this is part two of three in a series on chicago pinot days 2009. part one will cover my experience as a novice taster, part two some producers that i found interesting, and part three a few wines i found that are affordable and killer.

part unpart deuxpart trois

part deux: awesome people making awesome wine

i realized this weekend that wine and rock n’ roll have a lot in common. they both can be dominated by huge conglomerates pumping out quaffable shizz (i.e. nickelback, foley family wines!@) or  can be epic in the hands of some awesome people, maybe not on everyone’s radar, but producing pure art.

being in the chicago area, i’ve only had a few opportunities to speak with winemakers face to face. at pinot days i met with about forty. i know you californians are probably yawning, but we don’t really get to see the passion and devotion that goes into the wines we imbibe out here in the midwest quite as often.

here are a few producers that “bring the thunder.”

august west

i met ed kurtzman the winemaker at the event, and on top of being an incredibly nice guy to a lowly blogger like me, he had some great wine with him as well. the 2007 rosella’s vineyard pinot noir was a big delicous pinot that was impressive, really wish it was more available in the chicago area, although there is at least one shop in the lakeview area that carries them.


deborah schatzlein and cindy paulson brought a 2006 weir vineyard pinot noir that had a beautiful silky texture, with nice hints of raspberries. they really impressed me with the pride they took in their production. though it was a big chocolaty 2005 syrah from hawkes butte that impressed me the most. i’ve become a big fan of north coast wines after this event.

fess parker winery

fess parker apparently made a name for himself as walt disney’s davey crockett, i had no idea. i’m either too young, or just sheltered. i don’t know. but what i do know is that his winery is making some great wine, the 2007 bien nacido was, simply put, amazing. in fact, there wasn’t a weak point in any of the three wines they had to taste.

george wine company

george is a terribly interesting guy, first of all. it’s completely bad ass to name your wine after your first name. he numbers his bottles, and he’s unapologetically a winemaker, not a farmer (“it’s a completely different skill”.) and his wine is a great concentrated effort from the russian river valley too.

waits-mast family winery

their 2007 santa rita hills pinot noir is what stole me, it’s nose had this crazy mushroom, sawdust play that not only do i adore, but almost makes me forget to sip. the owners, husband-wife dou jennifer waits and brian mast, are passionate winemakers based in san francisco. like many small producers (25 cases of the ’07 santa rita hills!), they have a day job and wine is their vice. not a bad one either. they also blog!