented by Bottlenotes and Cheeky Chicago.  Two friends and I attended the 80 Sips Chicago Challenge kickoff party at Hub51, enjoying Hub’s tasty appetizers as well as two selections from Domaine Carneros.  Domaine’s winemaker, TJ Evans was on hand to highlight the featured selections of the evening, the 2006 Sparkling Brut Cuvee and the 2008 Pinot Noir.  We liked the Brut, but the Pinot Noir was especially sippable, ending in Domaine Carneros’ signature tobacco notes.

Several chilly days later, Annie, Martha, and I meet to continue the challenge at Maude’s Liquor Bar, which has been all abuzz in Chicago of late.  The Windy City breeze smacks a little harder as we discover Maude’s is closed Mondays.  On to Gilt Bar!  It seems we are the only three in the city wanting to start the week off on the right wine note, as Gilt is also closed to the dismay of our palettes and numbing limbs.  Back to Hub51 for us!  While we don’t attempt a visit to Naha, I’m compelled to include that I’ve had probably favorite meals in the city there.

Thankfully, Hub’s doors are open and the wine is flowing…all this winter walking has us quite parched.  We nibble on sushi and salads while indulging in all six wines listed on the special 80 Sips Challenge menu.

Each wine is delicious and a distinctive representation of its varietal.  I am hard pressed to choose favorites, although the Domaine Pinot feels like an old friend having tasted it the previous week and the Brancott Sauv Blanc is an elegant example of my go-to white.  I am generally a fan of anything Montelena, and while I am wishing for their Chardonnay, the Riesling does not disappoint.

Here are my notes for the evening:

La Rocca Pinot Grigio 2009 – A clean and striking balance between salty mineral and juicy pear.

Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc – 2009: Smooth Sauvignon Blanc with an apple influence, plenty of acidity, and a toasted, smoky finish.

Chateau Montalena Riesling – 2009: Leave it to Chateau Montelena to convert a non-Riesling fan in one glass. Crisp and not overly sweet, this Riesling delights with grapefruit notes.

Patch Block Cabernet Sauvignon: This rich Cab Sauv warmed me up on a cold Chicago night with its smooth and easy spice and chocolate notes.

Greg Norman Estates Shiraz – 2007: Robust Shiraz with an aroma and flavor that’s a meaty, smoky accent to dark jammy fruits.

Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir – 2008: Smooth and substantive with smoky berry notes. I’ve been on a Pinot spree since tasting this at the Challenge Kickoff at Hub51!

If arriving ready to taste does not sound like a real challenge, know that we successfully maneuver a tasting twist, relying only on our enology knowledge. Annie and I share surprise and excitement over the unusual flavors of the Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc…until we realize that the waitress has swapped our glasses.  Whether or not this is part of the official challenge, we feel validated as challenge finishers and only slightly tipsy.

Wine challenges might be our new thing, so bring it on Chicago!  If you’ve got the wine, we’ve got the time.

Read Annie’s musings on the 80 Sips Chicago Challenge kickoff and challenge.

For Further Exploration:
30 Creative and Unusual Wine Label Designs
The Daily Sip [by Bottlenotes]

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