Archive for December, 2009

LUSH: Staff Picks 2009, the Newbies

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Get your GEEK on: LUSH Staff Picks – The Newbies
Our favorite wines of the year are a moment captured by a sip, a sigh, a wisp of pure delight…these wines are what we crave, what excites us right now. In an ever evolving world of imbibing, this is the snapshot of the best hits of 2009.

LUSH: Staff Picks 2009, Veterans

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Get your GEEK on: LUSH Staff Picks – The Veterans
Our favorite wines of the year are a moment captured by a sip, a sigh, a wisp of pure delight…these wines are what we crave, what excites us right now. In an ever evolving world of imbibing, this is the snapshot of the best hits of 2009. (more…)

Pucker Up: Sour Ales

Thursday, December 17th, 2009
Sour Ales
Ah, the world of beer…so interesting, so fun, so crazy!  Over the past year, I have to say that I’ve taken way more of an interest in beer.  Just like wine, it’s amazing what those brewers can do.  Probably one of my most favorite discoveries this year – along with many other people – was discovering how much I enjoyed sour ales.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  From the slight funky tartness all the way to feeling like you just sucked a sour patch kid raw, I love it all!  And it seems I’m not the only one, more and more sours are popping up from all over, which makes my taste buds do a little dance of joy.

The Wonderful World of Sherry

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Ah, sherry. So delicious. So diverse. So misunderstood.

A lot of times people want to jump in, and start talking about sherry in terms of the different styles. We’ll get to that. But the first thing that needs to be discussed — the thing that is the basis for all sherry — is the solera system. Sherry wine (‘Vinos de Jerez’) is believed to have the unique property of taking on the characteristics of older wine when blended. In a solera system, older barrels of wine are topped with young wine to create a consistent flavor profile. It usually takes at least 4 years for wine in the solera system to reach the profile of the house style, at which point it can be bottled.

So, while a lot of the wine produced in the world will change from vintage to vintage depending on the weather and conditions that year, the object of Sherry houses is to create a consistent product from year to year. The solera system not only creates this consistent style, it also allows the wine to take on the benefits of both old and young wine: older wine is refreshed by younger juice, and younger wine gains complexity from blending with the old.

Each barrel in the solera system is a 550 liter butt, but is only filled to 500 liters. This takes us to the next important aspect of sherry: the interplay of the wine, oxygen, and a magical substance called flor. Flor is the layer of yeast that develops on top of sherry in each butt. Although the specifics are complicated and somewhat vague, flor grows nowhere else in the world: there is something about the unique conditions of Jerez and Sanlucar in southern Spain that allow this magical film to develop. Flor gives sherry many of its unique characteristics. That nutty, green apple taste you get in a fino sherry is a direct result of the strains of yeast found in flor.

After 3-5 years on average, sherry butts are assessed. If the flor has stayed strong and resilient and the sherry inside is delicate and unoxidized, this wine is slightly fortified and bottled as fino sherry. This is our first style! Delicate, with green apple and nougat notes (now you know where that comes from!), fino sherry is a wonderful food wine. Drink it chilled, with shellfish, tapas, or some of those hard to pair foods like artichokes and asparagus.

Finos that are made in the seaside town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda are called manzanilla sherry. Because of the proximity to the sea, these wines are often more briny and salty than finos, as well as a touch more savory and bitter. Drink chilled with some green olives or marcona almonds. Nom nom.

When a butt is assessed and it is NOT fit to become a fino (i.e. the flor is not still intact, and the flavor is a little too broad and robust), the wine remains in the barrel to become a different type of sherry. Barrels that are not destined to be finos will often be coerced into becoming an amontillado. The flor is deliberately compromised, which allows the wine to become oxidized. Aged for 8 years, this style of sherry is still dry, but much darker,  more nutty and full. Usually fortified to around 17.5% alcohol, and exposed to oxygen in their aging process, amontillados survive longer after being opened than finos and manzanillas do. Great on its own, amontillado also goes quite well with salty, gamey dishes (think: beef stew, duck, and anything wrapped in bacon).

Palo Cortado is a rare kind of sherry, in which the flor dissipates on its own accord (magically!) part way through the aging process. This makes true Palo Cortados quite expensive, because you never quite know when one is going to turn up.

Oloroso sherries develop in the barrel without any sort of oxidative protection (no flor!). These wines — although naturally dry — are robust and nutty, with lots of dried fruit and toasty flavors. Pedro Ximenez wine can be added to Oloroso sherries to make them sweet. Olorosos can be paired with rich cheeses and terrines, as well as venison, veal, and the like.

Welcome to the wide world of sherry. Enjoy.



Lush: West Town Launch Party

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

1412 West Chicago Avenue

Launch Party
Friday, December 4th

LUSH West Town was licensed and we cranked it up, whipped that shop into some sort of presentable shape, and are OPEN. Doors are open everyday at noon until 10pm. Now, mind you, this is Lush in the raw…partially stocked, lacking our signature rolling carts, mounted wall art, and some supplies…but WITH open bottles, very excited Lushies, and lots of super geeky bottles and two, yeah, count ’em, two!, beer coolers.

CELEBRATE our launch, the holidays, or just for the hell of it. Please join in the wild and raucous celebration THIS FRIDAY, December 4th, 6-9pm, as we open to the holiday and revel in the sweet sweetness of having a shiny, brand spanking new play thing. This is absolutely a LUSH style shindig with many bottles open and flowing…wine, beer, and perhaps a bit of HUM and bubbly, too…small nibbles and a very warm welcome to neighbors, friends, and lushes all. Yeehaw, it’s a party.

YOU are invited.  And you.  And all your friends.

P.S. Ms Kelly is celebrating her birthday, as well.  Make sure to wish her a happy celebration!

Stocking the shelves…

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Get your GEEK on: Stocking a shop
Although quite a bit less geeky than usual in the intellectual sense, this topic is geeky in the most particular wine geeky slant of detailing the minutia of selecting wine and stocking the Lush shelves. In the interest of imbibing honesty and being open to the new neighborhood and the gorgeous expanse of space at the brand spanking new LUSH West Town, this little note is a window into the collective workings of a lush… (more…)

Give me the Boot!

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

I am finally coming to grips with winter’s arrival, and remedying the negative feelings I have about it by embracing the loveliness that is the holiday season. It is December 1st, and we just cranked on the holiday tunes here at LUSH on Halsted, and I have been in the spirit all day thus far. Even though it is 50 degrees outside! Oh, Chicago.