Saturday, June 10, 2023

Day in Chicago - Art Institute - Chez Joël French Bistro

Day in Chicago - Art Institute - Chez Joël Authentic French Bistro Cuisine with High QPR Wine Selections

Sister Pat and niece Lauren visited for the weekend and we did one of our favorite Chicago excursions, the magnificent Art Institute of Chicago (AIC), followed by dinner at Chez Joël Authentic French Bistro. I've posted notes about Chez Joël in these pages going back ten years or more.

Photo from earlier visit

We've been members of the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) for more than three decades and make a point to frequently take advantage of one of the crown jewels of Chicago including seeing all the major exhibits. AIC was named the best Museum in the World and Chicago’s #1 attraction by TripAdvisor, the only museum in the world to be top-ranked by TripAdvisor four years in a row. It has the greatest Impressionist collection outside Paris and contemporary masterpieces in the spectacular Modern Wing.

I never tire of seeing my favorites from the extensive collections including many iconic works - my absolute favorite Night Hawks by Edward HopperA Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat that covers an entire gallery wall, Claude Monet's Water Lillies, ‘Paris Street; Rainy Day’ by Gustave Caillebotte, 65 works by Pierre August Renoir, and even some works by Frank Lloyd Wright for whom I'm a docent interpreter and give tours at the FLW Home & Studio and so many more!

This was the last weekend to see the Salvador Dali special exhibit at the Art Institute, and, not surprisingly, it was well attended with large crowds and long lines. Fortunately, the Van Gogh special exhibit also recently opened and we were able to see that as well. It is a detailed learned exhibit and definitely warrants a return trip for a more in-depth focused visit. 

The "Salvador Dalí: The Image Disappears Exhibit", the first devoted to the Spanish Surrealist at the Art Institute, featured more than 30 paintings, drawings, photos, and surrealist objects, as well as a selection of printed matter, books, and artists ephemera. The exhibit cover the pivotal decade of the 1930s when Salvador Dalí emerged as the inventor of his own personal brand of Surrealism, "considering Dalí’s work in light of two defining, if contradictory, impulses: an immense desire for visibility and the urge to disappear".

The "Van Gogh and the Avant-Garde: The Modern Landscape" exhibit runs through the summer until

From the AIC we went to Little Italy, Taylor Street for dinner.

As we have written often before in these pages, Chez Joël is one of our favorite eateries in the City (Chicago). As usual the service was outstanding, food was delectable and the price was agreeable.

Chez Joël located on Taylor Street in what is still referred to as 'Little Italy' is quaint, artsy, intimate, tasteful, comfortable,  authentic yet unpretentious in its French Bistro setting and faire. We had a perfect lat summer evening sitting outside in the adjacent courtyard.

I had the Filet Mignon with pomme puree', Linda and Pat shared/split the daily special pan seared White Fish, and Lauren had the Coq au vin  (shown in order, below).

As usual, we started with the Pâté de deux Sortes Duck Liver Pâté and the Fromage de Brie Chaud, warm Brie Cheese with Honey, Caramelized Granny Smith Apples, Apricot, Garlic, Pistachio & Toast.

And as with previous visits, we had from the winelist one of our favorite labels, the Crozes Hermitage Northern Rhone Syrah, as recounted in my previous blogpost from last fall.

Marlène & Nicolas Chevalier Les Voleyses Crozes Hermitage 2020

Once part of the cave co-operative at Tain-Hermitage, since 2008 the family vineyards of Domaine Chevalier are gradually being reclaimed by the brother and sister team of Nicolas and Marlène Chevalier. Nicolas tends the vineyards and crafts each cuvee, while Marlène handles all of the sales and marketing for Domaine Chevalier.

Following his formal agricultural studies in France, Nicolas spent four years honing his winemaking skills on estates in Australia, California and South Africa. After completing studies in agronomy and enology in France, he headed to South Australia’s Clare Valley where he mastered various techniques for fermenting Shiraz (Syrah). He then worked with Kendall Jackson in California crafting white winemaking skills. To further his post-graduate wine studies, he spent 2002 in South Africa working at legendary three-hundred-year-old Boschendal estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa, a winery renowned for its superb Syrah-based wines.

Marlène and Nicolas Chevalier farm three small vineyards at their meticulously tended family property comprising 3 1/2 acres in Crozes-Hermitage from which they produce on average 500 cases of red and white Rhône wines in tiny lots which are highly allocated. Their wines are found only in a couple of importer direct wine clubs and renowned restaurants in North American.

This is from Crozes, the village adjacent the more prestigious appellation that shares part of its name, but operates in Hermitage’s shadow. The Crozes-Hermitage appellation area extends about 10 miles (16 km) both north and south of Tain and Hermitage itself and is known to produce more approachable wines than its higher profile neighbor. By 2017, almost 4,200 acres (1,700 ha) of vines had been planted among the local cherry and apricot orchards. Unlike Hermitage, land in Crozes-Hermitage is relatively affordable and available providing an opportunity for enthusiastic newcomers, as well as a number of local growers, who want to bottle the fruit of their own labors, rather than send their production to the Cave de Tain co-op, the case of this wine too.  

Nicolas works with several distinct parcels for their wines: La Motte, Marius, Petite Pend, Les Pends and namesake source for this label, Les Voleyses. These vineyards have clay and limestone soils with excellent exposure, known to produce ripe, high quality grapes with great aromatic character and freshness. The Domaine Chevalier site has been producing grapes for notable wines gaining high praise and critical acclaim for more than three centuries.

Like the 2018 vintage we tasted earlier, the 2020 vintage was also top rated in the Northern Rhône. This represents a great value, high QPR (quality price ratio) wine.
Importer notes for the 2018 release: The 2018 Domaine Chevalier Les Voleyses Crozes-Hermitage sports a brilliant purple robe and a captivating aroma redolent with the scents of blackberry, plum, violets, and exotic spices. Sensuous and seductive in the mouth, the 2018 Les Voleyses graces the palate with a silky texture and pure floral, fruit, and forest floor flavors that have aptly been described as hedonism in a glass. Moreover, the 2018 Domaine Chevalier Les Voleyses is juicy and harmonious to the finish, as it makes an exit with joyful panache.
The Voleyses Cuvée is 100% Syrah made from younger vine fruit and aged in stainless steel.
Tonight's tasting was totally consistent with our earlier experiences with this label.

Deep inky purple colored medium-full bodied, full round layers of blackberry and plum fruits, notes of black tea, spice and leather overtake the fruits, turning to soft chewy textured tannins on a medium finish. 

RM 91 points.

The 2018 release -
Earlier vintage release blogpost -

As usual and to be expected at Chez Joel, a wonderful, relaxing fun wine and dine evening.