Naturally, the chefs at Cooper’s Hawk have a sharp eye when it comes to wine pairings. Each of the restaurant’s contemporary dishes is crafted with a particular wine in mind, which makes plenty of sense given the fact that there’s a winery located just next door. Surrounded by oaken barrels and racks lined with glistening bottles, diners may be forgiven for thinking that they made a wrong turn and ended up in the winery itself. After your meal, see the real thing in the Napa–style tasting room, where you can sample up to eight different wines. The selection includes something for everyone, including graceful blush wines and cabernets whose flavors unfold like a novel scribbled on the wings of an origami crane.
Michael Dorf stood with his brother Josh, smiling over the barrel filled with wine from grapes they'd just crushed, fermented, and pressed. He claims that despite tastings and classes, he'd never begun to understand wine until this moment. As his understanding grew, he laid the foundations for City Winery: a full winery facility, restaurant, and concert venue inside urban Chicago. He now watches over more than 400 international wines and 20 house wines. Inside the winery, these wines—made from nine US and international varietals—age inside stainless steel tanks and American and French oak barrels. Here, staffers lead winemaking classes, letting visitors join the crushing and fermenting process, and showing them how make private barrels and fill custom juice boxes or bottles pasted with labels of their own design.
These monolithic tanks and barrels can be seen through floor-to-ceiling windows from most of the restaurant's rooms, where servers ferry Executive Chef Andres Barrera's dishes, each a blend of Italian, French, Spanish, and Middle-Eastern flavors. The culinary team crafts small and large plates of artisanal cheeses, seafood, and flatbreads—which they make using the winery's own wine lees as yeast. In the restaurant and Barrel Room tasting bar, staffers pour housemade wines piped fresh from the cellar through 14 taps, while visitors bask in the glow from hard wood and floor to ceiling windows. Patrons dine on a ground floor lit by soft blue lights and hanging lamps fashioned from old wine bottles, as well as a mezzanine level looking out on the city skyline. Private dining rooms gather guests around long communal tables, stretched between exposed brick walls. In the show venue, comedians, live musicians, and slapstick-prone stage crew members entertain audiences under the glow of tabletop candles.
Tighthead Brewing Company owner and brewmaster Bruce Dir?a tighthead prop back in his rugby days?taps nearly two decades of personal and professional brewing experience and transforms it into beer. His brewery regularly churns out several types of beer seen in local bars and restaurants, including Comfortably Blonde ale, Scarlet-Fire and Irie IPA named for its viability as a session beer.
Attached to the brewery is a tap room, where guests can enjoy pints while watching games or catching up with friends. The watering hole also dispenses take-home growlers of any of the beers on tap, which include several experimental and theoretically impossible beers only available at the brewery. Though not a restaurant, the tap room keeps a stack of menus from local restaurants on hand, and orders delivery from them when asked.
Rudolph Valentino DiTommaso has approximately 4,000 growing vines to look after at his 20-acre estate vineyard of ripening grapes in Long Grove. Rudolph and his team harvest their fruits and age their elixirs in barrels made of French and American oak to yield more than 20 types of wines, all of which are produced completely on-site. And they take just as much delight in showing off their libations as they do in making them. The vineyard regularly hosts seminars and tastings, which guests can pair with tours of the vineyard.
When Chicagoans think of the Glunz name, they think of a good drink. It's hard not to when the family has been active in the wine business in the Chicago-area since 1888. In 1992, the family formed Glunz Family Winery & Cellars, a winery based in their hometown of Grayslake.
In the 20 years since that decision, they have created a roster of elegant table wine, fortified wine, specialty seasonal wine, and reserve wine, which includes chardonnay, pinot noir, and a zinfandel blend. They age their tawny port in specialty barrels for 10 years and isolate the sweetness of more than two pounds of raspberries to create every bottle of their dessert wine. Like a puppy dressed in an ugly christmas sweater, their traditional glogg?a blend of port, dry red wine, spices, and an orange peel?adds cheer to the dreary winter months.
Their true speciality, however, is their first family wine. Every spring, the family calls upon a 19th-century recipe to make their May wine, which is imbued with the fresh spring flavors of crisp green apples and cinnamon. At the winery's tasting room, guests can try samples of this wine and the others.
Behind a red-brick storefront and striped awning, Viva Le Vine's vintners curate a collection of vintages both affordable and high end, pairing them with cheeses and other finger foods. Wooden racks hoist obsidian bottles of reds and whites, and the wine bar dispenses pours and sampling flights alongside microbrews, seasonal cocktails, and martinis. Cushy, black leather furniture and high-top tables dot the brightly lit interior and an upright piano stands against the wall for impromptu instrumental renditions of Gangsta's Paradise. A painting of colorful donkeys stares down enviously from rich burgundy walls at rich plates of succulent chocolates and naan covered in hearty toppings. The shop hosts live entertainment, numerous tastings, and trivia events throughout the year.