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On Typicity

  I am not a cat person, though I do have a cat. What I most like about my cat is the fact that he does not behave like a cat. He enjoys people and does not act as though he is the most important being in existence. He acts more like a dog. Plus, he’s adorable.

  Some time ago, I was given two open sample bottles of California Pinot Noir to take home and enjoy, one around $15 and the other around $35. Binny’s does not carry either of these wines, which is probably why I ended up with them.

  My fiancee and I decided to do a side-by-side comparison. First up, the $15 pinot. It poured a bright pinkish red. Though not complex, it fit my expectations just about exactly: fresh cherry with a little bit of delicate spice, full on the palate but not heavy. It tasted like a $15 pinot noir from California, as it should.

  But the $35 pinot – an estate bottling from a winery in Edna Valley – caught me off guard. In the glass, it was a dark purple. Instead of a graceful red, light on its feet, it showed fat, heavy red fruit like plum and raspberry, and had a lot of heft on the palate. Not a wine of finesse, as pinot noir is known, but a wine of breadth.

  My fiancee asked me which wine I liked more, which was more difficult to answer than you’d think. On one hand, the expensive bottle is clearly a bigger, deeper and maybe more interesting wine. On the other hand, if I were tasting it blind, I would never guess it was a pinot noir, or any other clearly defined varietal. The vineyard’s website has it listed as 100% pinot noir (some wineries have been known to blend other grapes into their pinot noir to add weight, which is legal). The cheaper one is by no means a great wine, but at least it tastes like what it is. What’s the point of making a varietal wine if it doesn’t show any characteristic of that varietal?

  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want wine to be homogenized, always tasting the same. Part of the joy of opening a bottle is the act of unfolding what’s inside, discovering all the little surprises that make each wine unique. And sometimes I like something because it is atypical, like my cat.

  I was pleasantly surprised by a pair of South African reds recently, a shiraz and a pinotage by Wildekrans. The 2007 shiraz shows a plush nose of ripe, jammy red fruit, with a mouth full of cherry and blueberry preserves and the kind of cocoa notes that come from barrel aging. The 2008 pinotage was similar but more focused, with notes cherry sour ball candy and solid tannins framing the whole thing. Both of these are good values at just under $15.

  As I pondered the pinotage, it struct me that something was missing: there is an abscence of that trademark weedy, tire-on-fire note that I get in just about every South African red I taste. Could this actually be pinotage I was tasting? It was so modern, so clean, so … atypical. I guess I like this wine for being something other than what I expected.

  Reminded me of my cat.

  Wildekrans wines should arrive at your favorite Binny’s store soon.

  What do you think? How important is varietal typicity to you?

May is Belgian Beer Month at Binny’s

Today marks the culmination of our month long American craft beer sale.  Hopefully everyone took advantage of some of the great deals, such as Lagunitas Hop Stoopid for $3.49.  The sales will continue though; tomorrow Binnys will be recognizing the stellar beers of Belgium.  For the entire month of April, more than 300 of the finest brews from our friends from across the pond will be on sale.

Looking for something new and unique from Belgium?  Try this:  Silly Pink Killer

Pink Killer is a light bodied, 5% ABV beer brewed with grapefruit and spices like coriander.  We are not talking about the grapefruit flavor that us hop heads find in our favorite IPAs either; Pink Killer gets its flavor from actual grapefruits as opposed to IPAs taking on their citric flavors from hops.  This beer has an above average carbonation with a delightful fizzy head, and a distinctive grapefruit citrus flavor to go along with its radiant pink color.  Most importantly, it is extremely refreshing and perfect for a hot summer day.  Look for the label with the menacing, cartoonish dog on it.

Will you be helping Binnys celebrate the extraordinary beers of Belgium?

Rogue: Does Any Brewery Have a Wider Variety of Beers?

Does any brewery have a wider variety of beers than Rogue?  Besides the 35+ beers listed on their website, Rogue has several beers slated for release this year.  This is in addition to the beers they have recently released, which include Chatoe Rogue Single Malt Ale, Double Mocha Porter, and John John Juniper Pale Ale.  We had a chance to try a few of the new offerings from Rogue in the recent weeks.


Chatoe Rogue Single Malt Ale is the third beer of the Chatoe Rogue series, which will eventually culminate in October with the release of the fifth ale in this series, Wet Hop Ale.  What makes this series of beers unique is that the hops and malts they are brewed with are grown on Rogues own appelations.  For this reason, they are in limited supply.


Chatoe Rogue Single Malt Ale is brewed using only four ingredients:  dare Malt, revolution hops, free range coastal water, and pacman yeast.  It poured a light golden color, with a huge cream filled head.  It was light to medium bodied, and an easy drinker.  We all agreed that we thought it was a bit more bitter than the 35 IBUs indicated on the bottle.  Some bread flavored malts provided a backbone to the earthy and grassy hops.


John John Juniper Pale Ale is the second beer in a collaboration series between the master distiller of rogue and the brewmaster of rogue (both of whom are concidentally named John).  This one was slated for a May release, but it is already on many of our shelves.  Instead of being aged in Rogue Whiskey barrels like the initial beer in the series John John Dead Guy Ale, John John Juniper Pale Ale is aged in Rogue Spruce Gin barrels.


We would later find out that the Double Mocha Porter is a beer with an alias.  Rogue has been brewing this beer since 2007, but under the name of XS Imperial Porter.  In 2010, Rogue changed the name of beer and also changed the packaging from the heavy ceramic jug bottle to a vibrant blue glass bottle.


Rogue will continue the trend of flooding the market with their beers this year, with beers like Oregasmic Ale, Imperial India Pale Ale, and John John Hazlenut Brown Nectar scheduled for a 2010 release.  For a full 2010 release schedule for Rogue, click here.  Which one of the plethora of Rogue Ales are you looking forward to trying?

2009 Bordeaux Futures Released at Binny’s

  Just a quick heads up for you fans of Bordeaux, and of wine in general: the 2009 Bordeaux Futures campaign is gearing up at Binny’s.

  Purchasing Bordeaux Futures will ensure your allocation of these world-class wines – at what will likely be the lowest possible prices – from the highly-touted 2009 vintage.

  Check out the first-hand notes on the vintage from our very own Bill Newton here and here and here, and be sure to check the Binny’s 2009 Bordeaux Futures page frequently expect the list to grow as new items are released every day.







(While you’re at it, you can still find good deals on select 2007 and 2008 Futures.)

The Local Wild Onion Brewery Coming to a Binny’s Near You

Last month Emmetts Brewery from Palatine made a splash at Binnys with their Victory Pale Ale.  This month another neighborhood brewery will be hitting our shelves.  The Onion Pub & Brewery, located in Lake Barrington, is bringing their flagship Paddy Pale Ale to our stores.  Paddy Pale is an American style pale ale, available in 6-pack cans. 


The copper colored Paddy Pale poured a small creamy head.  The nose was fairly balanced, and if anything, leaned toward the hoppy side. The first sip yielded caramel malt up front, which blended together nicely with the juicy and citrusy hops.  Bitterness took over the pallet on the long, drawn out hoppy finish.  Paddy was smooth and a bit slick in the mouth.  It would make a superb session beer, clocking in at 5.4% ABV.


The Wild Onion Pub & Brewery has come along way since it was started in a small warehouse in 1995.  In 2003 Wild Onion moved into their beautiful brewery, with an 11 acre lake providing a spectacular backdrop.  Have you endeavored anything from the local Wild Onion Brewery yet?

New Values From Spain Under $20

  Spanish wine continues to represent excellent value across the board, especially if you know where too look. Here are a few great reds, new to Binny’s, that have recently caught my attention:

  The 2007 Salia from Finca Sandoval starts with an intriguing nose of dried orange peel and tea spice balanced with heavy blueberry and raspberry syrup. More balanced than I would have expected, this red blend shows notes of cedar and spice with tannins running through to the finish. The Salia is solid and refined, with focused fruit and dark roasted coffee on the finish. A great bottle made more impressive by the $15.99 price tag.

  From Montsant, a region surrounding the more well-known region of Priorat, comes the 2008 Clos de Noi Samso. As we tasted the Samso, a friend of mine referred to it as “a baby Priorat,” meaning that it nodded to Priorat’s traditional intense and weighty fruit and smokiness without being overblown, and at a fraction of the price (at Binnys for $17.99). The nose shows black raspberry and tiny hints of smoke. It’s a big wine on the palate, with fat, sweet red fruits balacing out with an herbal quality and good tannins. This is a well balanced, modern wine with plenty of grip.

  From the more traditional Spanish wine region of Rioja comes the 2008 Osoti Rioja. This young red is a good example of the region’s ability to merge old- and new-world personalities for interesting results. The nose shows old-world styled dusty, spicy characteristics along with a new-world plush, fat cherry fruit. This balance continues into the palate, with a metallic minerality and little but firm tannins keeping it tight. Also, the Osoti was made from organically grown grapes, so it has that going for it. It’s a steal at $12.99.

  A similar balance of the modern and rustic is the 2007 Old Hands Monastrell, this time from the region of Yecla, and another exceptional value at $10.99. This monastrell (known as mourvedre in the Rhone and elsewhere) includes about %15 syrah blended in. The nose shows tart cherry fruit with cola and herbal overtones. The cherry fruit is on the lighter side, making a lighter bodied and balanced red, great for affordable, casual drinking.

Stone Brewing Co. Has Finally Arrived

Could there possibly be a better way to kick off craft beer month at Binnys with not only Larry Bell appearing at our South Loop store tonight, but with the arrival of the long anticipated Stone Brewing Co.?  The beers listed below began to hit our stores today, and should be in all of them by this Saturday.  They are also all on sale for the entire month of April, as is every craft beer found on our shelves.


-Arrogant Bastard

-Oak-Aged Arrogant Bastard

-Stone IPA

-Stone Ruination IPA

-Stone Smoked Porter

-Stone Sublimely Self- Righteous Ale

-Stone Pale Ale

-Stone Levitation Ale


Come join Binnys on Monday, April 5th from 5:00-7:00pm in our South Loop Tasting Room as we give a long awaited welcome to Stone Brewing Company into the Chicago market.  Greg Koch, Co-Founder and CEO along with Arlan Arnsten, VP of Sales will be here to help us tap our impressive 8 beer line up of some of Stone’s finest brews, including: Stone IPA, Levitation Ale, Stone Pale Ale, Smoked Porter, Arrogant Bastard, Oak Aged Arrogant Bastard, Stone Vertical Epic Ale 08.08.08 as well as Vertical Epic Ale 09.09.09. Don’t be surprised if they bring a few more draft selections with them! We are offering a special release package: $25 will guarantee your admission and get you a Stone Brewing Company pint glass, T-Shirt and your first pint of IPA, Pale Ale, Smoked Porter or Levitation Ale. Packages and seating is limited. Reservations are required. $25 for Binny’s club members/$35 non-members.  Call (312)768-4400 or email for reservations.


Which beer from Stone Brewing Co. are you looking forward to most?

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