ML - Michigan Avenue

2013 - Issue 3 - May/June

Michigan Avenue - Niche Media - Michigan Avenue magazine is a luxury lifestyle magazine centered around Chicago’s finest people, events, fashion, health & beauty, fine dining & more!

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Page 75 of 147

TASTE sommelier swap TWO UP-AND-COMING OENOPHILES TAKE IMPRESSIVE STEPS IN THE WORLD OF WINDY CITY WINE. S tars are aligning in the Chicago wine world, as two high-profile local restaurants have recently brought on emerging new talents. After launching his career in New York, Steven Morgan (Del Posto, Tribeca Grill) has returned to Chicago as wine maestro at Alinea; meanwhile, Jason Wagner of Nellcôte and RM Champagne Salon has taken his sparkling personality to Henri and The Gage as wine director and sommelier. Michigan Avenue recently caught up with the wine wunderkinds. How are Chicago wine drinkers unique? Steven Morgan: Chicago has always been very open in food and wine [but with] a high appreciation for the classics. There's a large proportion of love for big, rich California wines, smaller-production Champagnes, and indigenous varietals from different regions, like dry wines from Tokaj, Hungary—extremes on both ends. Jason Wagner: People are more adventurous than restaurant owners give them credit for. At RM, there are no brand names on that Champagne list, but I got no push-back from people willing to go out of their comfort zones. What is your philosophy as you step into your new role? SM: My approach has always been the same, [but at Alinea] it's really important to learn how different additives work with flavor pairings. It's important to have communication between the sommelier and kitchen staff to choose something that matches the playfulness and seriousness of the menu. JW: It's slightly different for each, but both programs focus on organic, sustainable, biodynamic, and natural wines—more at Henri, where the list is all organic and biodynamic. At The LEFT: Steven Morgan, wine Gage, I'm bringing on a maestro at Alinea. few labels of natural wine BELOW: Alinea's sleek foyer. 74 with the idea that wine should be treated more like a grocery than a luxury. You don't need to put on a tie to drink wine. Especially in the Midwest, wine has this air about it that it's something special—and it is, but it can just be something delicious to drink with a burger. Any big changes ahead? SM: Until I'm completely accustomed to everything that goes on in the kitchen, my job is to keep my head down and become enmeshed in it. The last thing I ever want to do is enter a place—especially one I'm so humbled to be a part of—and act like I'm some new kid on the block. JW: At The Gage, there's going to be a larger number of biodynamic and natural wines, and a lot less oak. At Henri, wine will be listed with the appellation first rather than the winemaker, because especially with biodynamics, we're highlighting the terroir, and that should be the first thing that you see. The by-the-glass program at Henri is going to be very dynamic, changing every few weeks to reflect the menu and season. What's the first bottle of wine you fell in love with? SM: Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino. I was swayed by the environment because I was in Italy and went [to the winery] for lunch. It was spectacular. JW: Krug nonvintage was one of the first big "wow" moments. It was super complex. What are you excited about drinking this season? SM: I'll be drinking crisp whites—Rieslings, like Prager. RIGHT: Jason Wagner, wine I'm an acid freak. director and JW: I crush rosé. I like classic sommelier at Henri and The provincial-style rosés: light, Gage. BELOW: The herbal, and refreshing. MA elegant dining room at Henri. PHOTOGRAPHY BY EVAN SUNG (MORGAN) BY MEG MATHIS MICHIGANAVEMAG.COM 074_MA_Flavor_Libations_MayJune13.indd 74 4/16/13 3:01 PM

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