Archive for the ‘Geek’ Category

New Arrivals!

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

It’s been a busy few weeks for us LUSHes and we are loaded with new stuff for you to try! Here is a primer on some – by no means all – of them. Stay tuned for updates about upcoming wines and distillates. We will be posting here every week – promise!

2007, Nusserhof Sudtirol Lagrein Riserva, Alto Adige, Italy

The label, with its mix of German and Italian, already gives you an idea of this wine’s fascinating background. This wines hails from the Northern confines of Italy, a region nestled in the Alps, at the intersection of the Swiss and Austrian borders. It is known as Alto Adige in Italian, and Sudtirol in German – the language spoken in this region of what is technically still Italy is primarily German, rather than Italian, and most everything there, including this label, is bilingual.

Lagrein is one of the main red grapes grown in Alto Adige, along with Pinot Noir. Unlike Pinot however, Lagrein is almost exclusively grown in this region, and it is as multifaceted a grape as its environment. A good example will have the transparency, purity and silky tannins of pinot, along with the deeper fruit and slightly more brooding tones of a Northern Rhone Syrah. With age, it acquires a hint of gaminess which will also be familiar to Syrah lovers.

The producer here is Heinrich Mayr, from the Nusserhof winery, whose south-facing slopes offer ideal exposure for growing Lagrein. The wine is fermented using wild yeasts, and this Riserva sees no new oak, so what you get here is a very pure and traditional expression of Ladrein from Northern Italy. This will be a joy for those of you who like fuller bodied Pinot, or anyone curious about discovering a new wine region and its traditions!


2009 Napolini Rosso dei Monti, Umbria, Italy

A newcomer to our beloved 10$ rack, we believe this will be your go to mid-spring grilling wine! From a winery that has been in the same family from generations, the farming is bo0th traditional and respectful of the environment. A cornucopia of local (Sangiovese, Sagrantino…) and european (merlot) varieties are blended and fermented together to make this wine, which sits for a year in stainless steel before bottling. This is deep and spicy from extended maceration with the skins, but not so much as to be heavy or too tannic. On the contrary, the texture is just peppery and a little rustic, and there is good acidity to keep things fresh and food friendly. This will do wonders with beefy and chewy cuts like hanger or NY strip. $10

NV Cattin Brut Cremant d’Alsace, Alsace, France

This is a Domaine that was founded in 1720 as a general purpose farm which also made wine, and became entirely dedicated to wine in the 1850s. The Maison Cattin became really famous, when one of the Cattin brothers, Joseph, opened in the early 20th century an Alsatian restaurant in Paris called la Cigogne, where his family’s wine took a prominent place on the list. The restaurant was a huge success, and as rich parisians and foreigners flocked to La Cigogne, the popularity of the Cattin wines started growing.

The winery has been growing since, reaching the size of 123 acres in the eighties with holdings in some of the best vineyards of the Alsace region. They make wine from all of the traditional varieties of the region, from riesling and sylvaner to pinot noir and pinot blanc. This Cremant is 100% hand harvested pinot blanc from a variety of parcels owned by domaine Cattin. It is fermented in stainless steal, then bottled and goes through a second fermentation in bottle. The wine is aged for at least a year in bottle before it’s sent to your table. This has the weight and fruitiness of pinot blanc, and low acidity. Ideal for aperitif or daytime drinking. $16.50

2010 Poderi Sette Terre, Pecorino, Terre di Chieti, Italy

First let make clear that the Pecorino involved here is not a cheese, but a grape variety. Sheep have always had a tendency to munch on the grape, and its name comes from the Italian word for sheep, pecora. Done.

This is a variety that went through a near-death experience. Pecorino had almost gone extinct thirty years ago, when global, critic-pleasing, money-making varieties slowly started to uprooting acres and acres of traditional grapes from the terroirs where they were supposed to grow. Thankfully it is now in the midst of a resurgence, and pecorino is actually growing.. This is probably because of the grapes delicious, as well as its tendency to naturally produce low yields and grapes which are naturally resistant to mildew. This is a lighter, fresh wine with a lively acidity and a minerally, almost salty finish. Amazing with fresher, softer goat cheeses. $10

2011 Tami Grillo, Sicily, Italy

Another wine, white this time, from Arianna Occhipinti’s negociant label, Tami. We all know the Nero d’Avola, and this is a white that is made along the same lines: a 100% native sicilian grape variety, left to ferment on its own, with very little sulfur added, only at bottling. This wine has the richness and the ripe aromatics of a warmer climate white, while retaining the acidity and minerality to make it feel incredibly fresh. There’s a peachy note to the nose, alongside some pretty stunning floral aromatics that are balanced by a really delicious savory and minerally streak – think ever-so-slightly-dirty martini, with a sprinkle of sea salt. $17.75

2006 Roger Belland, Santenay-Beauregard 1er Cru, Burgundy, France

Pinot noir from one of the most feminine and elegant – and not completely out of reach to non-millionaires – appellations in Burgundy. Santenay produces both red and white wines that are known for their versatility: in the cellar, they’re delicious and generous right off the starting blocks, with suave tannins and very pretty and delineated aromas, but they’re known to have enough structure to mature and develop classic mature Burgundy notes of wet earth while retaining the acidity and the fruit to keep them fresh. Versatility at the dinner table too of course: this will pair gorgeously with pretty much anything (make it fancy though, there are only a few thousands bottles produced from Belland’s tiny holdings in the appellation), but somehow squab or duck, or even a good old roast chicken seem ideal. The Belland domaine has been in the family for 6 generations and this particular bottling is made in very small quantities. 30% of the grapes are not destemmed before crushing, which will add a certain amount of structure and help the wine age better. It also sees a bit of new wood after fermentation, but by now the wood has integrated and doesn’t feel like a separate element. The Domaine says this should reach peak drinking at 8 years of age. It is 7 now, and drinking beautifully already! $40

2010 Pinot Noir, Starr Ridge Vineyard, Davis Family Vineyards, Russian River Valley, CA

There’s a lot that could be said about Guy Davis and his wines, single vineyard Pinots, Chardonnays and Syrahs from the Russian River Valley. They’re made with love in very small batches. I have recently come across this testimonial, from someone who goes by the name Mindy T in Chicago wine circles:

“a super cool wine from a super cool man, Guy Davis. This is called 2010 Starr Ridge and was given 93 points by Parker.  The Starr Ridge Vineyard is owned by Guy’s friend and is the warmest of his PN sites, being north of the transition where the Russian River turns west toward the Pacific Ocean….lush, juicy dark cherry, mint, flowers and the coolest spices that float from the glass.  This is a Pinot that can age but is delicious at the moment.” $48.50

Petal and Thorn, Imbue

Our trusted source Mindy T says “this might be the coolest thing on the face of earth.” What else is there to add? Well, quite a bit, actually.

The base wine of this beauty is an Oregon Pinot Gris, which was reinforced to 18% by adding a brandy distilled from the same wine. The wine is then macerated with a mix of ten dried botanicals, sourced from organic producers when possible. The idea behind this poetically named wine is to find a balance between the sweetness and acidity of a tokaji or a Sauternes, and the herbal, medicinal bitterness of an amaro. Pour over a few ice cubes for aperitif.  $34.50

2009 Ben Marco Expresivo, Mendoza, Argentina

There’s just a lot going on here. This is Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, peppered with a hint of Syrah and framed by a touch of Tannat and Petit Verdot, all grown on the high perched vineyards of Mendoza. This is a Bordeaux blend taken on an Argentine honeymoon. The average age of these vines is a whopping 42 years, which allows the perfectly farmed fruit to express an earthy sense of place on top of the warm cherry and cocoa note. To add some spice and structure to this already luscious experience, this wine has seen extended aging in all new French oak. This makes Ben Marco a great candidate for the cellar or the decanter – in any case, it calls for steak, the bloodier the better. $21

2011 Antxiola, Getariako Txakolina, Basque Country, Spain

Don’t let yourself be intimidated by all the Xs and the consonants, this is drinking wine in its purest form, tart, fizzy liquid stones to be guzzled in large quantities. A light effervescence and low alcohol levels (9-10%) make this the mineraly Basque cousin of Portuguese Vinho Verde. Getariako Txakolina is a rather new appellation for what is a very old Basque wine – officially recognized as a DO in 1989, when Txakoli was if not extinct mostly forgotten and home made. This is a perfect Spring sipper, and will work perfectly in most places where Riesling is called for duty. $18

New Yummy Wines at LUSH

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

So we’ve gotten in a few new fermented gems that we are so geeked about that we just had to share…

2008 Benoit Ente, Chassagne Montrachet “Les Houilleres”

From a small (7 acres total) estate based in Puligny-Montrachet, with holdings in both Puligny and Chassagne Montrachet. Benoit Ente is considered a master of white Burgundy. So is his older brother, Arnaud, by the way who’s famous for making chardonnay in a slightly bigger style. This is the villages level Chassagne Montrachet, from a tiny (one acre) plot of vines replanted in the late nineties called Les Houilleres, which sits right below the Grand cru vineyard of Batard-Montrachet. The estate farms as organically as possible and maintains painfully low yields. This cuvee sees 25% new oak, so expect a mild oakiness that should integrate with age. 2008 was a very tough vintage where some parcels struggled to reach maturity, but great winemakers often produced whites of great purity and minerality, with an energetic acid structure – this should be one of them, though with white burgundies the acid and the citrus notes are often balanced by a smack of richness and toastiness from the oak.

There seems to be a consensus that this wine drinks well above its villages level, towards a premier cru. It should be great to drink now for those who like to have a little oak in their chardonnay – it’s also a good candidate for customers who want a white to cellar for a few years. The oak should integrate and create something mineral and very pure.

2010 Graffito Malbec

Jimena Lopez worked in Australia and California before she returned to Argentina and set her eyes on this gem of a vineyard; the vines were planted in 1908 (105 year old ungrafted vines!!!), at 3051 feet at the heart of Argentina’s oldest appellation (Lujan de Cuyo), tended by Don Pepe, whose father planted the vines. This goes through the whole range of what Malbec is supposed to be, the dark, ripe fruit, the tannins, and the smoky earthiness. Once fermented, the wine produced by these beautiful vines is aged in 70% new French oak for 12 months (expect lots of spice and a bit of tannins here) and bottled unfined. Sounds like steak wine to me.

2008 Chateau Grand Traverse Gamay Noir

Gamay from Michigan! Chateau Grand Traverse is a beautiful winery established at the base of the Leelanau peninsula, just miles away from Traverse City. They make two Gamays, a ‘regular’ bottling, and this reserve one, which sees extended time in French oak barrels. Expect tart red fruit and a lingering earthiness, plus some spice from the wood barrels. This is a great Pinot alternative, and since Gamay has the ability to go well with almost any food you throw at it.

NV Landron Atmospheres Sparkling

Jo Landron has been making organically produced, naturally vinified and achingly pure and transparent Muscadet for about twenty years now. He is a master of minerality. And this is his bubbly! Not made with Melon, like muscadet, but with 20% pinot noir and 80% folle blanche, an obscure Loire variety that is somehow related to picpoul from the Rhone/South. Like Melon, Folle Blanche has the sad reputation of being a somewhat pedestrian grape, and like Melon, it shines in the hands of Landron. It’s vinified with no added yeasts, and then bottle conditioned. Disgorged 6 months before release and with a little bit of dosage. This is a rather structured bubbly (think blanc de noir), with serious acidity and a finish that is all minerals laced with tart pears.

Mindy’s Pick of the Year…and it’s only January

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

The Floating World Artisan Sake Imports has brought us some of the most beautiful, unique and rare treasures I have seen in a while.  The Mukai brewery dates back to 1754 and the current Toji (sake brewer) is the eldest daughter of the family, Kuniko. She is one of the first professional female sake brewers in Japan. Kuniko experiments with unusual rice and yeast combinations and uses a rare red rice in part of the fermentation.

All their sakes are made by hand in small batches by small, family owned companies using locally grown rice. Each one is lovely and captivating. It was love at first sight, smell and taste for me. For those who are not sake fans, this one may change your mind. The Mukai Shuzo Inemanki from Kyoto is incredible and so versatile. It really shows you what a sake can be. Of course, you can grab a bottle and go to your local BYOB sushi spot, but there is so much more. This sake has a light smokey nose and pairs beautifully with our meats here at the LUSH snack bar, try it with the duck prosciutto. It is slightly fruity and balanced by a stunning acidity that is a perfect compliment to cheese. If you want to go Tapas style, get a little tin of Spanish octopus and you won’t know what hit you. Then again, you can just sip it slowly as an aperitif, all on its own.

Staff Favorites 2012!

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Welcome to 2013 LUSHes! We hope you all had a great 2012 and put as many strange, beautiful, awe inspiring fermented beverages in your mouth as you could find in the last year. We know we were hard at work sipping and discerning what we LOVE and even what we don’t. Discovering how our tastes have evolved and finding comfort in the tried and true. So here is a list of our faves of 2012 (keeping in mind that all us LUSHies have wildly eccentric and sometimes just downright bizarre tastes.) Most of these items are still available at your local LUSH, and all of these items are stamped with the LUSH seal of approval.

Andrew Farrell:

Bressan Scioppettino 2006; From the Friulli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy comes this beautiful red, almost aniline wine.  Also called Ribolla Nera, left on the vine just a little longer than most grapes it develops a luscious acidity and richness that would complement any of your darker, richer meat stews on a cold winter’s night.  Looking for something to stock a cellar.  This wine goes through a complex ageing process, including some time in oak, before it even sees the store shelves making it all the better with some age.  Overall, a nice hearty grape juice.

Patrick Boomer:

2007 El Rocallis, Penedes, Spain- Incrozio Manzoni; To tell the truth I bought this wine because it was expensive and I have a taste for the good life. After drinking it I had to buy a second bottle because I couldn’t believe the depth of character it actually had. It wants to be so many things at once. A complex Northern Italian, an elegant Napa, a frivolous light Spanish; all things at once! The biggest problem with this wine is at which temperature to drink it as it changes and adapts.

This wine spends a short six months in French oak but an incredible forty two months in bottle! A clean and brilliant sunshine yellow has golden overtones, penetrating your nose with aromas of jasmine, verbena, lime and exotic fruits. Rich, smooth and generous on the palate, it leads with notes of honey, orange peel, peach stone with a hint of almonds. If possible let this gem open up for a half hour before it changes your life.

Cole Pezley:

Bourbon–the quintessential American spirit. Rooted in strong southern tradition and enjoyed by the aristocrat and frontiersman alike, it’s as unique and varied as the country from which it hails. Black Maple Hill Small Batch Bourbon is no exception; at 95 proof it packs a good punch but has a surprisingly mellow and sweet finish with subtle hints of oak and butterscotch. It can stand up well with an ice cube or two and won’t thin out with a little splash of water. At a modest (whatever price it is) I’d put this stuff up against many bourbons that cost twice as much or more. So let the world know that you’re here to enjoy yourself but also to kick a little ass and pick up a bottle of Black Maple Hill Small Batch Bourbon. Cheers!

Laurel Parks:

Home is where the heart is!! Or at least, home is where the Gin is!  From my hometown of Alameda, Ca, the St. George 3-Gin Sampler was by far my favorite of the year. Botanivore, Dry  Rye and Terroir; all three are perfect aromatic and botanical representations of the Oakland Hills/Bay Area.  Although the Sampler may have been sold only for Christmas stockings, our shops still have a selection of St. George Gin and several of their other spirits, including Absinthe, Bourbon and a Single Malt.  You will NOT be disappointed in anything by St. George Distillery!

Katie Schmalz:

2011 Umathum Rosa, Burgenland, Austria. Pepi Umathum describes his wines as “food for the soul” and calls them “liquid folk-tales.” The Umathum Rosa, a blend of Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt and St. Laurent, fits perfectly into that middle ground between Italian and French Roses. It matches France’s finesse and minerality and Italy’s best for depth and complexity of fruit and spice. All the while it retains the floral aromas that are so distinctly Austrian. There’s an elegance, a delicate brambly spice, a snappy freshness that makes this Rosa a joy to drink on its own, but still pairs with almost anything from grilled steak to salade nicoise.

So there’s a peek. More favorites from last year to come!

Nature is the Spirit: A lesson in Biodynamic Viticulture from Ted Lemon of Littorai.

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

(Hi everyone. I’m Cara Patricia, a full time student of wine & beverage. I originally published this article on my personal blog,, which revolves around the strange world of Biodynamic viticulture.  Biodynamic is a step up from typical Organic and is quite confusing to most at first. I hope that the following article gives you a little more insight into what Biodynamic means and why we tend to be drawn to sustainable, earth-friendly, terroir driven wines in our search for deliciousness in winemaking at our LUSH stores. Some of wines I will talk about are available at LUSH. Cheers!)

What a great seminar we had at the Avenues in Chicago’s Peninsula Hotel!  Hosted by Maverick Wine Company, Ted Lemon, founder of Littorai in Sonoma,  held a very informative and excellent discussion about Biodynamic viticulture and winemaking. During which we also were able to sample eight of his wines using organic, sustainable, and full-on biodynamic procedures. (more…)

Stillwater Artisanal Ales

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

LUSH West Town
1412 W. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60642

The original gypsy brewer, Brian Strumke, popped in to LUSH West Town for an impromptu tasting of his Stillwater Artisanal Ales.  Based in Baltimore, Maryland, this rockin’ beer dude makes beer all over the world.  He has paired up with 12% Imports, headed by Brian Ewing, to form a most dynamic duo.  Alas, no brewery.  But, no problem.  Following suit to Mikkeller ‘in’ Denmark, Stillwater beer is crafted on borrowed time with borrowed space in breweries far flung.  It is about good beer. And good relationships. And beer.

We tasted American. English. And Belgian style brewing.  Beautiful (and creepy) labels catch the eye. The rest happens in the bottle, in the glass, and with friends.  It is all about collaboration. So, join LUSH and Mister Strumke for an epic evening of beer…swing by to check it out. More special, whimsical, gypsy ales jumping onto the shelves soon.

jip-sē brü-ər
modus operandi:
‘A sincere artist is not one who makes a faithful attempt to put on to canvas what is in front of him, but one who tries to create something which is, in itself, a living thing.’ -Sir William Dobell

‘The goal of Stillwater Artisanal is just that, living art. Although packaged within a medium often overlooked for its artistic merits, our desire is to offer something new and intriguing. We present more than just a fine crafted beverage, rather an occasion that evokes an emotion and inspires contemplation. For art is not a sum of actions but rather an approach to life. We draw our inspiration from the world around us, whether that be a season, location, or even humanity itself. Our intent is to encapsulate this muse exhibiting an artistic rendition to the best of our abilities.’  –

Nature is the Spirit: A lesson in Biodynamic Viticulture from Ted Lemon of Littorai.

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

(Hi everyone. I’m Cara Patricia, the current Events Coordinator for LUSH and full time student of wine & beverage. I originally published this article on my personal blog,, which revolves around the strange world of Biodynamic viticulture.  Biodynamic is a step up from typical Organic and is quite confusing to most at first. I hope that the following article gives you a little more insight into what Biodynamic means and why we tend to be drawn to sustainable, earth-friendly, terroir driven wines in our search for deliciousness in winemaking at our LUSH stores. Some of wines I will talk about are available at LUSH. Cheers!)

What a great seminar we had at the Avenues in Chicago’s Peninsula Hotel!  Hosted by Maverick Wine Company, Ted Lemon, founder of Littorai in Sonoma,  held a very informative and excellent discussion about Biodynamic viticulture and winemaking. During which we also were able to sample eight of his wines using organic, sustainable, and full-on biodynamic procedures. (more…)

LUSH: Back to the Basics

Friday, February 11th, 2011

by Ms. Jessica Tessendorf

LUSH lingo leaving you a little bamboozled? Let’s get straight to the facts. An honest to
goodness list of everything your neighborhood LUSH can provide just for you.

1. FREE booze! If the lights are blinking, you’re drinking. 12-10, 7 days a week. Anything
we have opened is fair game.
2. FREE Scheduled tastings. 2-5 each and every Sunday afternoon. Check out the website
or call your local shop to see what the weekly theme is. Not a wine fan? 25% of our
scheduled tastings are either beer or spirits. We provide the topic, the booze, and some
tasting notes, you provide your face.
3. Personalized tastings. Pick a topic, or don’t. Have it blind, or not. Have some snacks
to pair, or drink your food. Set a date with Ms. Carrie ( at Roscoe Village, or Ms. Alicia ( at West Town & University Village, get
some friends together, and have a more tailored tasting event. (more…)

Canadian Wine, eh.

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Relevations about Canadian wine regions…

On March 24th, LUSH West Town played host to a showcase tasting of Canadian wineries, put on by the Canadian consulate. Primarily focused on Ontario and British Columbia, wines ranged from zippy, spritely Riesling to peppery Cab Franc, and right back around to intensely little bottles of icewine. A nice little related article, and video!, may be found here;


Thursday, March 4th, 2010

by Erin Drain

MINI-GEEK: Verticals? For serious geeks, there are a few bottles out there in the world that serve as holy grails for collectors: the Lafites and Latours and Cheval-Blancs of the world; Sassicaia, Opus One, Screaming Eagle; Sea Smoke Pinot, anything coming in magnum form, certainly, and hell, even weird whites from Baumard, Dagueneau, and their ilk. People who have access to these wines are very lucky, indeed, and their friends are luckier still if the bottle owner wants to share. Scenes from The Billionaire’s Vinegar come to mind, where some of the world’s wealthiest and richest wine collectors come together for several days and work through verticals of the wine, meaning they drink multiple vintages, in order, of the same wine. Truly a great learning experience, drinking through multiple vintages of one wine from one producer teaches the drinker about the subtle–and not subtle!– differences that one year’s varying meteorological activity can make on what is, essentially, the same agricultural product. Events like the California wildfires of 2008 lend a certain smokiness to some wines that was not present in 2007, and so on. Also, trying older vintages of a wine will let the drinker understand more about the aging process of specific varietals, not just the individual bottling.

We Lushies love partaking in vertical tastings where possible, and we don’t limit it to just wine. We’ve been known to throw big parties celebrating the many vintages of great beers, like Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout [we still have some of the 2006 vintage!–ed.] and, among our staff and friends, the absolutely insane Three Floyd’s Dark Lord. Lushie Erin has a bottle of the 2005 Dark Lord stashed away in her cellar, to be unveiled soon with Lushie Brent during a completely ridiculous vertical tasting. So if you can keep those thirsty paws patient, stash away a bottle or two of your favorite wine or beer for a few years in a row, and get your learnin’ on. Slurp.