Top 5 Wine Lists in Chicago

Flight of pinot noir (photo courtesy Huge Galdones)

In honor of Pinot Days coming to Chicago this weekend (and keep reading to see how you can score a discount if you’re interested in going), I thought it would be appropriate to run down the list of Chicago’s best wine lists. I sought some input from Fernando Beteta, a Master Sommelier who is the former Wine Director of NoMI at the Park Hyatt, and is currently working for Tenzing, a wine & spirits distributor here. He agreed with my top 4, but then threw in a surprise I had never even considered as a #5.


1. Charlie Trotter’s – The most depth of any list in the city, perennial winner of Wine Spectator’s Grand Award.


2. TRU – Another annual Grand Award winner with more than 1800 selections, plus a great wine team; many diners go just for the wine.


3. Alinea – The team really focuses on wine pairings, since the dishes aren’t as easy to categorize; the list is shorter than what you would expect at a Top 10 in-the-world restaurant.


4. RIA – One of the fastest growing lists in the city; unique and focused.


5. Italian Village –  This was a huge surprise to me, but Beteta says it has one of the largest cellars he’s ever seen. “They have more wine than they could ever sell,” he says. “Cases upon cases of ’97 Solaia, large-format First Growth, verticles of Barolo, Spain, etc. It’s crazy because you wouldn’t expect it; you could definitely go ‘cellar diving’ there.”


Honorable Mention:

avec – Wine geeks love to see Arintos, Esgana Cao, Pedro Ximenez, Picpoul carafes they sell, and the staff is extremely knowledgeable in the most low-key manner.


Now, here’s the deal for Pinot Days:

The event is in its fifth year, and hits Navy Pier this Saturday, from 1 – 5 p.m. There will be more than 70 winemakers pouring more than 300 pinot noirs from every important region around the globe, including Russian River Valley, Willamette Valley, Burgundy, Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Maria Valley, New Zealand, Santa Cruz Mountains and pretty much everywhere in between.

Admission is normally $50, but if you enter this code – ABC7CH11 – when you buy your tix, you’ll save $5.