The Windy City Wine Festival

windy city wine festival chicago
Photo Credit: Moonlightbulb
A beautiful late summer evening spent lounging by Buckingham fountain, watching the sailboats crawl across the lake’s horizon as the downtown skyline stands sentry — what could be better? How about some of the world’s best wines for you and your friends to sample and enjoy? The Windy City Wine Festival brought this all together September 9th and 10th. This annual event held on the grounds surrounding the magnificent fountain brings in wineries from around the world offering samples of their stock. This year over 30 wineries representing France, Spain, and the USA were on hand pouring from tents set up around the outside perimeter of the festival area. The inner ring around the fountain was peppered with chairs and tables — an inspired setting where the spectators could enjoy the wine and weather and scenery. The festival also included music, a cigar stand, gourmet food vendors, and a Belgian beer tent.

Far from the snooty affairs these wine events used to have a reputation for being, Windy City went to great lengths to ensure a casual, inclusive atmosphere. The program for the festival even included a “Wine Taster’s Glossary” with no term presumed to be too rudimentary for inclusion (I referred quite a bit to the glossary and enjoyed the whole experience all the more because of it). As a novice wine connoisseur, the best part of the festival for me was the wine tasting seminars given by degreed wine experts. In particular, Megan Wiig’s talk on Rhone Valley wines was very informative while being low key and often humorous. Her description of a Cotes Du Rhone wine with “notes of leather and tobacco” as being a “real tough cowboy” was typical of her down-to-earth yet knowledgeable style.

And while the festival makes a point of leaving elitism at the gates, this was no free-for-all either. Attendees were requested to “sample responsibly” by gently persuasive signs posted at every winery tent, and there was a well organized designated driver program in effect. Last pours were offered a sensible 10 p.m. on Friday at 9 p.m. on Saturday. Spun-cotton clouds turned pink over the glittering high-rises as the sun set and the fountain (set on “trickle” as opposed to “geyser blast” for the event) reflected the darkening blue sky at the end of a perfect day. The warm breezes off the lake mixed with the aerating swirls of the last vibrant reds and clear whites.

John Paris

About John Paris

Born in Cincinnati, raised in California, John has lived in a lot of great cities -- Montréal, San Francisco, Boston -- but now calls Chicago home sweet home, and has done so longer than anywhere else. Leaving the hills behind, he has found comfort in the flatness of one of the largest grids in the world. Neighborhoods divided into quadrants, divided into city blocks, divided into equal rectangular plots would seem to be a recipe for a grim, constricted civic culture. Not so, says John -- we Chicagoans are blessed by our situation. As inhabitants within the template of boulevards, and streets, and avenues, we dance on a perfect dance floor. The swirling, tumbling activity of circular pegs amused by square slots is the real creative genius of this fair city. Onward circular pegs!

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