Chicago is used to being dismissed as the "Second City," especially by New Yorkers. But when it comes to wine, we didn't think we'd ever be ranked that high. Without, you know, an acclaimed wine region nearby, how could we compare to other cities around the country? Apparently, we've been looking at it all wrong, as Lettie Teague, the wine columnist for The Wall Street Journal, declared Chicago the "second-most important wine city in the country right now" after New York. That's right San Francisco and Los Angeles, your fancy wine regions and ideal grape growing climates mean nothing! Below are her five main points.
1. Chicago is home to Hart Davis Hart, which sells more wine than any other auction house.
Teague says: "Hart Davis Hart team sold more wine at auction in the U.S. than any other auction house in America."
This kind of surprised us. We aren't that immediately familiar with the wine auction business, and we just assumed the East Coast had us beat. Apparently, we're unquestionably number one in this department.
2. We are beholden to no wine region
Teague says: "San Francisco and Los Angeles have a lot to offer an oenophile, too, but they are more focused on the wines of the West Coast than the entire world. "
We didn't think that this could possibly be a positive, but it does make sense. Instead of trying to support a local scene, sommeliers and wine shop owners are able to examine the whole wine world and pick what they find most interesting.
3. Chicago loves BYOB establishments.
Teague says: "Chicago is a very BYO-friendly town — an important factor in a top wine city, though alas, that's not the case with New York."
We do have loads of great BYOB options, and not just in the middle range. We also have some acclaimed high end restaurants on board. Schwa is the most obvious example, with EL being the most recent one.
4. We have Binny's Beverage Depot.
Teague says: "There's no retail equivalent to Binny's in New York — or anywhere else that I've been, for that matter."
We've never exactly thought of Binny's as a true selling point, but perhaps we've never given it the credit it deserves. Though she's right to point out that the service "could use some improvement," Binny's does have a massive selection.
5. Restaurants have excellent choices at affordable prices.
Teague says: "...in the dollar department, Alinea did beat out just about every New York restaurant I've patronized."
Teague also picks out Webster's Wine Bar and The Bristol as establishments with great wine programs, which also happen to be affordable.
Here's to Chicago, That Tipplin' Town [Wall Street Journal]