Saturday, September 3, 2022

Chicago Experience - Museums, Architecture and Smith Wollensky Riverside Lunch

Chicago Experience - Museums, Parks, Architecture and Smith & Wollensky Lunch with Private Reserve Wines

Last weekend we took advantage of living near the City of Chicago and all that it has to offer with world class museums, architecture, and restaurants - all things we love to explore and experience. 

Friday evening we dined at Chez Joël Authentic French Bistro in Little Italy restaurant district, one of our favorite such outings.

Saturday, we toured the magnificent Art Institute of Chicago, attending the final weekend of the Cezanne special exhibit. We've been members for decades and frequent there often and take in all the major exhibits. The Art Institute was rated No. 1 in the world on their list of the World's Best Museums. It has 300,000 pieces of art from the likes of Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, Rembrant, and many other famous artists. Among the most famous works is “American Gothic,” that famous 1930 farmer/pitchfork painting by Grant Wood, and my favorite, (shown below), Night Hawks by Edward Hopper.

Linda and Cezanne's "Bathers"

Rick and my absolute favorite -
NightHawks by Edward Hopper

We then walked through Millennium Park with its unique iconic CloudGate (aka the Bean), Lurie Gardens, and the Pritzker Pavilion which this weekend was hosting Jazz Fest, one of the many music festivals held in the park and across the City throughout the summer. 

We then toured the new 6-acre Lakeshore East Neighborhood Park with its urban botanic gardens and fountains adjacent the spectacular architecture of the new neighborhood development that includes the undulating 101 story 1,198 ft supertall skyscraper St Regis Tower Hotel and Residences designed by award-winning architect Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang, originally known as the Wanda Vista Tower.

We capped off the afternoon with lunch on the esplanade overlooking the Chicago River Walk at Smith & Wollenksy steakhouse in Marina City, one of our favorite dining spots on a sunny summer afternoon downtown Chicago.

The River Walk was bustling with people and the river was full of boat traffic with the Water Taxi and the numerous tour boats filled with tourists and weekenders amidst the flotilla of private boats and hoards of kayaks.

With lunch we ordered two WBTG selections from the Smith & Wollensky winelist to go with my BBQ ribs and Linda's crispy battered shrimp in spicy lobster butter sauce and our side of creamed corn.

The Best of Award Wine Spectator winelist is presented on an electronic interactive tablet that showcases its 350 selections from the inventory of 5,500 bottles.

Smith & Wollensky Private Reserve Meritage Red Blend

This is a private label special bottling is from Girard Winery in Calistoga, Napa Valley.  It is crafted by Girard vintner Pat Roney and winemaking team, Marco DiGiulio and Glenn Hugo. Girard offer a dozen Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varietal premium wines sourced from their estate as well from numerous vineyard growers across Napa Valley.

This private label offering is sourced from some of the finest Napa vineyards select fruit from the best sites ranging from mountaintop to valley floor sources that reflect wines that are authentically Napa.

This Meritage, which is registered trademarked term for an American Bordeaux varietal blend, is a rich, aromatic cuvée (blend) comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. 

Winelists' notes: "Shades of plum and spice mingle with a hint of French oak to complement the intense flavor of our USDA Prime beef. The lengthy, warm finish lingers on the palate. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec."

This vastly exceeded our expectations for a 'house wine' - especially one offered BTG - by-the-glass! This is a testament to the wine team at Smith & Wollensky and shows the care and attention they give to their wine program. 

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, complex, nicely integrated, smooth polished blackberry, black raspberry and plum fruits with notes of leather, subtle oak, mocha chocolate, hints of vanilla and tobacco with a pleasant lingering finish.

RM 91 points.

Next .... I tasted ...

Groth Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

On our last visit to Smith & Wollensky, earlier this summer, I tasted BTG the Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot which was delightful and a perfect pairing with our food. I was tempted to order that wine again but in the interest of adventure, and exploring another wine offering, I ordered this estate Napa Cabernet from Groth in Oakville

This follows a recent tasting of an aged vintage release of this label at home, from our cellar featured in this blogpost, Groth Napa Oakville Cabernet and Grilled Beefsteak.

Today, this premium estate Napa Cabernet was overshadowed by the Private Label Meritage featured above. Perhaps it was the pairing with the food, such that this might have called for a juicy grilled beefsteak. It also most likely needs several more years to integrate and perhaps soften further to be more approachable. Antonio Gallini writes, "I would prefer to cellar the 2018 for at least a few years." Wine Spectator wrote, "Best from 2023 through 2035."

Wine producer description - "A breathtakingly beautiful place set among centuries-old oak trees and a patchwork of meticulously planted vineyards, Oakville has become recognized as one of the world’s preeminent wine regions. Here soil and climate coalesce, allowing us to produce elegant, age-worthy and immensely enjoyable Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit for this delicious wine comes from our sustainably farmed estate vineyard and carefully selected lots from our grower neighbors."

Winemaker's Notes: "The 2018 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon is an attractive ruby-garnet color that is strikingly intense. When swirled in the glass, it unleashes an array of aromas. The initial blueberry and fresh blackberry aromas are joined with rose petal, black tea, cigar box and baking spices. When tasting the wine, the texture is immediately noteworthy. It is at the same time extremely soft but also rich and balanced. Flavors of toast and vanilla mingle with blackberry and tart red currant, then transition to a juicy and long finish."

This was awarded 94 points by Antonio Galloni and Vinous, 92 by Wine Spectator and Decanter, and 91 points by

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, complex, intense, concentrated, tightly structured (WS said it has a 'racy edge') black berry fruits with notes of black tea, cigar box, baking spices and hints of anise with a long finish. 

RM 91 points.

To round out the busy holiday weekend, Sunday, I conducted public tours at the historic Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park, as a Docent Interpreter for the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust