What to Drink at Chicago's Grace

Grace in Chicago Photo © Grace
By Michael Muser Posted March 13, 2014

It’s safe to say that Michael Muser is enthusiastic about and proud of every single bottle that graces the pages of his wine list—and can tell you everything about the place they’re from and the people who made them.

It’s safe to say that Michael Muser is enthusiastic about and proud of every single bottle that graces the pages of his wine list—and can tell you everything about the place they’re from and the people who made them. Here are just a few of the highlights.


2010 Domaine Guiberteau ($70)
You get more mileage out of the Guiberteau’s Saumur in ways that you’ll never even realize. It is a massively—kind of ghostly—haunting wine. It finds ways to impress you that have nothing to do with powerhouse fruit or wafty aromatics. Its presence is there without ever really being over the top. The wines are super structured: They’re very elegant, they’re rustic and they’re pretty pure. There are touches of all that stuff that you want to be there, and it’s all so well balanced. I have more Guiberteau on my list than anyone in the world, I think.


2009 Do Ferreiro Cepas Vellas Albariño
This is such a win. It’s a crowd-pleaser. It’s somewhat rare that you can have wines that you can call crowd-pleasers that are still something you’re super proud of. I would say it’s your atypical Albariño. It has everything we expect from an Albariño, really vibrant, peachy aromatics, but it’s also got depth. It’s got an intense texture to it. Oh, you know Albariño? OK, well taste this. No, you don’t know Albariño. I didn’t. I think as a defense mechanism we like to paint grapes into certain corners because it makes it easier, because there’s only 8 billion of them to learn. So we attach varietals to flavor anchors and say OK that’s where I can go when I want that. But for me, the Cepas Vellas was a check-yourself moment. It was strong and it was powerful and it had texture to it. This was a discovery for me. I was like “hoooooolllyyyyyyy shit!”And I ran to the computer and tried to find out anything I could about where this vineyard was and how old it was, and how it could possibly be Albariño.


2009 Domaine Anne Gros–Jean-Paul Tollot Les Fontanilles
Minervois is a land of a discovery. For me, if someone comes into Grace and says, “I’m really disappointed that you don’t have more California Cab on your list,” I kind of know what you want: You want big fruit, you want a little bit of chocolate you want a little vanilla, you want that pinch, you want something sexy. That’s Minervois for me. When I say I love Minervois, I’m not saying I love it for it’s delicacies—it’s big, strong, powerful, with deep-pitted fruit, like black cherry. They are not shy. They are very luscious on the palate. They are rude at moments. You have to be really careful. I don’t use a lot of Minervois for pairing because I always think food first. But if you want that, then by all means I’m here to supply you for sure. I would rather sell you an inexpensive bottle of Minervois than a bottle something that you could get at Chicago Cut, Morton’s, Sullivan’s, any one of the four thousand steak houses in downtown Chicago.


NV André Clouet Brut Grand Cru Rosé ($135)
André Clouet. These champagnes are exceedingly value-driven. I mean, it’s Champagne, so yeah, you’re going to spend 35 bucks retail or something like that, but the Clouet wines are just gorgeous. If I’m selling a bottle of Champagne usually, it’s a total crutch for me. I lean on them because I trust them, I think they’re beautiful and they present value. I’m also a really big fan of the village of Bouzy in general. I like Pinot-based bubbles a lot and the Clouet wines, any of them, are all favorites of mine.

2012 Domaine de l’Ecu Ange Cuvée 1220 ($26)
This is 100 percent Pinot Noir from Muscadet and it is absolutely one of the most brilliant wines I’ve had in a long time. It is so awesome. My thing is that as the planet continues to warm, I personally am always trying to find Pinot that reminds me of Pinot that I used to like to drink. Marcel Deiss makes an awesome Pinot from Alsace that I think is gorgeous. Etienne Hugel makes a Pinot Noir, I’m always looking for really, really light, kind of like strawberry and wild cherry fruits. Like a strawberry you pulled out of the dirt and bit into it and it still had dirt on it. They’re fresh, still kind of musky, they’re not washed cold cherries or strawberries, there’s a reality there, there’s still a I’m-not-quite-finished-with-them-yet moment. When the distributor told me it was 100 percent Pinot from Muscadet, I was like, “Get outta here. I have to have it.” They had like 11 cases and I bought all of them. If you open it and are expecting to be like blown away impressed, it ain’t gonna do that. She’s just so pure, so clean, so innocent, so honest, so great. Love that bottle.

Related: Announcing Food & Wine's 2014 Sommeliers of the Year
Michael Muser's Life Story in 5 Bottles
Michael Muser on Where to Drink Wine in Chicago

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