Maybe you're not like me. You don't think about the next bottle of wine you want to try. Your eyes don't light up with anticipation when you read in the Tribune or on a blog that a new wine shop has opened in Chicagoland.
But maybe you've been drafted to pick up "a bottle", especially around the holidays. Maybe your co-workers or your little sister have this picture of you as a wine expert.
Stephen Wroblewski, Manager of Chicago restaurant Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, feels your pain. Chicago Pinot spoke with him last week to get some ideas, not necessarily about specific bottles, but about regions and grape varietals that would please different palates during the holidays.
I started by asking him for suggestions for what to bring to the most important CEO's in our lives, our parents. "At our resturant, we have received good guest feedback from South American wines particularly Malbecs. We have one from Pasucal Toso that is very popular and should be available in most stores from between eighteen and twenty-two dollars. It has the body of a Cabernet, fantastic aromatics, but not too overpowering. If you are buying for family, you might want to find something new for them to try without seeming to scary." He also preferred Tempranillo blends from Spain; "they are Renaissance wines, with a long flavor profile and very female friendly."
Then I asked him about Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners; with their almost potluck assembly of foods, what would blend in best. Mr. Wroblewski recommended light bodied Pinot Noirs ("they won't get beat up by Grandma's stuffing, but you might want to avoid California Pinots, they are a little hotter and higher in tannin"). He also thought highly of bringing sparkling wine (especially for appetizers and vegetables) and Beaujolais ("put a slight chill on it first, it can have a throwback appeal for your more experienced drinkers").
Finally, I asked him what to buy for the Wine Nerd. We probably all know one or two. What can you surprise him or her with and really make it look like you have done your homework?
Mr. Wroblewski suggested a few regions that have wine stardom in their future. He mentioned the Diamond Mountain region of Napa Valley ("these are big, robust wines you are still enjoying a minute after tasting them, they can last ten years") and Chilean wines, which he described as really "pretty" and offer just a little different taste experience for an American palate.
He also suggested that two half bottles might make a more attractive gift for the so-called wine expert in your life than one whole bottle. I am no expert, but since I am the type who wants to have a little taste of every varietal at least once, I can understand this approach!