Chicago Gourmet: Taste of Sonoma County

Chicago put itself on the front burner this past weekend with the inaugural Chicago Gourmet, a weekend-long festival of food and wine attended by chefs and sommeliers near and far. Special MenuPages correspondents Bridget Houlihan and Tammy Green, of the dining podcast Chicago Bites, were on the scene. From Sunday: Tasting California.

In the tasting tent.

I tasted my way through the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County Sunday without even leaving Chicago.

Stefen Soltysaik from Rodney Strong Vineyards was my guide; his wine seminar at Chicago Gourmet, called “Examination of Cool to Warm Climate Cabernet Sauvignon,” was excellent. We were each given four glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon. The first three glasses were from different Rodney Strong wineries in the valley, and the fourth glass was the vineyard’s current pride and joy, the 2005 Rockaway blend.

Then the geography lesson began, and Soltysaik explained how climate impacts wine. Each glass was incredibly different because of the location of the winery where it was produced.

As we tasted and learned more, Soltysaik also detailed how the wine we were drinking was made.

It was a fascinating and well-put-together presentation. I’ve taken a variety of wine tours and have gone to a number of tastings. This one was far-and- away the most educational and entertaining I’ve attended.

The wine was spectacular too… especially the Rockaway 2005! I sought out that wine and sipped some more at the Grand Cru Tasting later in the day. It just might inspire me to go to Sonoma one day. (As if I really needed an excuse!)—BRIDGET HOULIHAN[All photos by Tammy Green. All rights reserved.]

Chicago Gourmet: Taste of Sonoma County