You probably don't think of Chicago as part of "wine country." But you will. Chicago may not have rolling hills lined with row after row of grape vines. But that won't prevent you from sampling some of the finest vintages from the best labels in the world at one of Chicago's many wine bars. Now that's worth a toast!
After a nice stroll up Michigan Avenue, take a break for some gourmet cheese, chocolate and wine at ENO located in the InterContinental Chicago. You can relax while watching the lights and action on The Magnificent Mile.
Across the street, and tucked a few quiet feet off the Avenue, is The Purple Pig that attracts a hungry crowd for small plates and wines by the glass, bottle or quartino. Admire the huge wine barrels hanging on the wall and sample your way through the menu.
Take refuge after a day of shopping on the Mag Mile at DiSotto Enoteca, an Italian wine cellar in the basement of Francesca's Gold Coast restaurant. There are more than 130 bottles of wine to choose from and a selection of charcuterie, cheeses and bruschetta that will have you salivating. And it's never too late for eggs. Try the Truffle Egg Toast, and you'll see why it's all the rage.
Wine bars can't get more glamorous than The Boarding House. Step inside the first floor bar and you're greeted with a shimmering light installation made of 9,000 wine glasses. The third floor dining room continues to impress with a custom ceiling installation made of 4,000 wine bottles. In the intimate cellar, share space with the extensive wine collection. And at the heart of the restaurant? A special wine elevator ferries bottles up to the various levels. Owner Alpana Singh, an award-winning and nationally-known Master Sommelier, thoughtfully curates the 450-bottle wine list to complement the Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.
Quartino Ristorante & Wine Bar, centrally located in River North, is a fantastic gathering space with its boisterous atmosphere and Italian small plates perfect for sharing. Wines by the carafe are an ideal pair with the extensive list of housemade salumi and Neopolitan thin-crust pizza. Mind their motto here: "Where the wine is cheaper than water and the pizza is the finest."
Another crowd-pleaser is West Loop award-winner Avec, with its long bar and communal tables, and even longer wine list. Many come for the renowned cuisine from Executive Chef Paul Kahan, but don't leave without exploring the glorious grapes on the menu. Drawing from boutique vineyards within Spain, Italy, Portugal and France, the selection shines a spotlight on "hearty, peasant wines" at an affordable price: there are 130 bottles priced between $20-90 a bottle.
Start by importing the world's best grapes and finish by serving award-winning vintages straight from the cellar — that's City Winery. Also in the West Loop's famed "Restaurant Row" this massive wine emporium/music venue/restaurant produces 100 tons of grapes each year, while the concert schedule brings in local, national and international performers each night. Head to the Barrel Room tasting bar for the freshest wine on tap (14 wines) served directly from the cellar's French oak barrels.
When the weather is warm, make your way to a neighborhood hideaway where the low-key surroundings invite you to bask in sunshine and sip wine for hours. Volo Restaurant Wine Bar, just north of the downtown Loop in the Roscoe Village neighborhood, boasts a year-round backyard patio with heated cabanas and bistro tables. The word "volo" is Italian for flight and this charmer satisfies that option with several creative wine flights available each day.
Not far away, Bar Pastoral in the Lakeview neighborhood does two things very, very well: artisan cheeses and small-batch wine. This European-inspired shop sells cut-to-order cheeses at its counter while the cozy bar seating and plush banquettes offer up a spot to try a new wine alongside the full menu. The wine selection spans major wine regions and exotic locales, with the underlying focus being on smaller, estate driven producers that practice environmentally-conscious agriculture.
For a totally unique wine-tasting experience, try the 3rd Coast Café & Wine Bar. This cozy eatery serves breakfast all day long. Who says you can't enjoy wine with your omelet?