Webster's Wine Bar: Great Neighborhood Spot

May 31 2009 - 8:26 PM

Webster's Wine Bar is one of those places where once you walk in you think to yourself, "Why have I waited so long to try this place even though I knew it existed and I knew I'd like it?"  Webster's is one of those places that still has appealing vintage details, such as tin ceilings, perhaps partially since it was founded in 1994, before gut rehabs became "trendy".  It also lays claim to being Chicago's oldest wine bar.

The wine list by the glass was, quite simply, overwhelming, though very refreshing.  Its focus on unusual and European wines was very appealing, and it probably took me at least fifteen minutes to make up my mind.  Being a Lopez de Heredia fan (a stubbornly–in a good way–traditional Spanish Rioja winemaker), I went straight for a half-serving of 2002 Vina Cubillo, a wonderful classic Rioja in the oxidized style with moderate sherry and cherry notes.

After that I had a flight of a dry Hungarian Furmint, the first time I have ever sampled a dry Hungarian wine, the name of which escapes me, and it improved as it opened up.   Not terribly acidic but good enough to pass muster.  Another wine on the flight is a 2006 Domaine Martin Schaetzel Gewurtztraminer, from the Alsace region of France, and it had notes of lychee and oranges, and it vaguely brought back memories of their hard-to-find delicious Cuvee Catherine.    Last, I had a wonderful white from Emilia-Romagna. 

The second time I was in I had an Alsatian wine flight, a real delight, and proof that wine does not have to be top-end.   The first wine, was Martin Schaetzel's NV Cremant d'Alsace.  A cremant, by the way, is a sparkling wine from France outside of Champagne made using the traditions of Champagne (often called Methode Champenoise).  It had deep notes of pear and a minerally richness to it.   The next, Andre Ostertag's 2008 Sylvaner, a more refined version with decent acidity of what is typically a bit more neutral.   Third was Marcel Deiss's 2005 Pinot Gris, a lean, acidic, but very concentrated and dense with honey and citrus notes.    It would stand up to some of the Grand Crus from Alsace.    Last was a crisp, minerally 2007 Zind-Humbrecht Riesling, which was a bit off dry but had the chalky notes of good Alsatian wine.

In addition to the enjoyment of the wine, talking to Jeremy Quinn, the resident sommelier, whose travels and breadth of knowledge added immensely to the appeal of the establishment.  For sure I'll be back.  Many times, perhaps.

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